Monday, 24 January 2011

History Part 2

In the mid seventies, probably in 1975, perhaps in 1974, definitely by 1976, the production of Lambert bicycles was taken over by an old established English bike manufacturer by the name of Trusty.  Jigs for the fillet brazed frames were transferred and the stocks of Lambert branded and special components.  The bicycles were now made in Birmingham, England and were called Viscount Aerospace bicycles.  Decals / stickers on the down tubes noted that the frames were made by Trusty.

The first Viscounts, as might be expected, were very similar to the Lamberts but, over the next few years, they evolved into rather different bikes.  Keeping to the same Aerospace fillet brazed frames they sported more modern paint schemes and over time most of the specially-made components disappeared in favour of bits from Shimano and other component makers.

Building on the experience of Trusty, lower-range bike were also badged as Viscounts.  The chronology of this is unclear, but I think that they came in before the company was taken over again, this time by Yamaha, probably in 1978.  They included ones with lugged frames that were built in the UK and ones using Taiwanese-made lugged frames.  Of the first type were the Sebring 10-speed model, which seems to have been a very popular entry-level ‘racing’ bike and one that many people remember with affection.  It began the use of US cities as the model names of Viscount bikes.  I had a Tulsa G.L., which had a made-in-Taiwan frame.  A collection of details of all these models needs to be made.

In 1980 or ‘81 Yamaha-Viscount stopped using the fillet-brazed frame.  The top-of-the range bikes still used the same tubing (or appeared to) and were called Aerospace but the frame was built with rather natty pointed lugs with windows (Prugnat?).  Production had at some point moved from Birmingham to Potters Bar, North London (Hertfordshire), where Trusty had a plant.  By 1980 use of special, own branded components had entirely ceased.  


I have a 1981 catalogue in which the top of the range is one with a Shimano Dura Ace group set.  I’ve never seen one of these.  Second was probably the Viscount Aerospace 600ax, with the Shimano 600ax gruppo.  Just below that must have been the 600ex (you can guess what that came with).  I have one of these and gorgeous it is too.  



Then there were a number of variations around the Viscount Aerospace 400 theme.  It may be that they were intended to use the Shimano 400 components, but my 400 came with a 600 rear derailleur, Dura Ace front mech, Weinmann brakes and SR chainset.  Incidentally Zeus Olimpic 64 pedals were used on lots of Viscount Aerospace bikes, irrespective of the other bits used.  But I am digressing into components.

Despite successes in various races and being named as bicycle of the year in 1980, the marque seems to have disappeared completely by 1982 or 1983.


There is a group on Flickr for photographs of Lambert, Viscount and Trusty bikes.

11 comments:

  1. Hi, just to say that I'm enjoying the blog - one of my cousins used to have a Viscount Aerospace and it may well still be lurking in his garage somewhere; Dad managed to get it for him direct from the factory at trade, presumably through business connections. Which leads me on to a slight error in the blog. The Lambert/Viscount factory was indeed in the West Midlands; not in Birmingham however, but Bilston, a former steelmaking town about 4 miles south-east of Wolverhampton. My mother grew up there and my grandmother still lives there. As a kid I can vaguely remember Dad pointing out the former factory to me; by then (early-mid 80s) it was apparently in use by the Bell-Fruit slot machine company of all things!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi John,

    My name is John McLaren Jr.
    My father, John Sr. was Senior Vice President of Yamaha International Corporation , located in Buena Park, California, from 1966 to the end of 1980. I have plenty of information on the Viscount bike, since it was one of my father's many projects at Yamaha.

    The bikes were imported and distributed by Yamaha here in California. It was to be placed in the Yamaha Sporting Goods division ( Yamaha manufactured skis, tennis racquets, golf clubs and so forth). The Yamaha Sporting Group division was part of Yamaha Musical Instruments. Yamaha Motorcycles was a completely separate company, still part of Yamaha but operated as a separate company. Originally, Yamaha distributed the Lambert brand of bikes for a couple of years, until the factory's closure. For the record, Yamaha never owned Viscount or Lambert, it was simply the distributor. The Marriott family (hotels, etc) was not involved in Lambert or Viscount, it was another gentleman with the same last name Marriott, I believe his first name was Clive.

    A company called Cope Allman, an English conglomerate who owned Bell-Fruit slot machines, famous for their "one-armed bandit" machines, purchased Trusty Children's Bikes, who eventually under the direction of Cope Allman and Bill Pilkington (chairman) purchased the assets of Lambert bikes and it became part of Trusty Bikes. Bill Pilkington was encouraged by my father to buy the assets of Lambert and in turn my father agreed to import and distribute 200,000 bikes through Yamaha's distribution channels. Since Lambert had very bad quality problems, the name was changed by my father to Viscount, one reason for this was there was excess inventory of cap bolts in the factory that had "L" on them, the 'L' was of equal lengths, so by turning the bolt you could have a 'V'. The reason why my father chose Viscount, a little bit of my mom's background: my parents immigrated from England in 1959 and before they were married my mother lived in the United States on a work visa. She became an airline stewardess in the late '50s and worked for Capitol airlines, who had a new British plane, the Vickers Viscount. At the time it was like the Concord, it was powered by 4 Rolls-Royce turboprop engines and was all first-class. The plane was advertised as "a new concept in flight". The Vickers Viscount was heavily promoted as an aerospace breakthrough. My father's plan was to do the same with the Viscount bike, to promote it as being "of aerospace quality". One advertisement had a private jet on a runway with a Viscount bike in front.

    Part of the agreement with Trusty was to improve the quality of the Viscounts, replacing some components with Shimano products. My father had requested 20 finished prototype bikes to be sent to Yamaha Motorcycle division for testing the frame and all associated components. After the tests were conducted, the bikes were found to be safe and in order. There is a lot more information that I have, as well as a CD interview with my father on the Viscount bikes, I'll keep you posted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anthony Collett-Monty3 June 2017 at 14:28

      I was a Trusty Viscount employee from 79-83 & have expert knowledge of everything Viscounts. I'm in the process of writing a book about life there! I was working in the Toolroom & was responsible for everything there: Jigs, Fixtures, Compressor, Light- Bulbs, Loo Rolls, Production Lines, Paint/Powder Spray, De-Greasing, Air-Lines everything!

      Delete
    2. Anthony Collett-Monty3 June 2017 at 14:33

      There is a Picture of a Trusty Viscount Employee using the 'Pneumatic Powered 'Tracking-Jig' that we built out of various size steels & Aluminium.

      Delete
  3. @ John McLaren Jr, that's some fascintaing history. Your father was responsible for the name? That's amazing! I would be interested in any of that history that you have compiled. I own three Viscounts: an Aerospace Sport, and Aerospace Victor and a Spacemaster. If you could email me at I would love to find out more!

    Regards

    Ben
    http://feelofsteel.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry, it deleted my email address:

    ichibyoshi at gmail dot com

    cheers

    Ben

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great blog nice n useful information , it is very helpful for me , I realy appreciate thanks for sharing. I would like to read more information thanks.
    Bicycle exporters India

    ReplyDelete
  6. This type of blog is so gorgeous that grab awareness of anyone throughout their immense features. AQM Auditing

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anthony Collett-Monty3 June 2017 at 14:37

    I have many Brochures & Adverts all for Trusty Viscount Cycles Ltd. There also is a whole 'Cycling Weekly' mag advertising the Co.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have a Viscount Deore 18AX which was among the last of the models they produced. It has pointed lugs with cutouts and the magazine reviews stated that they were Italian frames, does anyone know who the Italian company was ?

    ReplyDelete