1956 Speedwell Special Sports
Welcome to the Speedwell Special Sports, a big wheeler once in the Bootiebike stable but now in the care of a Speedwell collector.
Speedwell was an iconic Australian brand, based in Sydney. While probably not as famous as Malvern Star, its Melbourne-based rival, it had a long and proud history producing everything from utility bikes to high quality racers. The brand is often associated with the success of Dunc Gray, who won gold in the 1000 metre time trial at the 1932 Olympics. Speedwell remained independent until the mid 1960s, when it succumbed to the long slide in the popularity of bicycles that also claimed so many other great names.
The Special Sports was a conventional machine with 27” wheels, 'comfort' handlebars, a 'Bell' saddle and a three speed Sturmey Archer hub. It's a showoff, as it has 'flam' paint, pin striping and some of the fanciest transfers you'll see, but no chainguard or sidestand.
This example is in original, functional, condition. It has had the requisite mechanical attention but the scars of age remain to tell its story. It’s called the Special Sports, but that’s the only sporty thing about it. It often took me around the 'burbs, the upright riding position afforded by those handlebars lending every ride an air of stateliness, a sense of occasion. There is no rushing the Special Sports.
Based on the date on the three speed hub, I always thought this bike was from late 1962 or thereabouts. However, her new owner, who knows these things, tells me that it's really from 1956-7. The truth is found in the code ('AW') stamped on the Williams crankset, and the 'V' prefix in the frame number. It seems as though the hub was added later – if only this thing could talk. Solid and slow, this Speedwell Special Sports has survived long enough to be cherished. With the care she deserves she'll be good for another half century or so.