I have a list of frames that I want in my SBDU collection. That list of frames is slowly getting smaller; but on that list was a 753 Time Trial Special. So, hot on the heals of my latest acquisition a month ago, a nice original 531SL Time Trial Special, I came across a tempting advert on the internet… An original 753 Time Trial Special listed as “spares or repair – for parts, not working” – due to a seized seatpin. The frame also had a large amount of rust which I was hoping was just surface rust. These are the pictures from the advert.
The risk is that the seatpin will never come out and that the rust is more terminal than just surface rust. If the seatpin is stuck then the bottom bracket may also be stuck. It could be an expensive pile of scrap metal, but at the advertised price, it was worth a go – I made an offer under the asking price and it was accepted! A 753 Time Trial Special, Dura-ace seatpin, OMAS Titanium BB and Edco Competition Headset for £165.00, a fraction of the price compared to normal SBDU frames.
After a week of waiting for the delivery, it arrived and was taken straight to the workshop to see if this was a stupid move or a viable restoration.
This frame is a 56cm 753 stamped as SB2692. This dates the frame to approx 1978. It actually has a double SB stamp – the frame number reads SBSB2692. It also has an ‘H’ ref of H591.
What do all those numbers and references actually mean?
The SB number was an incremental number that was given to each frame built by SBDU. Starting with SB1 in 1974. I think it is a myth that people think SBDU frames were all custom hand built frames. ‘Custom’ meaning that they were all individually built to a customer specification; they weren’t. SBDU frames are incredibly beautiful hand built frames built by highly skilled craftsmen to the highest of standards, but most were built to stock dimensions. There was a little bit of choice in terms of braze on fittings and colours but the actual dimensions (angles and tube lengths) were stock. Lets face it, Gerald O’Donovan knew what he was doing with frame design.
The ‘H’ reference indicates that this frame was built to a customer request, meaning that something on this frame was different – the customer may have had a consultation at Ilkeston and had this frame built for them. Maybe it was a different head or seat tube angle, or maybe it was a longer/shorter top tube; I will never know. Most, but not all SBDU frames have a matching frame number stamped on the steerer column of the forks but in this case, the forks are stamped with the corresponding ‘H’ ref which indicate that these are the original forks.
I was really happy to see that the fork steerer column was very clean and showed little sign of corrosion which is a good sign for the rest of the frame.
The OMAS titanium bottom bracket came out next and was actually a very easy job. Sometimes the aluminium cups used on these will seize into the steel frame. I was expecting a battle to remove it but it came straight out with standard tools. The headset and BB are both in very good condition which is another positive sign.
Now it was time to tackle the seized seatpin. Before I left it to soak in penetrating fluid overnight, I thought I would give it a quick twist in a vice. So with the frame upside down and the Dura-ace pin clamped tight, I gripped the frame and using it as leverage, the seatpin moved! Five minutes of twisting later, the seatpin and frame were separated for the first time in what could have been several years.
Within 30 minutes of taking the frame out of the box, I had a good idea that the very thin 753 tubing was solid and that the seatpin and BB were free to move. Next thing to do, as I always do, was weigh the frame. This normally tells me if the advertised tubing is actually what it is. This frame and forks had every sign of being correct; all the decals were correct, the fork blades and crown and Campagnolo drilled dropouts were correct, the oversize seat stay caps were correct and the vertical and drilled Campagnolo rear dropouts were correct, but the Reynolds tubing decal was almost destroyed. Weight is one of the only signs to tell one type of tubing from another. Based on my other SBDU frames, I was looking to see somewhere in the region of 1650 grams for the frame.
The frame was slightly lighter than I expected, 1629 grams and 644 grams for the forks.
Some decals have survived really well but others have almost gone. The foil head badge normally fitted to Time Trial Specials on the head tube and seat tube is good, the oval Ilkeston decals on each chain stay are good but the black ‘TI’ on the fork blades has seen better days along with the ‘Time Trial Special’ script on the top tube. The Reynolds 753 seat tube decal has almost gone completely.
The drilled Campagnolo dropouts, oversize seat stay caps, rear brake bridge re-enforcement and seat/chain stay/fork blade ends are all classic SBDU finishes.
This is a late 70s frame so it doesn’t have braze on gear lever bosses and has gear cable tunnels on top of the BB shell. It also uses top tube clips for the rear brake cable, which over time, has contributed to the corrosion on the top tube.
I also wanted to have a quick check of the corrosion before I left it for the night. A Dremel with a small wire wheel attached is great for getting through the paint and rust to the bare steel. The paint on SBDU frames is also relatively thin compared to others so it didn’t take long to see bright metal coming through. I looked at some corrosion around the seat lug/top tube and some on the chain stay next to the oval decals.
It doesn’t look pretty but as you can see from the chain stay, that is bright metal which was previously flaking rusty paint. The seat stay cap, seat lug and corrosion on the top tube also looks ok. The frame clearly needs much more time spent on it but first impressions look good.
Originality, and especially original paint is always the best possible outcome but what I’m eventually going to do with this frame will take some thinking about. But for now, my risky gamble looks to be paying off!