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The Hunt for Hilton Wrigley (long story, with photos)

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The Hunt for Hilton Wrigley (long story, with photos)

Old 03-08-12, 07:36 PM
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LeicaLad 
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The Hunt for Hilton Wrigley (long story, with photos)

A multi-year saga is bringing it home.

Hunting Hilton: Chapter One

Sometime in early 2010, I happened across Norris Lockley’s article on Hilton Wrigley on the Classic Lightweights UK website. My family name is also Wrigley, and my line of the clan emigrated from a village about 7 miles away from where Hilton lived in Marsden, Yorkshire. We are, at most, distant cousins. Yet the story was fascinating, and the examples of his work sealed the deal. I had to find a Hilton Wrigley frame to call my own.

The Hilton Wrigley article: http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk...-builders.html

Finding such a frame is not so easy as it might sound – and I don’t even think it sounds easy. One, I didn’t see much opportunity to travel to Yorkshire, and even if Hilton Wrigley frames were once very popular in the West Yorkshire Riding community, the original output had not been great, and most had been ridden hard by those who’d had them made. The last new frame was probably made in the late 1960s, although he may have made a few into the early 1970s. Even finding references to them, beyond the single article that Norris had written, was tough.

I did swap a few notes with Jonathan Wright, whose fabulous bike is featured in Norris’ article. Jon has posted more photos of that wonderful example here:
Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jwright...7594494497693/

Frankly, there is an example of the very best of Hilton Wrigley’s frame building, rebuilt in perfect period-correct livery. (Note the headtube crest designed on the Yorkshire Rose.)

Obviously, I had to go on a Hunt for Hilton!

I started posting WTB notices, more accurately WTB pleadings, on several sites. Feeling certain that there wouldn’t be a single one of these on the North American continent, I pinned most of my hopes on the Retrobike.co.uk site. Quite literally a long time back, there had been one singular reference to someone’s Hilton Wrigley bike, so I held out hopes.

Over the months, I would re-post or bump my plea. Someone offered a rumor of a possible bike, but this didn’t pan out. It turned out to have been long gone. BUT, finally, in December, 2010, a nibble!

Derrick (I’ll wait for his permission to out his name), a collector living in Sheffield responded to my post. He apparently keeps his collection trimmed, and was ready to pass on a late 50’s Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur model frame. He drove a hard bargain, and it took until late January 2011 to convince him to accept my money (literally). But, finally, the deal was struck.









During the negotiations, I swapped notes with several people about the frame, but mostly with Norris Lockley, author of that article. I had only a small number of snapshots from which to work, and Norris began his invaluable support to me at that time. When the deal was finally sealed, Norris offered to inspect the frame before it was shipped and I very gratefully accepted. It was also very easy and very inexpensive to ship the frame the short distance from Sheffield up to Settle, Yorkshire.

This was good for several reasons. 1) The frame had a unique “Wrigley Cycles” crest on both the head tube and seat tube that Norris had never seen before; 2) I really preferred to have it refinished in the U.K., if that was going to be necessary; 3), The rear triangle was a little worse for the wear, and; 4) The frame was smaller than I ordinarily ride.

This last item, the small size, was, in my mind, simply a “price” of finding ANY Hilton Wrigley frame. But having this frame appear on his doorstep, Norris became motivated to dig a few of his Hilton Wrigley frames out from his frame dungeon (which I’ve slowly come to realize can only be called “extensive”). Among them was a frame almost identical to mine, in ugly respray with hideous makeshift decals, but in a size 60cm. So, we agreed to swap. Yet, again, my gratitude to Norris is enormous.

The unique transfers, however, became my major project of the spring 2011 season. Working from photos, mostly taken by Derrick, but with a couple more by Norris, I got a rough graphic version completed. I emphasize the word “rough”. Then, with some amazing talent donated by Alan Goldsworthy, a cyclist and graphic artist from San Francisco, the graphic was vastly improved and then reproduced into transfers by Greg Softly, from down under.

I particularly want to repeat Alan Goldsworthy’s name. He is talented and generous, and the project simply could not have been completed without his skills and talent. There were others who assisted and advised my on the art, but Alan’s hand(s) made the final product something of which to be proud. He is an active member of our site here. He strenuously declines my genuflections, so I simply repeat my sincere thanks.

PHOTO of the final art of the Wrigley Cycles crest.



Anyway, one simple frame was never my entire objective. What I’ve really hoped to do is to resurrect the marque, and to bring additional examples of Hilton Wrigley’s frame-building art into the public sphere.

Norris’ article in the builder’s section of classiclightweights.co.uk is the significant beginning, and I owe so much to him for this. Especially with the addition of Jon Wright’s bike, the refinished International model that belonged to his grandfather, as well as Andrew Loughran’s bike, that page is still the primary site on the marque. The goal is merely to showcase a few more.

In the meantime, Norris has made several trips down from Settle into the West Yorkshire Riding territory to meet with several of the well-known names of English riders, such as Brian Haskell, to talk story and to photograph a few bikes.

Among my suggestions (ne: nagging) to Norris was that he consider drafting up a “human interest” piece for the Hudderfield newspaper on frame building in the heyday of West Yorkshire cycling that could feature Hilton Wrigley. In the process, we might induce a few folks to pull more bikes out from the attics and garages to be seen in the light of day (and be photographed).

Still, we were missing Hilton, the man. No confirmed photos of Hilton could be found, and the story Norris wrote is only of the early Hilton, with only an end note from the later period when Hilton was no longer building. Hilton Wrigley passed away in 1977.

I spent months hunting for any trail to find people who might have know Hilton – or could help to locate any children. Norris remembered a son named Peter. No one could track them.

The small Marsden Historical Society became the key, although many months went by with nary a clue. One person remembered attending school with “a Peter Wrigley”, but had no idea if this was a son of Hilton or where he might live now. I was surprised by how many Peter Wrigley’s I could find in the various public directories. I’ve had some interesting exchanges with more than a few.

Finally, Hazel S., an active member of the Society, raised the question at a monthly meeting and found several of the elder members who remembered that Hilton’s widow had relocated to the Nuneaton area about a decade back. Hazel took the added step to look in the public directory and found a Vera Wrigley and a Peter Wrigley in the Nuneaton area.

Following the trail Hazel gave me, I found postal addresses for both Vera and Peter and wrote them each a snail-mail letter (who remembers those?), and sent them off.

In surprisingly short order, I received a response from Peter, who confirmed that he was/is the only son of Hilton and that Vera, age 92, is alive and well. She had just phoned him, as her letter arrived some hours prior to his.

Peter is providing a few details and has promised to collect and scan a few images for us. He regrets that many may have been discarded in their relocation from Marsden down to Nuneaton, but says he has a few that he will scan and send.

Peter still has yet to do this, but I’m prodding him gently along the path. It’s all in the name of a good cause.


COMING, Chapter Two: The newly refinished Hilton Wrigley

Wherein the saga of refinishing is recounted. A teaser, however, is warranted.

Photo of the “new” Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur:


More to come . . .
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1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (still my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King (the gravel grinder)
1971 Gitane Tour de France (The War Horse)
1971 Gitane Super Corsa (The Garage Queen)
1980 Ritchey Touring (The Grail Bike)
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(replacing the stolen 1981 Tom Ritchey Everest custom)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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Old 03-08-12, 08:01 PM
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That's a great story and a whole lot of fortuitiousness and graciousness by a lot of people!

Best of luck on the build!
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Old 03-08-12, 08:05 PM
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I wasn't expecting that color combo (metallic green with cream) but...I do like it! Definitely want to see more pix!
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Old 03-08-12, 08:05 PM
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Good story.
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Old 03-08-12, 10:56 PM
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I wasn't expecting that color combo (metallic green with cream)
Always like that combo, have a thing for British Lightweights

But why the repaint on a nicely patina'd frame?

...more please!

Last edited by Velognome; 03-09-12 at 09:11 AM.
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Old 03-09-12, 06:51 AM
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Very cool.

Are you going to do a classic English build?
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Old 03-09-12, 07:38 AM
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Chapter two, please, with extra sauce!
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Old 03-09-12, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
I wasn't expecting that color combo (metallic green with cream) but...I do like it! Definitely want to see more pix!
Hi Alan!

My first thoughts had been to duplicate the original mix of blue, but when Norris & I swapped frames, I reconsidered.

Frankly, I would have loved to go with Sunkist Orange, or, possibly Fire Engine Red (for the added speed). BUT, the problem was the downtube transfers which had only ever been done in Red. I suppose I could have gone back to Greg to ask for a set in another color, but . . .

So, Emerald green in the "flamboyant" finish. Norris tried to talk me into red lug lining, but I stuck with gold. The panels were also pretty necessary for the Wrigley Cycles crest. I'd have hated to hide your great artwork on a solid color background.

Both the panel work and the lug lining is really fine.

More photos will follow, but I'm at work, so can't do it until this evening.

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1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (still my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King (the gravel grinder)
1971 Gitane Tour de France (The War Horse)
1971 Gitane Super Corsa (The Garage Queen)
1980 Ritchey Touring (The Grail Bike)
1984 Tom Ritchey Team Competition (NOS show bike)
(replacing the stolen 1981 Tom Ritchey Everest custom)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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Old 03-09-12, 10:52 AM
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Great story! Thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 03-09-12, 11:13 AM
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Well written, Owen. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the build.
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Old 03-09-12, 11:22 AM
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Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my! Thank you.
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Old 03-09-12, 01:12 PM
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Great story. Congratulations on the colour choice! Can't wait.
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Old 03-09-12, 02:34 PM
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What a great project, Owen! And, a great write-up. Look forward to hearing updates.

Now, if I can just find an old English builder named Troy....
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Old 03-09-12, 05:46 PM
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Good job man! That is one beautiful frame. I love the obscure marques!
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Old 03-09-12, 06:12 PM
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Holy s___! What a beautiful frame and cool story! Wow!
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Old 03-09-12, 06:34 PM
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Great story and beautiful paint job!
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Old 03-09-12, 09:52 PM
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Finding Hilton Wrigley: Chapter Two

Finding Hilton Wrigley: Chapter Two

Even today, I learn new things. I am especially pleased to be learning more about Hilton Wrigley, the man. The guy who built these lovely frames. But the details of that will wait. For now, the story is about actually getting my hands on my very own Wrigley frame.

After nearly a year with the refinisher, it was finally time to do something to get it extracted. As luck would have it, my job required/offered me a fast trip to London. When I said fast, they gave me two nights and one full day of meetings. Still, this was the excuse that Norris could use to go prod the finishing work into gear (ANY gear).

The idea was that the frame could be completed and then shipped to my London hotel. I traveled with carry-on only, and figured I could use my UA traveller status to get the frame into luggage for free or cheap. But, nearly a month’s notice wasn’t enough. We were right down to the wire. I still went with only carry-on luggage, and it was still in the realm of possible.

Unbelievable? Norris Lockley, the man and legend, who is no young guy, offers to bring it by overnight bus to London! He literally offers to deliver it, even though I know I’ll be prisoner in a meeting from which I simply could not even step out, and then he would return by evening bus. !!!!! The man. The legend.

I couldn’t accept. Anyway, as the hours drew nigh, it was clear that the frame was short the final clear coat so even the most crazy plan was out. The up side of all this was that I had several hours of an evening telephone chat with Norris, which was a great experience in it’s own right. I flew home without the frame.

THUS, the delivery of the frame was down to the quotidian FedEx, and a truly fabulous packing job by Norris. Small and so safe that it could have been thrown from the cargo bay without damage. I’m pleased to say that it wasn’t, and that it sailed thru customs and was in my living room less than 48 hours after it was picked up from Norris’s house.

SO, without too much more fanfare. . . Some photos.

FIRST: THE GREEN FRAME IS NOT THE SAME FRAME AS THE BLUE ONE FIRST SHOWN IN THE Opening Post.

In the story, it is explained how this trade occurred. Here is the ONLY photo I had of the frame that I now own. The key points to me: It was a 60cm. and it had a good report from Norris regarding its condition. Good enough.

Anyway, here is my only “Before” photo:




And here are a smattering of the frame and fork as delivered. The color varies a bit, with flash and mostly without.




















More anon.
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1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (still my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King (the gravel grinder)
1971 Gitane Tour de France (The War Horse)
1971 Gitane Super Corsa (The Garage Queen)
1980 Ritchey Touring (The Grail Bike)
1984 Tom Ritchey Team Competition (NOS show bike)
(replacing the stolen 1981 Tom Ritchey Everest custom)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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Old 03-09-12, 11:01 PM
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shifter bosses and water bottle bosses? One shifter boss is visible (but apparently broken or, ?) in the before shot. Were they original?
BTW, great looking frame, very enjoyable read. I hope Norris is reading this account, he's quite the writer himself!
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Old 03-10-12, 06:58 AM
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Wonderful stuff Owen. Love to read and see this sort of thing on this forum. VAP (value added post!)
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Old 03-10-12, 08:46 AM
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Original? Absolutely no idea.

That one photo is all I had. Given the sloppy paint job, I'd guess they'd been added. When Chris did the refinish, he took it down to bare metal and gave me a glowing builder's report: meaning that the frame was in great shape, no pitting and that the lug work really had been done well. He added the water bottle bosses, replaced the shifter bosses, and brazed a derailleur hanger onto the plain campy dropout. The braze-on work was meticulous. Magnifying glass inspection still leaves you thinking the drop-out is entirely original. He took forever, but the workmanship is very fine.

I was surprised by the style of the rear brake seat stay. Pleased, as it is better than I would expect from that period.

Norris is actively hunting down a few Old & Bold of the old riders that he knew rode Hilton Wrigley frames. Part of the search is to figure out the serial number code. We can't yet put firm dates on these. I'd put a basic date of 1959 on this frame, but Norris keeps telling me that he thinks it is earlier.

We've also unearthed a photo of Hilton the Man, showing him dressed for a niece's wedding. A bit past his primary building years, it is still a nice photo that shows a handsome image of Yorkshire gentility, as Norris described it.

I'll wait for his son's approval before I post it.
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1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (still my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King (the gravel grinder)
1971 Gitane Tour de France (The War Horse)
1971 Gitane Super Corsa (The Garage Queen)
1980 Ritchey Touring (The Grail Bike)
1984 Tom Ritchey Team Competition (NOS show bike)
(replacing the stolen 1981 Tom Ritchey Everest custom)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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Old 03-10-12, 09:21 AM
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Great story. Thank you so very much. Ths story breaths new life into the hobby.

Steve
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Old 03-10-12, 12:11 PM
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Three cheers for Norris Lockley!
I've great appreciation for your fine story too, well done! We get a glimpse of just how patient you must be to have gotten to this point.
Is it known for what diameter wheelset the frame was built? I'm ignorant of the standards of the day.
Looking forward to seeing the build progress!
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Old 03-10-12, 12:52 PM
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Definitely built for 27" wheels. Pretty much all pre-1960 bikes of the classic lightweight build would have been.

I'm going with 700c, simply to keep things simple. I have a 1963 Hetchins that was also built for 27", and run 700c on it, too. No problems.

I did find that short reach brakes were out, but I also decided to go with actual stopping power over period-correct silliness. I have Tektro R559s on the Hetchins and have been very happy with them. I'll be putting the same on this bike.

This build is going to be idiosyncratic, meaning a mix of a few modern bits with mostly high-end stuff from the 70s or so. Campy Rally (3rd gen NOS) for the rear, Brooks saddle, that sorta thing.

And, if only yet again for the record, Norris has been fabulous throughout this adventure.

__________________
1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (still my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King (the gravel grinder)
1971 Gitane Tour de France (The War Horse)
1971 Gitane Super Corsa (The Garage Queen)
1980 Ritchey Touring (The Grail Bike)
1984 Tom Ritchey Team Competition (NOS show bike)
(replacing the stolen 1981 Tom Ritchey Everest custom)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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Old 03-11-12, 06:28 PM
  #24  
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The Refinished Hilton Wrigley: The Test Build

The Refinished Hilton Wrigley: The Test Build

I need to improve my write up of the refinishing process, but I’m not sure of the level of interest in my long screeds.

So, for the moment, a couple snaps of the test build.

Not having a matching front wheel to run the nice NOS Trek tires, I’ve pulled my “clod-hopper” wheels from my Hetchins for this. Big, fat 35mm Schwalbe XR touring tires and a good wide freewheel.



I expect that not everyone will approve of my build, as it is certainly not period-correct. Quite new brakes, and bits and bobs as I like. The drive-train is technically a mismatch, but I like it. That said, this FD has been a very real PITA to adjust.



Clearly, the bars aren’t wrapped, and the brake levers are still in temporary position while I sort out the fit. But the fit is pretty close.



But the first nice ride today was simply lovely. Such a nice bike. A bit of a risk to do all this without a pre-refinish test. Luckily, it seems to have been a worthy gamble.



for the moment. . .
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1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (still my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King (the gravel grinder)
1971 Gitane Tour de France (The War Horse)
1971 Gitane Super Corsa (The Garage Queen)
1980 Ritchey Touring (The Grail Bike)
1984 Tom Ritchey Team Competition (NOS show bike)
(replacing the stolen 1981 Tom Ritchey Everest custom)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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Old 03-11-12, 08:45 PM
  #25  
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That's a beaut! Would love to see a lamp on the mid-fork braze-on, but it's not my bike. Has anyone been using those mid-fork light mounting braze-ons?
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