About the class, with the various sub-classes
explained, with some suggestions as to possible
themes to explore.
A Ghost Resto Bike is an inside joke, made by its creator, and directed at the viewer. It looks like a beautifully restored stock bicycle of a given vintage and style. However, it is a bicycle which was never actually manufactured; it only looks like it was.
This joke has as many possible variations as there are vintages and styles of bikes which were actually manufactured, with sub-categories of style and detailing adding further possibilities. As in other forms of humor, the joke may be as simple. or elaborate, as the jokester wishes it to be. Depending upon style, this form of pastiche art can be very easy and inexpensive to create, or it could be much more laborious and costly. A given is the concept that the bike is made up of components typical of the type of bike which is the subject, mixed and matched to end up with a typical example. This is considerably simpler than is the task of the stock bike restorer, who has to use all-correct Schwinn parts, for example. Another area of considerable more ease is that of the bike's livery. The search for correct decals and perfectly-matched paint is one of the more tedious processes in stock restoration. Making decals, transfers, stickers, head badges, etc. is actually fairly simple, especially if they don't have to exactly duplicate anything already existing. They just have to be typical of the vintage and type. The following are some common bicycle types, which are ripe for Phantom Restoration. As expense may be an important factor in choice of project type, the list starts from generally easy and less expensive, and works its way to the most expensive and labor-intensive end of the scale.
This type of bike is incredibly common, as it was very easy to manufacture. It was almost the only style of bike available to children for a couple of decades. As found in thrift stores and garage sales, it is a 20" bike based upon a diamond frame, but step-through (girl's) configurations may also be found. It has a uni-crown straight-leg fork, of consistent diameter. It has an Ashtabula-style one-piece crank-set, and the rear wheel is generally a single speed coaster hub laced to a steel rim. The front wheel is customarily steel- rimmed with a steel hub. Front and rear tires are 20 X 1.75" knobby-tread, usually black, with black side-walls, but also available in gum-wall and sometimes, solid white. Manufacturers liked this style, as it didn't come with fenders, had a simple (cheap) fork, saddle and handlebars. Chain guards were commonly fitted, which is another area of differentiation among brands. Aside from that, about the only differences between typical examples of the breed are coloration and markings. Upper-tier differentiation within this type was to do with mechanical ccomponentry. More expensive versions came with caliper brakes and multi-speed gearing. All-chrome frames, forks and handlebars were also found in the luxe category.
Coloration can be almost anything imaginable. Factory treatments ranged from monochromatic to splashy day-glo multi-colors and chromatic shadings.
Markings and livery are fairly simple to replicate as to style and process. Decals were typical, as were self-adhesive vinyl "sticker" graphics. These bikes typically came with foam padding on the frame top tube and handlebar crossbars. This is usually in the form of a foam tube with a longitudinal slit to allow it to wrap the frame. This is commonly secured with a fabric (usually nylon) cover secured with velcro. This cover is commonly silk-screened with a graphic denoting model designation. This fabric cover is fairly simple to recreate, especially if an old one is available as a pattern. Graphics may be silk-screened onto the fabric cover, or more common stenciling methods may be utilized. Further graphic fabric treatments could be applied in the saddle area. Silk-screened spandex saddle covers were another way for manufacturers to differentiate their variants of this generic style of bike.
There are many theme differences possible within this genre, here are some examples:
Store brands are a possibility. Many retail chains had these virtually identical bikes, differing only in graphics and coloration. Some store identifications are more funny than others. As a general rule of thumb, the funniness has to do with the remove from what is more typical of a bike source. A "Pep Boys" BMX bike is not that far-fetched, or hilarious, a concept as would be one branded with "Victoria's Secret", as an example. If the coloration, graphics, and detailing follow the brand's typical pattern of identification, the results may be quite entertaining, which counts in show judging.
Personality and franchise tie-ins are another area of possibility. You can bet that there was a Barbie-Doll edition of this bike type, and probably Ken, as well as GI Joe. Cartoon characters fall into this category, as well. Some are more expectable than others. It is easy to visualize a "Road Runner" bike with "Acme Manufacturing Co." markings, but it is possible, through choice of identification with a less appropriate character, to end up with a more interesting creation. As with other details of a Ghost Resto, the personality tie-in should match the period of the bike. It is quite common for competitive cyclists to do deals in which their names are emblazoned on bicycles. This is appropriate for BMX-style bikes, as they are pseudo-sport machines, anyway. The name of a baseball, football, boxing, or wrestling star is not out of the question, though, and might lead to an interesting concept. And, let us not forget the stars of other sports, such as auto-racing, rodeo, and esoteric Olympic events.
Ten-Speed Road Bikes
This is an extremely common type of bike, with prices to match. The '70s saw millions of these bikes produced, as they were popular with both youth and adults. This is also a fairly simple Ghost Resto type, as adult bikes tend to not be subject to as much abuse, and to not accumulate as much mileage as children's bikes; therefore donor bikes tend to have a higher percentage of useable parts. Although there was a multitude of marques during that period, they mostly all used components from a comparatively small pool of manufacturers. This also makes it fairly simple to assemble a reasonably-authentic example of this type of bike.
Typically, these bikes had carbon-steel frames in diamond configuration. More expensive ones had higher-strength alloys, such as Reynolds 531, which allowed for a lighter frame. Elaborate frame lugs are especially desirable in this category, and could conceivably be fabricated and added to a simpler frame joint. (Extra points for that one, you bet!) Forks are invariably of the curved and tapered variety. Handlebars were almost invariably turned-under road bars wrapped in tape. Many brands also offered the more traditional handlebars common to English Roadsters, for those without racer fantasies. Tires are commonly of 26 X 1 1/8" size and are easily obtained in a variety of treads. Saddles are generally of the skinny type, and a wide selection of new seats of this type are available. Fenders (mudguards) were not common equipage on bikes of this type, although some makers had them as an option, and after-market add-ons were available. This is another example of manufacturers benefitting from a fad style, as fenders are not a negligible addition to production cost. Carrier racks were a common option and frequent after-market addition. Most of the common types are still available in the same designs.
In coloration, there are many possibilities. A common example of the type would have a monochromatic paint scheme enlivened with decal graphics. Metallic finishes were also common. Not so common is the all-chrome frame, which allowed the further option of a transparent-color paint coating over the chrome, for a "kandy" look. Quite often, a plated fork would have the paint stop before reaching the dropouts, with the chrome tips providing a nice accent detail.
Appropriate themes are not numerous, but there are many possibilities. European themes were most popular, with Italy and France being most prestigious in aura. Just about any Italian name will do, although if it is a name associated with a famous person of Italian descent, it will gain extra cachet. Lolobrigida, Cardinalli, and other names associated with large-busted actresses are also fun to consider. Names associated with sporting autos are also well worth consideration. There was an actual 10-speed bearing the Bugatti marque, but there wasn't an Alfa Romeo, so far as we know, nor a Ferrari or Lambhorgini. Store brands were fairly common, also, which provides for that possibility. One of our favorites was the John Deere 10-speed, which was available in the same green-and-yellow livery as the famous farm equipment. If that, why not Caterpillar? If not farm or earth-moving equipment, how about the name of a firearms maker? Iver Johnson had got out of the bike business by the '70s, but what about Colt or Winchester? During the '70s, almost everybody slapped their marque on a 10-speed.
As may be seen in the Schwinn "Varsity" 10-speeds are commonly associated with college students. How appropriate would it be for a 10-speed to bear the name of a famous university, with a paint scheme based upon the school's colors? It is extremely likely that a school's campus store would offer bicycles in this sort of livery. If not, so what? It's still a believable conceit. A common set of markings would be the name of the school, with the name of the school's sports mascot as a matter of course. We'd really like to see the Alabama campus store's "Crimson Tide" 10-speed, wouldn't you? Most colleges' official seals and coats-of-arms would lend themselves readily to head badge application. This theme is quite a natural, when you consider it.
We think of these as British, as Raleigh made so many of them, but this type was also made in most Europeon countries. They were popular with both youth and adults, and are therefore fairly common. British bikes of this type were commonly fitted with Sturmey-Archer shiftable rear hubs, although there were other Euro makes such as Phillips, Torpado, etc. Shimano's version pretty much captured the non-British market in the '70s.
Frames of this type are of the diamond configuration, in steel. Forks are of the bent-and-tapered type. They were customarily fitted with full fenders (mudguards) and chain guards ( chaincases, in the case of the fully-enclosed kind.) The classic Raleigh Roadster was fitted with rod-braking, although conventional cable actuated caliper brakes were also available, and more common from the '50s on. This type of bike originally was based upon the 27 X 1 3/8" tire size, with 26" aimed toward women and youths. Either is authentic. The common color scheme of the classic form of this bike is a black enamel finish covering the frame, fenders, and chain guard. It was common to have the lower part of the rear fender painted white, with a reflector centered in the area. Marque and model identification graphics are commonly in the form of decals with gold-pigment lettering. Head badges are typically etched and paint-filled brass or aluminum, affixed with small rivets.
There were so many actual marques, that almost anything goes in this class. Many of them were just family names, quite often of families noted for manufacturing other things. Triumph and Humber both made motorcars- BSA also made motorcycles and firearms. Vincent made fabulous motorcycles, why not bikes? Jaguar, MG, Rolls-Royce and Bentley probably didn't make bikes, but they certainly might have. Raleigh's many models and brands often referenced Robin Hood and the Nottingham area, but they probably never produced a Little John or Maid Marion bike; and how about that Will Scarlett for a snazzy name? It wouldn't necessarily have to be black, either. British aircraft makers are also an excellent source of themes. DeHavilland, Supermarine, Hawker and Vickers are fine names for Brit-style bikes. And Wilkinson of Birmingham, noted for fine edged weapons, razors and cutlery, could have done a fine bike with an exciting name; just imagine having a Wilkinson Sword Roadster- talk about sharp!
Of the other European countries' bikes of this type, those made by Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Austria, are probably second-most common in the US. Sears Roebuck & Co. Imported and sold them here for many years, under their JC Higgins label. Austria is quite notable in European history due to the Austrian Empire, so there are many fine historical references to draw upon for theming bikes from this country; but we're having trouble remembering them, except for Arch Duke Ferdinand and the later anschluss, when the Nazis took over.
This type was introduced in the mid-'50s, and is still around in the form of the modern "Cruiser" bike. Based upon a tire size of 26 X 1.75", these bikes were similar in design to the earlier balloon-tire bikes, but they they were lighter, and therefore easier to pedal. Deluxe models still featured tanks, horns, lights, and rear carriers, but the overall style was less baroque than the earlier type, with the exception of the more futuristically-themed bikes (Spaceliner, et al) which tended to follow a Science-Fiction pattern. In the '50s and '60s, when these bikes were most popular, there were still many domestic bike manufacturers, many of which shipped bikes bearing house brands of department and hardware stores. Montgomery Ward had Hawthorns, Gambles had Hiawathas, Western Auto had Western Flyers- these all may have been virtually identical, with the exception of coloration, detailing, and markings. There were many other department stores and chains of hardware outlets which do not as readily come to mind. One wonders at what the bikes sold by Gump's and Wanamaker's during that period were called? Pep Boys and Strauss stores probably had house-branded bikes, but we've never seen them.
The original muscle bikes are a product of California hot rod culture. This is how they were built: Strip down a 20" kid's bike. If it has semi-pneumatic tires, discard the wheels and tires and replace them with real ones, with a multi-speed rear, if possible, and a drum brake on the front, likewise. Give the frame a nice paint job, which may include pin-striping. Replace the rear fender with a front one, giving it that bob-tail look. Replace the short seat post with a long one, to give leg room for longer legs, and replace the seat with a "banana" shaped one, supported in the rear by a "sissy bar", scaled down from the ones used on chopper motorcycles. In the OG musclebike days, the seat was hand made. by the builder. The handlebars were replaced with something more interesting, usually extended "ape hangers", which matched the raised seating position. These bikes were essentially one-off KustomBikes, in hot-rod style.
Then Schwinn, and eventually every other bike company, brought out their own versions of the concept. Schwinn, following the lead of the OG builders, based theirs upon their existing 20" kiddy bike's "cantilever" frame, as did many others. New styles of frames soon emerged as the field widened, however. Frame designs became more radical, to go along with the hot-rod aesthetic.
Thanks to the popularity of the lowrider bike movement, and the fact that lowriders are essentially kustomized factory muscle bikes, almost any muscle bike component can be bought from a catalog or website. This even includes Schwinn-style cantilever frames. Considering that, and the common availability of 20" BMX junkers with fresh wheels, it's a very viable type of Phantom Restoration to build. This type has the added option of being a recreation of one of the original kustom muscle bikes, or a variant of the factory muscle bikes.
If doing a Ghost Resto of a factory muscle bike, coloration tended toward bright colors, frequenltly in da-glo hues. If starting from an existing bike, we recommend that you see as many examples of that marque's normal color schemes and graphics, and work the design from that point.
Themes available for this time period are many, as this was an especially interesting period in American pop culture. Hot-rod culture, surf culture, and kustom car culture were especially prominent at that time, as was the drug/music/political culture. Artists/designers whose styles are worth studying are: Ed Roth, Rick Griffin, Peter Max, Milton Glaser, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, R. "Keep On Truckin' " Crumb. There was never an Ed Roth "Rat Fink" muscle bike, which is an incredible oversight on someone's part, and a 'Truckin" muscle bike is crying to be built. Considering that this was the time of the Vietnam war, it is surprising that there may never have been a "Green Beret" military-style muscle bike in camouflage livery.
Television tie-ins were happening then, but not to the maximum extent possible. We've never seen a "Partridge Family" muscle bike, for example, but it's not too late for one to still happen.
The late '60s were a time when Playboy magazine was at the zenith of its popularity. Back then, you could get just about any item imaginable with the Playboy "Rabbit Head" logo on it. Somehow, they missed out on a Playboy-themed muscle bike, though. Ghost Restoration is all about filling in that sort of blank.
With this class, we are getting into the high-price, time-and-labor-intensive zone. However, since the potential is here to create something truly spectacular, there is corresponding gratification to be had from it. Here are some of the considerations:
Since the idea behind Ghost Restoration is that it is made up of components of seemingly appropriate vintage. The difficulty in this class is that bikes like this have not been built for a very long time. NOS (New Old Stock) parts go for high prices now. There are reproductions of vintage parts on the market, but for the most part, they are replications of Schwinn parts.
In the more luxe versions of bikes of this period, they were slathered with trim. They had tanks, suspension forks, horns, lights, speedometers, elaborate carrier racks, "crash bar" saddles, etc. And most of the bits and pieces were chrome plated. Nowadays, chrome plating is very expensive. Assuming that one had a donor bike which had un-rusted chrome components, one would be crazy to cannibalize them for a pastiche, as the donor bike would probably be more valuable than the end result.
It is considerably cheaper and less laborious to tackle the construction of lower-tier bikes of this vintage. Without all the luxe features, the parts count falls into the normal category again. They are made up of the frame and fork, a set of fenders, a crank-set, handlebars, a saddle, a chain guard, a pair of 26 X 2.125" wheels and tires, the rear having a coaster brake. For trim, you have a head badge and some decals. The paint is generally monochromatic with possible accent color areas, and maybe some pin-striping.
That level of balloon-tire vintage Ghost Resto is fairly achievable. A frame and fork of this vintage would not be terribly expensive. If a vintage bike is down to those being the existing components, it is generally considered not reasonably restorable. These components can usually be had for less than a hundred dollars; and way less, if you're lucky. Every other part on this sort of bike is available in reproduction form. Most of the restoration components available for reasonable prices are not nearly as nice as their NOS equivalents, but this can be lived with. A set of Wald chrome-plated balloon tire fenders has very cheesy chrome, for example; but paint them, as they would have been on lower-tier bikes of the period, and they look just fine. As to the preponderance of repro parts being of the Schwinn type does not rule out the many possibilities. Schwinn, after all, made bikes for chain and department stores, just like everybody else. So it is reasonable to assume that one could build up a "Gump's Gremlin" or whatever, built by Schwinn for Gump's Department Store, wearing the customer store's choice of color and trim. If you're totally making up the bike's history, anything's possible, innit?
Also bear in mind that you can always upgrade to the more luxe version later, should you choose to. With modern materials, it is reasonable to envision designing and making a tank of your own design, and most other trim comonents are also achievable, if you are not having to exactly duplicate someone else's design.
Once you are reconciled to going through the process of creating a deluxe balloon-tire Ghost Resto, what are some themes you might consider? How about a cowboy-themed bike? You may be aware that the Hopalong Cassidy bike is an actual extremely desired collectable bike. I have a strong feeling that there may have been Roy Rogers and Gene Autry models, as well. I don't recall seeing a Dale Evans cowgirl bike, but I wouldn't be surprised if there'd been one. Bear in mind that those particular cowboy-genre personalities were merely the most well-known. I doubt that anyone manufactured a Whip Wilson, Lash LaRue, Buck Jones, or Randolph Scott bike. As an exercise in creativity, visualize the accessorization which could be applied to turn a normal bike of this vintage into a "cowboy" bike, starting with the sort of stuff that would normally be draped upon a horse: a saddle, saddle-bags, a rifle in a scabbard, a canteen, a bed-roll, etc. are all possibilities. Six-guns, rope, and steer horns are common accent devices, as well.
Having gone through that creative process, you might consider other popular topics to which you could apply it. Like World War 2. Combat films were at least as popular in the '40s and '50s as cowboy films. An advantage of military vehicles for the cost-conscious builder is that they are totally devoid of chrome. Rusty handlebars and rims which would normally require replacement, in a normal restoration, can usually be prepped, primed, filled and sanded to the point where they would look perfect under a nice coat of black or olive-drab paint. Once you have realized a traditional military-looking bike, you will want to come up with graphics and accessorization to turn it into a military-themed show bike. As military vehicle markings have traditionally been white paint/stencil, graphics are especially simple to achieve.
Probably the best analogy to the cowboy's horse, is the soldier's jeep. Many of the jeep's equipages would work well on a bike, with some scaling-down. Here is one example: a searchlight. There are novelty lighting fixtures out there, which look a great deal like bike-scale searchlights. They usually have "barn-door" wings attached, since they are intended to look like movie Klieg lights. By removing the barn doors, removing it from its base, replacing its bulb with a battery-voltage unit, giving it an olive-drab paint job, and mounting it in the center of the handlebars; you have an interesting accessory which can do dual service as a headlight or swivelling and tilting searchlight. Military-looking mounted walkie-talkie radios make perfect sense here, also. There are very nice metal ammunition boxes to be found in military-surplus outlets. One which clamped onto a carrier rack over the front or rear wheel, or was permanently fitted, would be a very nice touch, and go along well with the jeep conceit. Fuel cans are another possibility. I'm sure that there are small plastic or metal replicas of the famous "Jerry Cans" available; if so, alongside a rear wheel would be an appropriate location for one, especially if filled with a nice chardonnay. Military-surplus outlets also have a wide range of appropriately-colored bags which could be adapted for use as saddle-bags or whatever. Quite often, surplus gas masks, nice accessories in themselves, come with an appropriately-sized bag; although the bags are usually available by seperately. First-Aid kits also apply, as they are appropriate, potentially useful, and come fitted into proper bags. Canteens, compasses, pistols, etc. all had appropriate canvas enclosures fitted with hooks to suspend them from an eyeletted webbing belt. This belt, or its metal-with-holes equivalent would work very well on a "military" bicycle. Those interested in experimenting with molding and casting materials might note the resemblance of a "pineapple" hand grenade to a handlebar grip.
Other possible themes one might consider: The ever-popular Aircraft theme, the sci-fi theme. There may very well have been a Buck Rogers bike, but I'm reasonably sure that there was never a Flash Gordon.
Comic Book themes are always worth consideration. The "Batbike" is a natural, but there are many other fine prospects. Remember Plastic Man, the amazing super-fellow who could shape his body into any form? Whatever he turned himself into was in the same color scheme as his costume. How about a Plastic Man bike, with its frame painted to match Plas' costume, with a sculpture of his head extending from the head tube? That guy could really stretch his neck! Hands at the fork dropouts, feet at the rear? Another of my favorite childhood comics was Blackhawks- about an international team of combat aviators who flew matched Lockheed-style jet fighters in midnight blue livery with a cool hawks-head emblem. The Blackhawks, who were good guys, had uniforms which were interesting in that they were pretty much the same as Nazi SS officers wore, including the fetish-height riding boots and peaked hats. But with the Blackhawk emblem appliqued to the chest area. It would be pretty extravagant to build a squadron of 7 Blackhawk bikes, identical except for the pilot's name decals on the top tubes. I can never remember their names, except for the leader, who called himself "Blackhawk". A profile hawk's head would look very nice extending from the head tube, I might add. Or something like the Lockheed needle-nose flowing into the tank area, although that could be dangerous. What's your favorite comic book? There's an interesting bike project in it, I'd imagine.
On the general aviation/military theme: one of the earliest WW2 American fighter aircraft was the Curtis P-40 Warhawk. It did prewar service in China with the "Flying Tigers" expeditionary aviation combat group. Its livery was olive drab, with a snarling, shark-ish mouth under the propeller. A propeller spinning in the bike's wind-stream was a familiar accessory element in the first half of last century, but it has never been carried as far as is possible. Something to consider, hmmm? There were many attractive aircraft flown in WW2, and quite a lot of them would look good as bikes.
"Special-Purpose Promotional Bikes"
I didn't quite invent this category, as there have been occasional actual examples through bike history. But, since Ghost Restos are imaginary bikes, it seems appropriate to have a largely-imaginary classification. Imagine for the moment that an auto company decides to supply special-edition bikes to each of their dealers. The dealers give out raffle tickets for the bike with each test drive, a strong incentive for children to nag their parents into going to the dealership. This is not that far-fetched a notion, as Chevrolet did pretty much the same with Corvette bodied karts. As with the Corvette karts, it would be really effective if the bikes actually looked like the cars. This conceit was may be seen in sketches here
Another typical example is a chain of urban pizzerias. As pizzas are commonly delivered by specially-fitted bicycles, in such an area. Imagine that the Roberto's chain decides to take this specialty bike one step further, and has a display shop make up fiberglass forms to cover the metal box with a giant-scale replica of a pepperoni pizza, for all their delivery bikes, for extra advertising benefit. Pretty tasty concept, eh?
Or, maybe the local pickle works has a delivery boy in their employ- why not get extra benefit from a giant pickle "costume" for the bike. In this case, the pickle would need to have a flattened cross-section, or it could be purely flat-sided, like a common painted-metal or wood sign. That old "Heinz 57" logo was pretty snazzy, wasn't it? To really go all out, they might have even added painted oilcloth wheel covers which looked like dill-pickle slices. Hot dogs lend themselves very well to this sort of vehicular promotion, as the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile proves. Perhaps a hot dog packing company had bikes made in that form?
Upon reflection, just about any product could be given the bike treatment, from almost any period; and wouldn't it be cool-looking? There are multitudes of possibilities in this classification.
How To Start Your Ghost Restoration Project?
It is recommended that you study illustrated bicycle history books and articles to see all the possibilities. When you have found a type of bike you would like to give the Ghost Resto treatment, and feel that you can pull off, we recommend that you do further research on that particular type of bike, and the popular culture of the time it is from. magazines from the period are especially useful, as the ads will give you a good idea of the graphic styles of the time, this will be very good to know when it is time to design your decals and head-badges. While originality of concept counts heavily in judging, it is not so important in the details. In the art of pastiche design, one finds something one likes, from the period in question, and slavishly copies it with minor changes. This is perfectly legal, and is a good way of gaining authentic flavor.
It is also a good idea to spend a lot of time thinking about your project, before you start buying things and doing stuff with it; and thought is cheap. The more thought which goes into a project, the better and more cohesive it will be. Time spent in this way has the added benefit of being fun, and fun is why we do this stuff, isn't it?
JUDGING CRITERIA: All Phantom Restoration Sub-Classifications.
Cleverness of Concept and Entertainment Value. Scale 1-5
Authenticity of Execution. Scale 1-5
Quality of paint and detailing. Scale 1-5
On Bicycle Painting
Making Your Own Head Badges
Making Your Own Decals