Tutorial Prewar Schwinn rack reflectors

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mr.cycleplane

Riding my Motorbike
This tutorial will be brief as a picture is worth a thousand words or so! Its pretty simple but there is some confusion and also there are some......unscrupulous sellers. Just because someone is selling an item and states it is 'the correct part'....don't take things at face value. Do a little research-this tutorial is part of that research. This tutorial applies only to prewar Schwinn rack reflectors. As you know Schwinn had different levels based on quality and the 'deluxe-ness' of their bikes. The top bikes got the best equipment and as the next 'lower' bike-had lesser equipment. You can easily see this if you are a prewar Schwinn collector in almost all their models. This also applies to the rear rack reflectors. Documentation is weak and the first time much is actually documented for the dealers and customers alike was the 1940 Schwinn Dealer parts catalog. This catalog was probably one of the biggest undertakings by Arnold Schwinn Company and has never had another undertaking like this awesome piece of literature -taking years to complete. It was at the bequest from the dealer network. Prior to that the briefest mention of such details in sales catalogs-basically letting you know 'something was there'.....period. The first two reflectors came out in 1936 but first listed in 1940 catalog creating confusion as to when they came out. The dx reflector came out before but was being used for other things and makes of bike-date unknown. What I want to talk about are the three main racks found on the prewar Schwinns that took reflectors. The first is the 6 hole deluxe rack-available with chrome top(with painted legs) and also a 6 hole painted/enamel finish version. Respectively these are the chromed rack-part number 2104 and the painted version-part number 2110. the third rack I would mention is the 9 hole 'dx' rack-part number 2108. Each has there own specific(correct!) reflector. The chromed top rack 2104 comes with reflector 487(first picture on the left). The next is for the painted rack 2110-the 'marble' reflector-part number 500(first picture in the middle). Last is the 480 'dx' reflector (third in the picture)for rack 2108. All these have glass-not plastic. I know there are plastic versions-especially the 'dx' version found on bikes-but the original is glass(has internal honey comb look). Please note in the second picture the correct attachment hardware for each. The biggest confusion comes on the deluxe rack reflector-please look at picture three. Note that one has a nice nickeled trim piece on it and the other seems rather plain(pot metal casting). Both are made by the same company(introduced circa 1935)
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but when supplied to the Arnold Schwinn Company they kicked it up a notch by adding the trim piece. Other than that it is just a road sign reflector. The road sign reflector is not the correct reflector-close but no cigar! Pretty basic-study pictures-chromed/deluxe(first) the painted version rack(second) the 'dx' version(third).
 
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bobcycles

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
ok ...for the record Schwinn opted for the standard non-chrome bezel #1, To date have never found a factory installed chrome bezel cat-eye on an original bike...just the more generic stop sign. I have however seen the chrome version on either buick or Plymouth taillight frames. Schwinn also used the #3
cut glass faceted one on 6 hole carriers ...most 9 hole carriers (prewar) I've seen were plastic jewel cut. The Owl Eye (middle) was a 1940 feature up through
1941.... although a 1941 SuperDeluxe with chrome carrier would have gotten the #1 cat eye as would a 1940 cantilever superdeluxe....not the owl eye. Imagine the board meetings deciding which goes where.
 

mr.cycleplane

Riding my Motorbike
WOW-for the record-sounds impressive! 'opted for the non-chrome bezel #1'=hogwash! like you said...YOU have never found a chrome bezel cat eye on an original bike! i have had several-seen many others. the plymouth-buick-cadillac type mounts differently-seen those-i think the rear of body is also different/different clasp(same maker!). owned way too many of the marble type also-many without the marble and crushed to put that in dispute. your response is typical of those reading the 1940 catalog for the first time-these parts had been out for several years. finding the small faceted reflector on the rack is a great and cheap replacement-even back in the day-but is totally wrong! your statements are typical 'schwinn myth' in nature. you disagree and condemn. the purpose of this tutorial is to educate prospective/unaware buyers of those trying to pass similar looking pieces as 'the correct' part. not trying to cut into any ones sales!
 
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Dave Stromberger

I'm Afraid I Can't Let You Do That
System Administrator
ok ...for the record Schwinn opted for the standard non-chrome bezel #1, To date have never found a factory installed chrome bezel cat-eye on an original bike...just the more generic stop sign. I have however seen the chrome version on either buick or Plymouth taillight frames. Schwinn also used the #3
cut glass faceted one on 6 hole carriers ...most 9 hole carriers (prewar) I've seen were plastic jewel cut. The Owl Eye (middle) was a 1940 feature up through
1941.... although a 1941 SuperDeluxe with chrome carrier would have gotten the #1 cat eye as would a 1940 cantilever superdeluxe....not the owl eye. Imagine the board meetings deciding which goes where.
I've pulled one with the chrome bezel from the tail light chrome off a '41 Cadillac. Car versions always had the chrome bez, but othwerise same as the railroad sign versions. The retainer cups on the back varied based on application. The Caddy had it's own unique retainer.
 

mr.cycleplane

Riding my Motorbike
agreed-the caddy-plymouth or whatever it was on the car taillight was chromed-no doubt the chromed version was offered to schwinn-they always went for the nicer stuff.
I've pulled one with the chrome bezel from the tail light chrome off a '41 Cadillac. Car versions always had the chrome bez, but othwerise same as the railroad sign versions. The retainer cups on the back varied based on application. The Caddy had it's own unique retainer.
 

mr.cycleplane

Riding my Motorbike
Restoring a bike is an expensive venture. Finding the absolute correct parts is sometimes impossible and substitute parts are often used. i can see the roadsign reflectors making great 'place-holders' i get it! or for the glass dx version a plastic version works great also-i get it. sometimes a $15-20 reflector sounds better than $75-85 for something.....do i dare say it-nobody really looks at? this tutorial sheds light on the subject for the preservationist!
 

bobcycles

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
WOW-for the record-sounds impressive! 'opted for the non-chrome bezel #1'=hogwash! like you said...YOU have never found a chrome bezel cat eye on an original bike! i have had several-seen many others. the plymouth type mounts differently-seen those-i think the rear of body is also different/different clasp(same maker!). owned way too many of the marble type also-many without the marble and crushed to put that in dispute. your response is typical of those reading the 1940 catalog for the first time-these parts had been out for several years. finding the small faceted reflector on the rack is a great and cheap replacement-even back in the day-but is totally wrong! your statements are typical 'schwinn myth' in nature. you disagree and condemn. the purpose of this tutorial is to educate prospective/unaware buyers of those trying to pass similar looking pieces as 'the correct' part. not trying to cut into any ones sales!
No I wasn't condemning....just observations from 100's of bikes I've seen and owned over the years. I don't believe Schwinn used the chrome framed
"Signal" type RR reflector....just the version with no trim. And the owl eye was a 1940 and up thang. Also had plenty of stock original never tampered
with Motorbikes with 6 hole carriers sporting the faceted jewel in there since day one. remember... Schwinn like all mfgs did all kinds of stuff. But one thing I will bet money on is Owl eye 1940 and up...and no chrome on the bezels of the autocycle type reflectors.
 

mr.cycleplane

Riding my Motorbike
although i do not agree with your assessment of the cat eye reflector not having the nickeled bezel-think about it this way.....the year is 1936......'the design
engineer approaches frank schwinn and asks him his opinion of which reflector should we put on the new 1936 autocycle-(the bike bearing his name)? see picture below to help you out! i am not even gonna answer that because if you are a true prewar schwinn aficionado-the answer is obvious! as for 'never tampered with'! unless the item has been in your possession for the last 80 years its hard to make that statement-sounds like a 'salesmanship' gimmick! parts get replaced over time-there is no shame in that. but keeping it straight-historically is getting blurred over time. saying the schwinn factory did strange things with their bikes-i don't agree. schwinn was in the business of building bikes-all sales(99.9+%) went thru chicago cycle supply-who distributed and 'modified' from original factory specs!

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