Hmmm, you strike me as someone having better observation skills than that. The quality of the welds, take a look at the tig welds on rock hopper and then the welds on a Fat City bike from the 80's- a world of difference. The chainstay end caps are nicely pointed, and again, superior welds. Look at the details around the seat cluster and seat stays. Also, the type of steel used.
But crucially, you can't see any of those things in the competition picture
, and the plain, dark paint doesn't help. You can
see a slightly awkwardly proportioned, somewhat anonymous-looking TIGged steel frame with skinny stays, a skinny, nondescript unicrown fork with an ungraceful bend, a skinny seatpost that accentuates the lumpy seat collar, a skinny TIGged steel stem showing perhaps just a touch too much quill...
Okay, I'm playing devil's advocate here a little, and I know there are a hundred differences between the two. But going into some of the details you mentioned, I'm not convinced that the little gusset between the seatstays is anything more than an affectation. Does it have a structural function? Bullet-end stays are neat, but you only need them if you insist on using parallel-sided tubing. Tapered stays tend to use material more efficiently, and are more elegant to my eye. The skinny seatpost means thick tube walls or an internal butt - again, not the most efficient use of material.
And since you mentioned quality:http://www.compint.com/stinkingweasels/ ... ality1.htm
I'm a bit disappointed by your post, since I've always valued your opinion on here, but that's cool, no one is perfect, right?
As I said, I'm writing from a position of some ignorance where your bike is concerned, but I know I'm not alone. And we are, after all, only judging a picture.
For my money though, Fat City really got into their stride in the nineties, and if they were interesting at the time your bike was made, it was less for what they were than for what they were going to become.
Calmes dans le demi-jour
Que les branches hautes font,
Pénétrons bien notre amour
De ce silence profond.