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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:36 pm 
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I’ve posted before about this Tom Crowther bike I have, but I thought I'd have another go in a new post as I’ve discovered fair bit of new info.

Ciocc and Tom Crowther are two cycling names that many people will recognise. Tom Crowther was one of the founders of Mercian Cycles and Ciocc pre 1980 were built by craftsman Giovanni Pelizzoli

The bike I have was bought by the previous owner new in 1981 from Tom Crowther’s shop at 165, Ulleries Road, Solihull. There’s not a lot of info about Tom after leaving Mercian but he did continue using Mercian to build his frames. I heard from a gentleman who’s parents had a cycle shop in Birmingham at the same time, and his father knew Tom Crowther well. He believed that all of Toms frames came from Mercian.

With that in mind, I contacted Mercian who were extremely helpful, but didn’t think they had built this bike. Although they have used Columbus tubing in the past it has only been for one off special customer orders and couldn't confirm having done anything like that for Tom.

There is a rumour that Tom also used a couple of frame builders in Birmingham. Tom was known for his exacting attention to detail so only used quality builders, but I’ve not found any info about who or where they were. After drawing a blank with Mercian and the other builders, the name CIOCC came up. This has been a step forward and a bit of googling shows the bike is very similar to the Ciocc San Crisobal. I found an excellent example that Ray Dobbins owned http://www.raydobbins.com/ciocc/index.html
I swapped a couple of emails with Ray who also thought this bike is very like the Ciocc San Cristobal.

With its extensive Crowther pantographing and Ciocc 4 ace's cut out in the bb shell, I thought I’d cracked it and I could assume that Tom Crowther had ordered some custom frames from Giovanni Pelizzoli, so I emailed Pelizzoli. The reply raised more questions than it answers, as they say they’ve never produced frames for anyone else. I’m not sure what to believe here as I’ve read some evidence that they have built for other people. So in a way, I’m right back to where I started, although with a bike that has all the charateristics of a Ciocc but badged as a Crowther.

There’s possibly two options left. The bike was bought new in 1981, I know Ciocc was sold in 1980. So it could be just possible that it wasn’t built while Giovanni Pelizzoli still owned Ciocc but built later.

The other option is its a fake Ciocc. I’ve read that there were a few fake Ciocc’s built, but to me it seems very strange to build a fake Ciocc and then pantograph it Crowther. I’ve also discovered the bottom bracket shell is identical to Ciocc’s. Their shells have some markings on the shell before they make the 4 ace's cut out in the bottom of the shell. This leaves some of the detail behind on the shell, which again is identical to the bb shell on this bike.

Anyway, I thought I’d make a new post in the hope of attracting some input from the Ciocc experts and anyone else who has any idea's or opinions :)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/62249235@N ... 619728144/


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Last edited by Robbied196 on Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:53 pm 
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It's not clear from the photo, but I think that looks like a Cinelli bottom bracket shell, which is a standard part that any frame builder could have used. If the BB is Italian threaded, then the frame was probably not built in the UK.

Did the original buyer order it as a custom built frame, or was bought it off the peg. Remember a customer could spec a frame pretty much how they liked, and could have ordered something like this frame; engraved frame parts (if available), chromed head lugs , forks and stays, colour etc, even the BB cutout. UK frame builders definitely offered engraved frame parts as an option.

Apart from maybe the BB cutout, there's nothing else on the frame that indicates that it's a "fake" anything. Do all Ciocc frames have exactly this cutout? Maybe Crowther just liked this shaped cutout and used it for his "Crowther" frames and it has nothing to do with Ciocc.

Also, Dobbins' bike has recessed brakes and a different fork crown.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:03 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:49 pm
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Location: midi pyrenees FRANCE
In 1979/81 I was spannering for a belgian pro team & one of the local shops used to supply us with odds & ends to be able to say they helped sponsor a pro team This shop was an agent for[ chuch ciocc]when the factory closed or stopped trading the shop had a delivery of approx 20 framesets made by ciocc but with no engraving to forks stay etc & no frame transfers/ stickers. I was led to believe that some 100 odd framesets were distributed in this manner, so maybe T Crowther esq obtained one or more & pantoed transferred etc with his own name, yours could possibly one that escaped


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:24 pm 
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I've nothing constructive to add; just to say that it's a fascinating story and I look forward to learning more.

PS I have an Ian May almost certainly built in the UK which has an Italian BB.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:50 am 
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fiks wrote:
It's not clear from the photo, but I think that looks like a Cinelli bottom bracket shell, which is a standard part that any frame builder could have used. If the BB is Italian threaded, then the frame was probably not built in the UK.

Did the original buyer order it as a custom built frame, or was bought it off the peg. Remember a customer could spec a frame pretty much how they liked, and could have ordered something like this frame; engraved frame parts (if available), chromed head lugs , forks and stays, colour etc, even the BB cutout. UK frame builders definitely offered engraved frame parts as an option.

Apart from maybe the BB cutout, there's nothing else on the frame that indicates that it's a "fake" anything. Do all Ciocc frames have exactly this cutout? Maybe Crowther just liked this shaped cutout and used it for his "Crowther" frames and it has nothing to do with Ciocc.

Also, Dobbins' bike has recessed brakes and a different fork crown.


That's why I love this forum! I need to have a closer look tonight, but you could well be right about the Cinelli shell, well spotted. It does look like the remains of the Cinelli logo around the cut out.

I wish I'd asked the original owner more about the bike at the time. I suspect it was bought off the peg. He talked a fair bit about Crowther's shop and about how the bike cost him a small fortune back in the day. I'm sure if it had been a custom job something would have been mentioned. Also, the cut outs are definitely either Ciocc or Ciocc style. The main distinguishing of Ciocc is the 4 aces cut on the down tube lug. If it had been built to the owners spec I'm sure the name Ciocc would have come up.

I posted Ray's example of the San Cristobal but like all models they have slight variations through the years. I think Ray's example was a special anyway and not the 'bog standard' Cristobal.


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Last edited by Robbied196 on Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:01 am 
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Little Al wrote:
In 1979/81 I was spannering for a belgian pro team & one of the local shops used to supply us with odds & ends to be able to say they helped sponsor a pro team This shop was an agent for[ chuch ciocc]when the factory closed or stopped trading the shop had a delivery of approx 20 framesets made by ciocc but with no engraving to forks stay etc & no frame transfers/ stickers. I was led to believe that some 100 odd framesets were distributed in this manner, so maybe T Crowther esq obtained one or more & pantoed transferred etc with his own name, yours could possibly one that escaped


That is a great bit of info! A bit impossible to prove so far as my frame goes, but it would make sense. I've wondered myself if it had been a 'blank' Ciocc frame that had been pantographed later.

I did see a good post about pantographing that I've been unable to find again :? From what I remember though, I thought pantographing was done prior to the frame build? And fork crowns are cast and not pantographed?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:11 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:49 pm
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Location: midi pyrenees FRANCE
Robbied196 wrote:
Little Al wrote:
In 1979/81 I was spannering for a belgian pro team & one of the local shops used to supply us with odds & ends to be able to say they helped sponsor a pro team This shop was an agent for[ chuch ciocc]when the factory closed or stopped trading the shop had a delivery of approx 20 framesets made by ciocc but with no engraving to forks stay etc & no frame transfers/ stickers. I was led to believe that some 100 odd framesets were distributed in this manner, so maybe T Crowther esq obtained one or more & pantoed transferred etc with his own name, yours could possibly one that escaped


That is a great bit of info! A bit impossible to prove so far as my frame goes, but it would make sense. I've wondered myself if it had been a 'blank' Ciocc frame that had been pantographed later.

I did see a good post about pantographing that I've been unable to find again :? From what I remember though, I thought pantographing was done prior to the frame build? And fork crowns are cast and not pantographed?

Around that time 70`s through 80`s there were that many Italian frame builders[ the trade book listing them was like a telephone directory] so as you can image it was somewhat cut throat. If you had cash you could get most any thing if you were in the know so to speak. Yes the fork crowns were cast with logo, & seat stay top eyes were panto`ed but all the builders had plain fork crowns & top eyes etc. Some of the 2nd division teams rode frame sets made by leading builders, but were badged with their sponsors name. the reason for this was the frame builder got paid more, or the full price for his frames, rather than a greatly reduced or even supplying the frame for free as sponsors & for advertisement As you say there is no way to prove/ disprove this theory that your frame was sourced in this way but at that time if you had cash & were in the game or knew some one who was, almost any thing was available. teams obtained parts that were made by others than their sponsored kit & it was blacked out re logoed. etc.their was a lot of behind the scenes dealing Not illegal or any thing like that, but some times not as it seemed at face value


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:52 pm 
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Ooh, I love a bit of speculation so here's mine.

Amongst others Ellis Briggs introduced an Italian sounding brand name (Favori) to pander to the then current love of Italian frames. I can't remember from seeing Old Ned's Favori whether they looked any more Italian than EB's normal frames though.

Now let's suppose that Mr. Crowther also perceived a market for the Italian style and decided to go all out by producing this Ciocc-a-like frame. So he got hold of similar lugs, copied the BB and head lug cut outs and then pantographed in the same places but with his name to leave no doubt as to the origin of the frame.

Of course he might also have produced it to pay homage to one of Italy's well known master builders of the time rather than out of any pure commercial tactics.

Or he might have got so fed up with people coming in to his shop going gaga over the flashy Italian frames that he thought "bu**er it, I'll show you lot what a British craftsman can do".

Without asking the man himself or someone who worked in the shop back then you'll never know.

It's a beautiful frame and FWIW I think the Ciocc link is a bit of a shot in the dark. Whoever built it seems to have done a very good job.

Mark.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:13 am 
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daccordimark wrote:
Ooh, I love a bit of speculation so here's mine.

Amongst others Ellis Briggs introduced an Italian sounding brand name (Favori) to pander to the then current love of Italian frames. I can't remember from seeing Old Ned's Favori whether they looked any more Italian than EB's normal frames though.

Now let's suppose that Mr. Crowther also perceived a market for the Italian style and decided to go all out by producing this Ciocc-a-like frame. So he got hold of similar lugs, copied the BB and head lug cut outs and then pantographed in the same places but with his name to leave no doubt as to the origin of the frame.

Of course he might also have produced it to pay homage to one of Italy's well known master builders of the time rather than out of any pure commercial tactics.

Or he might have got so fed up with people coming in to his shop going gaga over the flashy Italian frames that he thought "bu**er it, I'll show you lot what a British craftsman can do".

Without asking the man himself or someone who worked in the shop back then you'll never know.

It's a beautiful frame and FWIW I think the Ciocc link is a bit of a shot in the dark. Whoever built it seems to have done a very good job.

Mark.


Thanks Mark, I agree, I can see it being a bit of a hats off tribute to Italian cycling.

I can't even find out if the great Tom Crowther is still with us. You would think he would be more celebrated than he appears to be, given the influence he had on quality built cycles.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 7:01 pm 
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I live about a mile from where crowthers was. Used to love peering in through the windows on a Sunday. Its now a chippy :(

Lovely bike btw!


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