It has arrived… it took a few weeks and was a bit of a saga, but it is here at last, and it is time to measure up and find out exactly what I have. Within the first couple of seconds of pulling it from the box and looking at the frame and forks, 2 of my initial questions about it had been answered. I could see that I was right about it being a respray and not original paint. I could also feel the frame weight and could tell that the tubing was definitely 531 and not 753. I’ll explain how and why as I ramble on.
When I saw the frame advertised, I thought it had the wrong Reynolds frame and fork decals and it had a missing Ilkeston oval SBDU decal. I also had questions about the RALEIGH decal on the top tube and if it should be there or not. Incorrectly placed or missing decals is always a sign of a respray.
I also look for how well decals have been fitted. In the images below, apart from the decals being the incorrect version, both of them are wonky, the fork blade decal is obvious and the orange tape I’ve added shows how uneven the frame decal is. The RALEIGH decal on the seat tube is also twisted too far around the tube.
Other decals on the frame are also badly cut, badly fitted and even creased.
Another thing to look for is paint finish. All of the original finish SBDU frames I own have a thin even paint finish. This finish has paint runs which I wouldn’t expect from the SBDU and definitely points to a poor respray. On the image below, there are 2 runs coming around the seat tube onto the BB and there is a run on the fork crown. Another give away that this is a respray is the masked band of paint on the fork steerer column. Original SBDU forks should have paint on the forks and fork crown that simply fades to the plain steel of the steerer. The paint on the steerer is also smudged. So from a distance, the frame and forks look nice and possibly original, but the poor detailing lets it down.
Next up is frame tubing. If the Reynolds 531 tubing decal isn’t the original, and the paint isn’t original, you need to decide and check if the tubing designation is correct. The frame number, SB6560 dates this frame to 1984. The forks also have a matching frame number.
Most SBDU frames of this period that had a Cinelli BB shell fitted were made of Reynolds 753 tubing. 531 tubed frames would typically use HADEN BB shells. But there was one model, the Services des Courses, which used a Cinelli BB on both the 753 and 531 models (shown in the excerpt below).
My frame details match the description of the Services des Courses model so it’s still not clear from the frame detail, if this is 753 or 531.
Frame weight is one of the only ways to differentiate between these 2 tubing types. When I lifted the frame from the courier’s box, it felt like 531, it is just experience that tells you that. A Reynolds 531 frame in this size will weigh approx 1900 to 2000 grams opposed to 753 which will weigh approx 1700 to 1800 grams. 531 forks will weigh approx 650 to 700 grams and 753 will weigh approx 600 to 650 grams. My scales have never let me down before and have proved to be accurate.
The scales don’t lie! Reynolds 531 it is. I will check further when I start to renovate this frame. Because of the poor finish and poor decals, I’ve already decided to give this frame a full renovation. When the frame is stripped, it is sometimes possible to see the Reynolds stamps on the frame tubes – that stamping will normally show the tube type, butting and butting thickness of the tube. Apart from the finish, the main reason for a renovation is the missing gear lever bosses. In fact, they aren’t fully missing, they have been badly removed with a hacksaw. But I do have new replacements to fit.
This is probably one of the more difficult paint schemes to research. So many people who carry out renovations don’t do enough research in order to get the small details right. As with the TI-Raleigh 1974 – 1983 “Team” colours of Red, Black and Yellow, Raleigh adopted a similar ‘Panasonic’ scheme on many of its lower range production bikes, which although similar, had different decals in different locations based on year and model. A 1984 Panasonic Raleigh should look like this based on the promotional material at the time.
There was also a domestic team called Raleigh-Weinmann who shared a similar frame and paint scheme but used different components. Those bikes and their replica models also added to the numerous schemes and decal layouts.
It’s clear that in 1984, the date of my frame, the scheme for either the Panasonic or Weinmann professional teams didn’t have RALEIGH across the top tube and that the blue section of paint on the top tube ended approx 1 inch past the race number boss and not a third of the length of the tube. There is also no RALEIGH decal on the chain stays. So that is how mine is going to look when done.
So I’m happy that I know exactly what I have and how it should look. It is a 1984 built SBDU 531c Services des Courses frame set and should be finished in the paint scheme shown in the Panasonic Team image above.
For now though, it is going to sit in the workshop until early next year when I get some time to start work on it. I’ll then need to decide what components to fit; to keep original to the Panasonic Raleigh team and use Campagnolo Super Record, Mavic and Cinelli, or do something completely different, maybe even modern. I like the idea of a top of the range vintage steel frame but with modern components, maybe modern Super Record?
Thankfully, I’ve got a few months to decide and save..!