A vintage road bicycle's patina of age is, believe it or not, considered to be part of an old bicycles' value.  That's right, an old road bicycle, with scuffed and scratched up paint and art, is more collectible than one with a freshly painted surface and finished off with aftermarket, or even NOS (new old stock), decals.  With that in mind, the question that always comes to mind is to leave the patina of age, or paint over?

The Torpado five speed had very nice art, for the most part, but the paint was falling off in chunks.  The bicycle's frame set was fully chrome plated and all of the chrome was polished.  This makes for a very smooth surface that is difficult for paint to adhere to.

Naturally, when faced with such a problem, the reasonable course of action would be to roughen the surface with fine emery cloth, prime and then shoot the color and, if required, clear coats.  But there was a problem with following that procedure when the Torpado's paint style was taken into consideration.

The chromalto paint style does not allow for primer surfaces.  The translucent paint is applied directly over the polished chrome, allowing the reflective chrome surface to be seen through the paint.  The effect is really quite nice, when new, but the durability factor is seriously challenged.  And the Torpado have not been able to stand up to that particular challenge.

To repaint or not to repaint?  Always a question at the onset of a Street Restoration.  However, bicycles like the Torpado presented a third choice - remove the paint and leave the polished chrome surface exposed.  And that is exactly the plan laid for the Torpado five speed's Street Restoration.

The translucent blue paint would be stripped from the bicycle but the art work would remain, mostly untouched.  Once the paint was removed, the art could experience some minor touching up.  And, with that in mind, the build began.

As the bicycle came apart, great attention was paid to how this and that was fitted.  The bicycle, fitted with fenders, did not allow for an easy fork structural integrity check.  In other words, I could not tell if the fork was bent or not.

The fork looked OK from the side of the bicycle, however; it is wise to look directly at the front of the fork set, while considering how the front wheel rim splits the space between the tops of the fork blades.  And unbent fork will have the wheel splitting the difference evenly.  If the wheel is offset to either side, the structural integrity of the fork must be measured and corrected, as required.

Make no mistake about it.  Vintage road bicycles are fragile! S goodly percentage reaches The Old Shed, in some tweaked form or other.  Bent drops, bent forks, bent stays and bent frame tubes.  Any, and even all, of these problems can present themselves, in a frame set, and many often do.

The Torpado's fork set was bent!  Upon removing the rust covered front fender, it became immediately obvious that there were issues.  The wheel was canted hard, to the drive side of the bicycle.  The forks needed to be straightened.

At any rate, rigging up a means to measure how much the fork was bent, allowed me to determine that the blades needed to be moved towards the non-drive side, and a total of 4mm.  That would get the forks part way to being true.  The work would be done at a local bicycle shop, that allows me to use their fork gauge, from time to time.

In addition to, what I had determined to be a bent fork, the fork had also been assembled incorrectly.  Yup!  One crown to drop length was 2mm longer than the other.  The drive side was the longer of the two and by 2mm.  This factor, alone, would cause the wheel to sit offset.

It is not all that uncommon for vintage road bikes to lack precision.  I have run across lots of old bikes that were not assembled, or manufactured correctly.  And, though the situation manifests itself mostly in entry level, bargain priced bicycles, even the top dogs drop the ball form time to time.

A slightly tweaked, this or that, is usually not a major problem and does not, necessarily, constitute a deal breaker.  Bent forks and stays are fairly easy to repair, as are bent frame tubes.  However, one should have the proper tools for repair and couple those tools with experience.  Keep in mind that even an experienced mechanic, can make mistakes.  So be careful when straightening bicycles frame sets.

I wasn't as careful as I should have been.  When I initiated the repair procedure, I was stunned to see the fork collapse, the first time I applied cold set pressures.  Cold setting is the fancy term for bending, in case you didn't know.  And the term collapse is, perhaps a bit strong.

As I attempted to gently realign a fork blade, the wall of the fork started to cave in, at the initial pressure point.  A dent appeared, almost immediately.  I froze.

Well, one look at the dented fork, and I realized that the Torpado five speed project was on hold.  I would be needing another fork set.  Fortunately, just such a set of forks were waiting in The Old Shed.  Sadly, there were not of original design, but they were pirated from a Bianchi.  The fork set selected was miles above the quality, of the original fork, and looked just fine, once installed.

The rest of the bicycle measured straight and true, for the most part.  The rear drops did require a wee bit of cold setting to get them aligned with one another.  This is one of the most common situation of frame set misalignment that you will run across.  I check virtually every bicycle for drop misalignment and/or tweaked stays.

Once satisfied that the frame set's structural integrity was satisfactory, the rest of the bicycle was stripped of all components.  The components were set aside, and build attention became focused on cleaning the paint off of the frame set.

The Torpado was to be released as an all chrome bicycle, the second one I have built so far.  The first, all chrome Torpado, was built, in accordance with a customer's specifications.  The Torpado, affectionately called Bill's Torpado, turned out to be a gem, both in looks and ride quality.

Even though the easiest route to follow was the all chrome choice, a new color was considered.  Bright colors are good on bicycles, increasing their level of visibility considerably.  With that in mind, I did think about a color coat.  The chrome plating of the stays, fork blades and heat tube lugs would contrast very nicely, a perfect example being this drop dead gorgeous bright yellow LUXE.  But the all chrome version won out.

Most of the paint on the Torpado was removed quite easily.  Using a can of paint stripper, purchased over twenty years ago, helped to quickly remove 90% of the translucent blue paint.  Elapsed time for this stage of the paint removal process would consume a couple of hours.  It was the detail work that was to gobble up time and attention.

No paint stripper was used close to any of the art work, with one exception.  The waterslide transfers, on each fork blade, were in bad shape.  Judging from their appearance, and understanding how fragile they were to begin with, the paint stripper was slopped on.  Salvaging that art work was beyond my means and intentions.  However...

The original fork art was preserved.  Pictures were taken, square on to the fork decoration.  Those pictures could, when appropriate, be used to generate new decals, a process which I have employed on other occasions.  And, properly implemented, might end up looking just great.

It took five or six hours, of picking away at the remaining blue paint, to clean the frame and fork set off.  Sharp knives, of different designs, were used to plane off the paint.  Plain off?

The leading edge of the knife was laid almost parallel to the chrome surface.  Then gentle pressure would force the blade under the paint, and sort of lift it off.  At no time was any serious pressure placed on the chrome surface itself.

And, at no time was the sharp edge forced into, or even towards, a decal edge.  All work was away from each decal, or, at time and exercised with extreme caution, parallel to an edge.  Though the whole process took lots of time and patience, the results pretty much speak for themselves.  Beautiful.


There are still bits and pieces of blue, attached here and there, but most are hard to find.  With the passing of time, they will all find others items to attach themselves to but for now, as they show themselves, they are addressed and, if reasonably possible, mechanically removed.

For all intents and purposes, the Torpado seemed to be pretty dull looking.  The entire bicycle was an exercise in black, white and chrome, with just the smallest touches, of any other color, on some of the original art.  The bike needed some color, and just enough color to emphasize the chrome.  With that in mind, bright red handlebar tape was installed.

However, the bar tape selected was not period correct and looked to be out of place.  Only a purist would see this flaw and, though I do work on a budget every time, I am a bit of a purist.  With that in mind, as soon as it arrives, I intend to install cotton cloth tape, once again red, and pitch the cushioned plastic stuff out.


And, if I am going to go to that trouble, it seemed reasonable to consider installing a set of original Universal brake lever hoods.  That, however, would more than quadruple the cost to Street Restore the bicycle.  But the cloth tape, even if it arrived as I write this, will have to wait for another day.  The Torpado was assembled.  It was time for a test ride.