1964 Schwinn Varsity Restoration (story with pics)

So I found this on in an online ad late on Saturday night and sent the seller a query. She still had it, and yes, it would fit someone my size. So I left the house the next morning at 7:30 and got to her place in North Georgia around 9:30. Maureen didn’t know much about the bike but told me that, for sure, her husband had been the only owner of this bike. She wasn’t sure what year it is – she was guessing mid-1960s – but that he’d bought it with his own money when he was 12 or 14. Her husband, Robert “Bob” Petersen, died in May of 2020. Bob had owned this bike since he rolled it out of Bennetts Bicycles on 517 Jewett Ave., on Staten Island, NY; Bob and Maureen were both from Staten Island. I found the bike’s serial number and checked online for the model year. Turns out it was produced on August 24, 1964, so Bob (perhaps Bobby at that age?) would have been about 12 years old. Maureen told me he was born in 1952. She told me he had ridden this bike all his life and that it was well used. But now that Bob had passed away, at the age of 68, she had decided to move to a place where she had a smaller house and less land. She’s moving to the coast.

I was looking over the bike and thinking about the miles of sidewalk, city, and roads this bike has no doubt seen, and I asked Maureen to tell me about the man who rode this bike. “Well… he was a veteran,” she started off, and then spent a few minutes sort of lost in thought, telling this stranger about her late husband, before ending with, “he was everyone’s rock.” She choked up and didn’t say anything else. I don’t know how long they were married, but I’m sure it’s not easy to lose a spouse you’ve been married to for probably 40 or 45 of your 68 years. And Mr. Bob Petersen had owned this bike for 56 years before he passed away.

The bike is in good shape and could have been ridden right away. But it is dirty, rusty, and needs some new stuff. The color is Radiant Coppertone, a color I’m not fond of. At all. So in an effort to get Ian interested in helping restore the bike I told him to pick out a color from the TCI Powder Coating website, which is the kind of paint powder D & B Custom Powder Coating uses. D & B is in Trenton, Georgia and where I will take it to have it blasted and repainted. One of the color choices for the 1964 version of this bike is Terra Cotta, basically a red, and so Ian is trying to find a red color that is close to Terra Cotta.

The saddle is French and is called a Sprint saddle. It is a Brooks racing saddle lookalike, and it’s so cool. I’m going to try to restore it. And it came with a small saddle pouch on the back of the seat that I’ll try to restore. Other than new tubes, tires, handlebar tape, paint, cables, and maybe brake pads I don’t think much else will need to be replaced. Most everything is in great shape.

The handbook and tech info with original drawings is here. The official dealer’s catalog for 1964 is here.

When I got home and sat on the couch after working with Ian to take some of the bike apart, I searched for the bike store online, hoping I might find some vintage sticker maker who already sells these. Highly unlikely, I thought, but after a quick search I did indeed find one! That seller? Bennetts Bikes! The original bike shop is still there, and at the same address. Holy cow wow! I emailed the bike shop late on a Sunday night and someone responded within six minutes! More on that in the next post.

Okay, for some pictures.

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