Sunday, December 18, 2016

Raleigh Lentons: 1948-1960










In production longer (1948-1960) than any of the other Raleigh "club " bikes and indelibly associated with Reg Harris, Britain's greatest cycle champion of the era and Raleigh spokesman, the Lenton series was indeed "the undoubted thoroughbred of its class" as the best selling entry level club/sports machine of the immediate post-war era. The Lenton was at home on country lanes as it was on city streets, as popular abroad as it was at home. A teenage John Lennon cycled the streets of his native Liverpool on his Lenton and Katherine Hepburn rode one around Shepperton Studios during the production of The African Queen.  But the Lenton is best remembered and cherished for introducing a generation to sports cycling during the immediate post-war years. The Record Ace may have been more coveted and the Clubman and later Super Lenton better outfitted, but the Lenton Sports was the most successful popularly priced lightweight British bicycle of a Golden Era.




This article endeavours to document what is often generically defined as "Raleigh Lentons" over a 12-year span, from 1948 to 1960.  Given the welter of different brand names within the Raleigh empire and range of models which fall under the vague "Lenton" description, this article concerns itself with the following specific models:



1948
Raleigh Super Sports. no. 28
Rudge Pathfinder no. 128
Humber Clipper no. 328

1949-1954
Raleigh Lenton Sports no. 28
Rudge Pathfinder no. 128
Humber Clipper no. 328

1950-1951
Raleigh Lenton Tourist no. 29
Rudge Aero Tourist no. 129
Humber Beeston Tourist no. 329

1955-1957
Raleigh Lenton Sports "Mark II" no. 28
Rudge Pathfinder "Mark II" no. 128
Humber Clipper "Mark II" no. 328

1957
Raleigh Lenton Tourist no. 25

1957
Triumph Torrington no. 428

1957-1959
Raleigh Lenton Marque III no. 6
Rudge Pathfinder Phase III no. 106
Humber Clipper Series III no. 306

1957-1960
Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix no. 7
Rudge Pathfinder Grand Prix no. 107







RALEIGH SUPER SPORTS no. 28
RUDGE PATHFINDER no. 128
HUMBER CLIPPER no. 328
1948

When Raleigh announced its post-war plans in March 1946, sports, club and racing machines assumed a newfound importance, imparting some excitement and liveliness amid the gloom and privations of Britain immediately after the Second World War. Retooling of industry for peacetime, especially the vital export trade, suffered setbacks amid shortages of materials, parts and skilled labour as well as disrupted overseas trade etc. Thus it was some time before Raleigh's plans materialised into production and there were the inevitable changes and revisions as to product details, models and types making it imprudent to print a catalogue until late summer 1947.

Consequently, two predecessors of models which would figure greatly in Raleigh's post-war revival did not even appear in any formal brochure. And, confusingly, both switched model names in the process. The first, model 25, the Lenton Sports (II), of 1946-47, which took its name from the pre-war Lenton Sports (I) (no. 44), and became the Clubman (1948-51) is covered in a separate article. The second, model 28, was the Super Sports (II) (1948) which became the Lenton Sports (III) (1949-54).

The post-war Super Sports was as short-lived as the pre-war version which, despite its pride of place in 1934 brochure with this centre-spread and charming artwork, was offered only that one year. Like its successor, it was an entry level club machine, but available also in a ladies frame, something that wouldn't be offered with the post-war Lentons until 1951.

Introduced in January 1948, the no. 28 Super Sports was third in the pecking order behind no. 25 Lenton Sports (II) and no. 26 Raleigh Record Ace. Designed for the leisure sporting cyclist and junior "racer" market, the Super Sports built on the success of one of Raleigh's most successful and longest lasting model (in production from 1933-1987), the Sports (no. 21) but with a lighter frame and better components while retaining a mid level pricing point.


For a model that never appeared in a catalogue, the elusive Raleigh Super Sports is best depicted in its few surviving examples such as above. This is largely original except for the pump, mudguards, cable pulley and SA trigger (which should be mounted under and slightly inboard of the brake lever). credit: The Old Bicycle Showroom


Details of the same machine showing the Golden Arrow chainring, the pre-war style handlebars with expander bolt rather than headclip fixing stem, the simple lugs and heavier seatstays and the new silver headbadge used for machines made of Reynolds 531. Credit: the Old Bicycle Showroom

These were the first Raleighs in production to use Reynolds 531 tubing with the Super Sports and Lenton Sports employing it (straight gauge) in the main triangle which had 71° parallel angles (like the pre-war RRA). As such, they introduced the distinctive silver verson of the famous Raleigh Heron headbadge unique to models built with Reynolds 531. The tubing was the main distinction between the Super Sports and the Sports as well as added refinements such as celluloid mudguards and a detachable chainwheel, the same as used on the pre-war Golden Arrow and Lenton Sports. The Super Sports lacked the fancy fishtailed and cutaway lugs, narrow profile seat stays or head-clip fixed stem of the Lenton Sports. The 26"x 1¼" rims were chromed steel Endricks with quick release hubs with wingnuts. Like the Sports, it had a Brooks B-15 saddle and rat trap pedals. Unique to the Super Sports was its bright orange enamel finish with no lining and bold seat tube transfers. Frame sizes were 21" and 23".

A rare original condition 1948 Raleigh Super Sports. The three-pin detachable chainring was the same used on the pre-war Golden Arrow and also on the 1946-47 Lenton Sports (no. 25). This example has an FW Sturmey-Archer hub and GH6 Dynohub.


1948 Raleigh Super Sports, all photos courtesy Jon Bentley

This exceptional, all original Super Sports was offered on eBay (UK) in 2018







As with all the post-war range, with the exception of the Raleigh Record Ace, the Super Sports was also offered in Rudge and Humber badged versions as well: no. 128 Rudge Pathfinder in Turquoise Blue and no. 328 Humber Clipper in Bright Red. The initial price for all three versions was £14. 6 s.0 d. but by 1948, had risen to £15. 5 s. 3d. compared to £12.15 s.11 d. for the Sports model.


The Cycling (7 January 1948) review of the Super Sports showing the only "official" depiction of the machine. credit: V-CC on line archives.


There was no illustration or detailed specification in the 1947-48 Raleigh, Rudge and Humber brochures for these models merely these cryptic references on the Sports model pages. Curiously, no reference was made to the Reynolds tubing.


The one and only advertisement for the Super Sports in Cycling appeared in the 14 July 1948 issue right near the end of the production run for the machine. credit: V-CC on line archives



RALEIGH LENTON SPORTS no. 28
RUDGE PATHFINDER no. 128
HUMBER CLIPPER no. 328
1949-1954





The 1949 Raleigh Lenton Sports


The Lenton Sports Model represents all that is best in British Cycle design, craftsmanship and finish. Bearer of the most illustrious name in the sphere of sports cycling, this bicycle is built expressly for the rider with the keener appreciation of advanced features and construction. 
first advertisement for the Lenton Sports, 22 December 1948





The Super Sports was out of production by late summer 1948 and the design reworked and improved for the 1949 season. Confusingly, the Raleigh model was renamed Lenton Sports (III) as the Raleigh Clubman had been originally called, but the Rudge and Humber versions kept their names and all retained their original model numbers: Raleigh Lenton Sports (no. 28), Rudge Pathfinder (no. 128) and Humber Clipper (no. 328).

The Lenton Sports was in Lustre Green, while the Rudge Pathfinder was finished in Polychromatic Metallic Blue and the Humber Clipper in Polychromatic Lustre Orange with no lining.

Offered in 21" and 23" frame sizes, the frame remained the same as the Super Sports with Reynolds 531 main tubes, the same lugs and simple pressed steel drop-outs and fork ends. The main difference was a new chainset with detachable ring (the same design for all three brands) and fluted cranks. Initial specifications for the first year listed alloy (usually J.P. Britton) mudguards. Fixed and free flip-flop rear hub was standard with Sturmey-Archer hub gears and dynohub optional. These were "lightweights" for their time although weighing 34¾ lbs. with a three-speed hub vs. 37 lbs. for the Sports model with three-speed hub.

The Lenton Sports represented real value for money. Its specifications, while lacking the Clubman's alloy components, cutaway lugs and pencil type backstays, gave the rider a quality, Reynolds framed machine at a most affordable price; £15.5 s. 3 d. vs. £21. 12. 11 d. for the Clubman. This combination of price and quality was a hallmark of the Lenton Sports for most of its long production run.


1949

Compared to the attractive full colour 1947-48 brochures, those for 1949 for Raleigh, Rudge and Humber were dreary and unexciting and the Lenton Sports was introduced in ho-hum fashion as above. Although it featured the same dramatic "flash" seatpost transfer as the former Lenton Sports of 47-48, the downtube "Raleigh" transfer was very circumspect being in small black script with no outlining. That first year the colour was "Lustre Green" although it's believed this was the same colour restyled as "Special Super-chromatic Lenton Green" in 1950.






The new Pathfinder in the 1949 Rudge Brochure. A 21" frame version is depicted and, as with the Raleigh, there is no "Rudge" transfer on the downtube but rather one reading "Britain's Best Bicycle".






And the Humber Clipper in the 1949 brochure which other than its advertised bright Polychromatic Lustre Orange is positively incognito with no visible down tube transfer at all. 

The first advertisement for the new Raleigh Lenton Sports in Cycling, 22 December 1948, credit V-CC on-line archives

Detail from the above advert showing the specifications. Credit: V-CC on-line library.

The first advertisement for the Humber Clipper in Cycling 8 December 1948. credit: V-CC on-line archives.

The first advertisement for the new Rudge Pathfinder in Cycling, 12 January 1949. Credit: V-CC on line archives.
Introduced at the November 1948 British Cycle and Motorcycle Show, the Lenton Sports was widely praised as marking a new commitment by Raleigh towards club and sporting machines in its post-war range. With the new model joining the Clubman and the Record Ace, Raleigh now offered the leading sports models in three distinct price ranges.



RALEIGH LENTON TOURIST no. 29
RUDGE AERO TOURIST no. 129
HUMBER BEESTON TOURIST no. 329
1950-1951



The Raleigh Lenton Tourist model has been specially designed for those riders who require a light, lively mount for touring or general purposes. Alloy steel tubing and Aluminium alloys have been carefully embodied in the specificiation to provide strength and rigidity with a minimum of weight.
Raleigh catalogue, 1950


The next in the Lenton series got a Royal introduction of sorts. In June 1949 T.H.R. Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Nottingham Quincentenary Trade Exhibition where they "spent a considerable time" inspecting the Raleigh stand featuring a new bicycle for the 1950 model year: the Raleigh Lenton Tourist, no. 29. Also branded as the Rudge Aero Tourist (no. 129) and Humber Beeston Tourist (no. 329), this was described as being a "machine that is as suitable for business purposes as it is for touring" and having the most up-to-date specifications including a Reynolds 531 frame (21" and 23" gents only), 71° head and seat angles, Dunlop light alloy 26" x 1¼" rims, light alloy GB caliper brakes and hooded levers, alloy chainguard, 4-inch rubber pedals with alloy fittings and alloy 15/18th" Comfort Flat handlebar on an alloy stem. A Brooks B-66 saddle, kit bag and celluloid mudguards completed the specification while the Sturmey-Archer FM or AM medium ratio gear with alloy was optional. All three models were finished in Polychromatic Olive with white lining, there being no lining on the Lenton/Pathfinder/Clipper until the 1951 model year.

The Lenton Tourist was a curious model having superior components, especially the use of alloy ones, than the Lenton Sports and cost more, too: £20 3s.11d. and that was with a single freewheel or £2 9s.8d. extra for an AM hub. The alloy chain guard, for example, was the same developed for the touring version of the Record Ace, and it had alloy GB stem, 'bars and brakeset.


The new Raleigh Lenton Tourist, the finest roadster-sports model of the immediate post-war era, boasted a higher specification than the Lenton Sports.  

HRH Princess Elizabeth being shown the new Raleigh Lenton Tourist at the Raleigh Exhibit at the Nottingham Quincentenary Trade Exhibition in June 1949.








A beautiful original condition Raleigh Lenton Tourist.

The new 1950 Raleigh Lenton Tourist.

The Humber Beeston Tourist. Unlike the Lenton Sports, the Tourists for Raleigh, Rudge and Humber all shared the same Polychromatic Olive Green with white lining livery. This exceptional machine, the finest roadster type bicycle made by Raleigh until the Raleigh Super Tourer of 1973-74, was alas shortlived, too expensive for too limited a market and was only offered for the 1950-1951 model years.


1950

For 1950, the Lenton Sports/Rudge Pathfinder/Humber Clipper  specification was considerably changed:
  • Sturmey-Archer FM (four-speed medium ratio) light alloy shell hub gears as stock, raising the price to £17. 9 s. 11 d. 
  • Mudguards were now ivory celluloid instead of alloy. 
  • Investment cast fork ends and drop-outs replaced the pressed steel originals. 
  • The fork blades were changed to "D" section instead of round.
  • The headlamp bracket was switched to headset fitting rather than the stem bolt. 
  • brazed-on pulley boss for SA gear cable 
  • New "RI" marked grey handlebar sleeving instead of grey grips
  • The Rudge Pathfinder finish now Polychromatic Gold
  • The Humber Clipper finish now Polychromatic Lilac
  • The Raleigh Lenton Sports finish now Special Super-chromatic Lenton Green
  • All models got bold new downtube brand transfers.

This can be considered perhaps the first year for the "true" Lenton Sports with major improvements to its frame, finish and fitments rather than the essentially renamed carry over from the Super Sports the initial 1949 model represented. All three models had new colours including the introduction of the soon to be trademark "Special Super-chromatic Lenton Green" for the Raleigh, although this was most likely similar to the Lustre Green of the 1949 models, and the striking Polychromatic Lilac for the Humber. All models received new and distinctive down tube transfers.

More modern "D" section fork blades, investment cast fork ends and braze-on pulley boss for the S/A gear cable were frame improvements while the model was now sold with a four-speed FM hub gear with the new alloy shell as standard fit.

The new Lentons, Pathfinders and Clippers were among the stars of the November 1949 Cycle Show at Earl's Court that year and with the new Lenton, Aero and Beeston Tourists and improved Clubmans also introduced, it was one of Raleigh's finest presentations.


Raleigh gave the improved 1950 model of the Lenton Sports pride of place in the November 1949 National Cycle Show number of Cycling. But the drawing shows the older 1949 model.


The new downtube transfer for Lenton Sports introduced for the 1950 model year.


Much more attractively presented was the Lenton in the 1950 brochure. That year, it and its Rudge and Humber brethren got bolder down tube transfers. Note also the new headset fixed headlamp bracket and handlebar sleeve grips.


The second page of the Lenton Sports 1950 listing with specifications.  


The 1950 Rudge Pathfinder in the United States catalogue.  Lightweights such as this were a major export at the time and these were among the few such machines sold in the United States where adult cycling was still in its infancy as a sport and recreation.  Credit: ThreeSpeedHub.com

The Humber Clipper, "specially designed for the young enthusiast", in the 1950 catalogue and showing off the new and very distinctive Polychromatic Lilac finish introduced that year. 

Advert for the Rudge Pathfinder, 16 March 1950 now attired in Polychromatic Gold. 

Advert for the Humber Clipper, 22 February 1950


1951

1951 specification changes

  • New cut-out lugs similar to the Clubmans.
  • White lining was added to the Raleigh Lenton Sports and Humber Clipper. 
  • Red lining added to the Rudge Pathfinder.  
  • "Reg Harris Road Model" colour banded transfers were added to the seat tube of the Lenton Sports. 
  • New ladies frame version (28L Raleigh, 128L Rudge, 328L Humber) with 4" dropped 'bars and rubber pedals in 21" frame


The new ladies version of the Lenton Sports (this example from the 1952 catalogue), note the shallow (4") dropped 'bars.

A ladies 21" frame version was offered starting in 1951 as described in the Rudge catalogue: Far be it from us to dictate to the Ladies! In this instance, however, your wishes have been our commands and we offer you the first Lady's Pathfinder, the counterpart and fit companion of the renowned Gent's model. We have complete confidence of your approval and future enjoyment of this machine. 

The introduction of a ladies model of the Lenton was a major development for Raleigh, offering for the first time since before the war, a quality lightweight for what was a fast growing market.  While Raleigh, like most manufacturers of the era, regularly portrayed club and recreational cycling as "co-ed" and enjoyed by couples, it had hitherto confined ladies framed models to the lesser 2030 tubed Sports models, although the top-end RRA could be built with a ladies frame on special order.  Finally, Raleigh offering an excellent "matched pair" for club and recreational cycling and the ladies version of the Lenton was an immediate success.



The Raleigh Lenton Sports as presented in the 1951 catalogue.

The second of the two-page spread devoted to the Lenton Sports in the 1951 catalogue with the specifications and introduced the new mod. 281 ladies frame version of the model.

The 1951 Rudge catalogue was one of the best in terms of artwork and presentation with a full centre spread on the revised Pathfinders for that year including the new ladies model.

The second page of the Rudge Pathfinder centre spread of the 1951 catalogue.

Resplendent in the Polychromatic Gold colour used in 1950-51, the Pathfinder had pride of place on the cover of the 1951 Rudge brochure. 

Not to be outdone, the Humber 1951 brochure was no less attractive, showing off the lovely Polychromatic Lilac livery of these models.

The second page of the centre spread devoted to the Humber Clipper in the 1951 catalogue.

The Rudge Aero Tourist in the 1951 catalogue.

The Humber Beeston Tourist in the 1951 catalogue, its final model year.  

Raleigh Lenton Tourist in the 1951 catalogue. 

Advert for Rudge Pathfinder, March 1951

Advert for the Humber Clipper, August 1951


1952

specification changes for 1952
  • Rudge Pathfinder standard colour now  Polychromatic Burgundy with gold lining 
Missing from the 1952 line-up was the Lenton Tourist. Its sophisticated specification and high price put it in an awkward corner in the market given its limited appeal to sports riders and it proved too expensive for tourist cyclists. In its place was a 2030 steel frame version, the Trent Tourist, a popularly priced model that became one Raleigh's biggest sellers.


For 1952, the Raleigh Lenton Sports was tied in with Reg Harris' role as Raleigh spokesman and offered as the "Reg Harris Road Model" featuring a distinctive decal on the seat tube. Credit: Paul Whatley

The second page of the two-page centre spread devoted to the Lenton Sports in the 1952 Raleigh catalogue and featuring the ladies model and specifications.  Credit: Paul Whatley

The Raleigh Lenton Sports in the c. 1952 Export (U.S.) catalogue.

The Raleigh Lenton Sports in the 1952 export catalogue. Credit:: V-CC on-line library.

The Humber Clipper in the 1952 export catalogue. Credit: V-CC on-line library.

Advert for the new 1952 Rudge Pathfinder, December 1951.

Advert for the Rudge Pathfinder, March 1952. That year, they finally settled on a livery for the model: a return to the classic Rudge maroon (Polychromatic Rich Burgundy) with gold lining which replaced the Polychromatic Gold.

Advert for the Humber Clipper, July 1952







"..... RIDES A LENTON"


REG HARRIS

"Mr. Raleigh" of the Fabulous 'Fifties

Reg (Reginald Hargreaves) Harris (1920-1992, Manchester Wheelers CC)... icon of British cycling of the post-war era and perennial Raleigh spokesman who really did ride a Lenton Sports for his road training and leisure and won most of his victories on the track on custom made Raleigh Works Specials machines. 

So identifiable as Raleigh's spokesman during it (and his) golden era (1948-58), it is probably true that among a certain generation of Briton that Reg Harris is as remembered today as "riding a Lenton Sports" as much or more as he is for being British Olympic Champion and one of the top track cyclists of the post-war era.  And his cycling career predated both the war and his connection with Raleigh and continued after it including winning the British Championship in 1974 aged 54, on a 1949 vintage Raleigh.

Harris came to Raleigh thanks to Charles Marshall, dean of racing Raleighs, just before the 1948 London Olympic Games and just as the company's fabled post-war range of lightweight club and sporting machines came on the market.  Indeed, Harris rode a custom made track machine decaled as  Raleigh Record Ace, winning a Silver Medal.  

Harris' contract with Raleigh included a substantial role and presence as spokesman for the firm, indicating just how seriously the Nottingham firm took the post-war market for sports and lightweight machines.  And particularly the new Lenton Sports as it came on the market precisely when Harris' successes on the track became the toast of British sports and cycling. In 1949 he won the world professional sprint championship in Copenhagen, and again in 1950, 1951 and 1954. Harris was won the Sports Journalists' Association's accolade of Sportsman of the Year in 1950, and was runner-up in 1949 and 1951.


Just a sampling of the promotional posters Raleigh produced in the 1950s... never before or since was a professional cyclist more associated with a manufacturer than Reg Harris and Raleigh, the two representing also a true heyday for both the sport and the British cycle. 

So it was in 1950 that Raleigh started its "Reg Harris Rides a Lenton..." advertising campaign that was one of the most identifiable and successful in British advertising of the era. And, always correct, the tag was always followed by "for his road training" lest there be any confusion one of the world's top track cyclists was riding a hub-gear 34-lb. entry level club bike to world championships.  It's just that they hoped the prime market for the Lenton, the youth "aspirational" sport cyclists and club riders, might imagine they were.

And yes, Reg Harris did indeed ride a Lenton Sports. And given that he had been provided with a top-class road model of the far superior Raleigh Record Ace when he signed in 1948, he was making somewhat of a sacrifice downgrading to the Lenton Sports.  This appears to have been a wholly off-the shelf model, too, with the exception of his upgrading the brakeset to the GB Hiduminium Standard set and a GB stem/handlebar set.

And proving that Reg really did Ride a Lenton Sports, are these shots from the Pictorial Press of Reg at his home in Rusholme, Chesire, in 1950 out for a run on his Lenton Sports.  Note the upgraded GB Standard brakeset.  And "Captain", one of Reg's two boxers.  Credit: Alamy, used without permission

Reg hangs up his Lenton Sports in his cycle room at his home.  Note one of his classic carmine red Raleigh Works Special track machines and "Major", the second of Reg's boxers in the background. Credit: Alamy, used without permission

By 1952, the Reg Harris tie-in with Lenton Sports promotion extended to the machine itself with the designation of the model as the "Reg Harris Road Model" with a special seat tube transfer.  This was replaced by a striking "Flaming Torch" transfer for the 1954 model year and this was carried on all Lenton Sports, Marque III and Grand Prixs until the end of their production.


In 1952, Raleigh Lenton Sports carried the designation "Reg Harris Road Model" on a special transfer on the seat tube (left) and from 1954, a "flaming torch" transfer (left).

From the Coventry Wheelers CC Wheelman's Review, 1951 with an especially good shot of Harris on his Lenton. Credit: V-CC on-line library

A full page of the 1951 Raleigh catalogue was devoted to the Reg Harris/Lenton Sports connection. Credit: V-CC on-line library


During a 1954 visit to Nottingham, Raleigh's track cycling professionals: left Sid Patterson (Rudge) on a Rudge Pathfinder, centre Reg Harris (Raleigh) on a Lenton Sports and right Cyril Bardsley (Raleigh) on a Humber Clipper. The track machine in the background appears to be Reg Harris' RRA on which he won Silver in the 1948 London Olympics. credit: Raleighgram, V-CC on line archives

JOHN LENNON

"Reg Harris Rides A Lenton" but almost as famously so did a young John Lennon who was a keen cyclist and like so many lads of his era, as a reward for passing his 11+ exams in summer 1952, his Uncle George gave him a brand new Lenton Sports. This had a three-speed hub, dynohub and matching green saddle bag and apparently one of Lennon's great treasures and he joked about on the similarity of the Lenton's name with his own. In autumn 1952 Lennon entered the Quarry Bank High School and cycled there from his home, Mendips in Menlove Ave., via Calderstones Park, every day on his Lenton. Today, the National Trust owns and preserves Mendips and includes a Lenton in its exhibit. Apparently when Lennon moved to New York, he bought a Raleigh as close to his old Lenton as possible so like so many of his generation, his first Lenton was a bit of a milestone.

John Lennon and his new Raleigh Lenton with his cousin Stanley Parkes in front of Mendips.

The opening scenes of "Nowhere Boy" (2009) shows John Lennon (as played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his friend Pete Schotten (played by Josh Bolt) cycling from Mendips to Quarry Bank High School through Calderstones Park on a beautiful and perfectly restored pair of 1952 Raleigh Lenton Sports.


Still from the movie "Nowhere Boy" (2009) showing the actors portraying Pete Schotten (left) and John Lennon (right) on a pair of beautifully restored Raleigh Lenton Sports.


KATHERINE HEPBURN

The American film actress (1907-2003) was an ardent cyclist and famous for riding her bronze green Raleigh Sports in Central Park in the 1970s-80s.  And often photographed on bicycles on and off set during her long career.  Indeed, few actors have been more filmed on or around bicycles than Miss Hepburn. 

Her connection with the Lenton Sports appears in a series of photos taken during the filming of the classic film  The African Queen (1951) during post production work at Shepperton Studios in 1950.


Katherine Hepburn on her Raleigh Lenton Sports at Shepperton Studios in 1950. Note the Reynolds flat 'bars and the large Lucas bell.

Miss Hepburn showing off her cycling prowess and note she's riding with toeclips and straps, too!

Katherine Hepburn on her Raleigh Lenton Sports with African Queen co-star Robert Morely on the left. 




1953

1953 specification changes
  • new 15/16th" dia. alloy Maes pattern handlebars
  • optional colours were offered for all three brands: Lustre Carmine with gold lining or Flamboyant Electric Blue with cream lining.
  • special "New Elizabethan Model" transfer for the Coronation Year

Beginning with the 1953 models, Raleigh Lenton Sports were available in three finishes: Polychromatic Lenton Green CF22, Royal Carmine CF24 and Flamboyant Electric Blue CF26.   

The Raleigh Lenton Sports in the 1953 catalogue. Credit: Paul Whatley

For the Coronation Year 1953 Raleigh Industries offered "New Elizabethan Models" including an improved range of Lentons-Pathfinders-Clippers such as the Humber Clipper above. Credit: Paul Whatley.
The ladies Humber Clipper in the 1953 catalogue.

The Humber Clipper models in the c. 1953 export (Eire) catalogue. Note that the colours were Royal Carmine, Flamboyant Electric Blue and Lustre Orange with no option of Polychromatic Lilac. Credit: V-CC on-line library.

Advert for the Humber Clipper, August 1953

Advert for the Rudge Pathfinder, June 1953

Advert for the Raleigh Lenton Sports, July 1953

1953 Raleigh Lenton Sports  (all photos, courtesy Jon Bentley)

While Lenton Sports are not rare and there are many "survivors", remarkably few are either properly restored or found in original unmolested condition, especially the early models.  Thus, this example, offered on eBay (UK) in November 2019, is of special interest and value to illustrate a wholly original and period correct Lenton Sports. The only non original bits being the sleeve grips and possibly the saddlebag.  










1954

1954 specification changes
  • "pencil" seat stays
  • the lamp bracket re-positioned to the right-hand fork blade
  • the attractive 2½" steel stem extension used on the Super Lenton used on Lentons
  • new pattern Raleigh quill pedals
  • Polychromatic Lilac dropped for Humber Clipper and replaced by Polychromatic Electric Blue.  Optional colours for all three brands remained Polychromatic Mediterranean Blue and Lustre Royal Carmine. Mudguards and pumps for the blue machines were red and white for the others. 
  • New Reg Harris Road Model "flaming torch" introduced. 
  • For models so fitted, new pattern streamlined Sturmey-Archer head and tail lamps and silver faced Dynohub.

The improved Raleigh Lenton Sports for 1954 as reported in the 19 November 1953 Cycle Show Number of Cycling. Credit: V-CC on-line library

One of the most attractive Raleigh brochures was that for 1954 which featured the Lenton Sports in a two-page centre-spread, highlighting the new Lustre Carmine and Flamboyant Electric Blue colour options that year as well as the new Reg Harris Road Model "torch" transfer.

For 1954, the Raleigh Lenton Sports got new down and seat tube decals as well as a striking "Reg Harris Road Model" torch decal.  The Rudge Pathfinder and Humber Clipper, too, got new tubing decals. 


The Rudge Pathfinder in the 1954 catalogue. Credit: https://1954rudgecatalogue.blogspot.com/

The Rudge Pathfinder in the 1954 Export (USA) catalogue.

The Humber Clipper shown in the optional Carmine Red in the 1954 catalogue.

The ladies model of the Humber Clipper in the 1954 catalogue shown in the optional Mediterranean blue. 

Advert for the Humber Clipper, August 1954

Advert for the Rudge Pathfinder, June 1954

Advert for the Raleigh Lenton Sports, November 1954


RALEIGH LENTON SPORTS "Mark II" no. 28
RUDGE PATHFINDER "Mark II" no. 128
HUMBER CLIPPER "Mark II" no. 328
1955-1957



Big changes for the Lenton Sports came in 1955. So much so that the model is often informally known as the "Mark II" Lenton although never by Raleigh as such. 

1955 specification changes
  • tighter geometry (head 73° and seat 71°)
  • The lugs were changed to a more cutaway design but without side windows. 
  • The handlebars changed again, a Maes bend in 7/8th steel. 
  • Distinctive stock colours dropped for Rudge and Humber. Raleigh Lenton Sports still available in Lenton Green with white lining and all models available in either Polychromatic Electric Blue or Lustre Royal Carmine with white lining
  • Bluemels lightweight mudguards
  • A new optional "all-rounder" flat handlebar bend available as an option
  • Price, including FW hub gear, was £19.0 s.10 d.

Among the improvements to the Lenton range introduced for the 1955 season was a new lugset (left) for the more upright 73 head tube and a new "All-rounder" pattern flat handlebar as an option on all Lentons, Pathfinders and Clippers.

Marking the biggest change to its specification since its introduction, the 1955 Lenton Sports got a new frame with tighter angles, new lugs and handlebars. This also shows the new right-hand fork-mounted headlamp bracket. Note the trademark Reg Harris Road Model "flaming torch" replica of the transfer found on Lentons from 1954 onwards. 

The completely reworked Lenton Sports in the 1955 brochure in both gents and ladies versions. The new All-rounder handlebar was now an option for gents or ladies models. This also highlights the new lugs introduced that year. 

The improved Humber Clipper for 1955 showing it in Polychromatic Electric Blue

The ladies 1955 Humber Clipper in the other colour choice, Lustre Royal Carmine.

The Raleigh Lenton, "Britain's Most Popular Sports Model!", as offered for as low as £1 deposit and nine months to pay by Currys in 1955.  Credit: V-CC on-line library.

Another major seller of the Lenton Sports was Halfords which advertised the model in their 1955 catalogue. Credit: V-CC on-line library. 

Advert for Rudge Pathfinder, January 1955 

Advert for the Humber Clipper, August 1955

Advert for Raleigh Lenton Sports, July 1955


1955 Rudge Pathfinder, (all photos, courtesy Jon Bentley)

An exceptional, all original example of this model, as offered on eBay (UK) in September 2016









1956

1956 specification changes
  • improved hooded steel brake levers
  • new narrow section celluloid mudguards, white for Green and Carmine models and red for Blue ones as were the pumps. 
  • price rose to £20. 17 s. 0 d. with FM hub.

The new fully hooded steel brake lever introduced for the 1956 season.

The Raleigh Lenton Sports was again afforded a two-page centre spread in the 1956 catalogue. Credit: V-CC on-line library.

The second page in the 1956 catalogue. Credit: V-CC on-line library.

The 1956 Rudge Pathfinder

Another offering of the 1956 Rudge Pathfinder in a smaller catalogue that year.

The 1956 Humber Clipper. Credit: ThreeSpeedHub.com

Specification sheet for the Humber Clipper from the 1956 Dealer's catalogue. Credit: Paul Whatley. 

Advert for the Rudge Pathfinder February 1956

Dating from October 1956, this advert features the revised Rudge Pathfinder for 1957 (its last year) with the "white flash" head tube  and revised transfers.


CHANGING GEARS


Advert for the new Raleigh sports range with the Lenton Sports absent, March 1957, in Cycling.

Not since 1948-49, did Raleigh introduce more new models than it did for 1957, a year of great change and no little confusion as its product line was upended amid falling sales and changing times.  For the Lenton series alone, there were two new models, a retread of an old one, a new (to Raleigh) brand and a final phasing out of the Lenton Sports in its original form.

These were trying times for the British cycle industry as a whole with increased private motor car ownership facilitated by hire purchase schemes and an emerging network of new roads to accommodate them, all of which badly effected sales of traditional, transport oriented roadsters.  In 1956, alone, the Home Market for cycles dropped 30 per cent. Increased American tariffs on imported bicycles from the UK reduced the presence of British makes to 26% of the market by 1957. Overall, British cycle production dropped 40 per cent from 1955-1958. On the plus side, sales and use of recreational and sports cycles increased and like other manufacturers, Raleigh re-oriented its line-up away from the traditional roadsters to a new range of brighter coloured, "Continental" influenced machines with derailleur gears.

The new (introduced at the October 1956 Cycle Show) Cyclo-Benelux Mark 7 derailleur.

At the heart of the new sports line-up for Raleigh in 1957 was something almost unthinkable just a few years previously: a non proprietary component and a derailleur gear instead of its own Sturmey-Archer hub gear product.  In October 1956, the Cyclo Gear Co. of Birmingham, long Britain's chief exponent and producer of the derailleur gear, introduced its new Mark 7 model for the 1957 season.  This toggle chain, spring-activated derailleur was 10 per cent lighter than previous models, had better adjustment and could be used for 3, 4 or 5 speed freewheels.  Its introduction was concurrent with Raleigh's unveiling of its new Lenton Sports Marque III, Lenton Grand Prix and Record Ace Moderne, all of which could be fitted with the model.

There were also new bolder, brighter transfers, contrasting head tube colours and matching mudguards and pumps, white walled Dunlop Sprite tyres and a curious "Continental" bend 'bar which was more pre-war "South of France" in shape than it was European for the Lenton Marque III, Lenton Grand Prix and RRA Moderne, but the Lenton Sports retained its conventional 'bars for its final season.


1957

specification changes for 1957
  • downtube transfers for "Raleigh", "Rudge" or "Humber" now vertical on the seat tube
  • model name now more prominently displayed on the down tube
  • new 'flash' styled white peak head treatment

The Lenton Sports was a casualty of the new order, essentially a pre-war club machine that was no longer competitive amid modern offerings.  It received modest cosmetic improvements for the 1957 season but, in fact, was only sold through the first quarter of it.  Indeed, it and the revived Lenton Tourist and the new Triumph Torrington (all detailed below) were most likely in the '57 line-up to use up the 26 x 1¼ wheel frame stock as starting that year the new versions of the Lenton used 27 x 1¼ " wheels and could take derailleur gears.  Indeed, it was truly an end of an era for Raleigh which finally ended its total reliance on the hub gear and embraced the derailleur despite its ownership of Sturmey-Archer.


The End of An Era: the classic Lenton Sports' final appearance in the 1956-57 model year dealer's catalogue and suitably attired in Lenton Green.

The specification list for the Gents Lenton Sports in its final 1957 incarnation.

The Ladies Lenton Sports of 1957.

The specification list for the Ladies Lenton Sports, 1957

For the 1956-57 dealers catalogue, the Rudge Pathfinder appeared in its c. 1956 livery.

The specification for the Gents Rudge Pathfinder in the 1956-57 dealers catalogue.

The Ladies Rudge Pathfinder in the 1956-57 dealers catalogue. 

The Rudge Pathfinder in a later 1957 catalogue showing its final form with the "jazzed up" livery featuring cream peak head and "flashes" and "Rudge" on the seat tube and "Pathfinder" on the down tube. Raleigh and Humber models were also so attired their final model year. 



RALEIGH LENTON TOURIST no. 25
1957


Making a surprise return to the line-up for the 1957 model year was the Raleigh Lenton Tourist, no. 25, some six years after it was withdrawn.  In its second incarnation, it still featured the Reynolds 531 frame in 21" and 23", but this time was also available in a 21" ladies frame.  Gone were the high-end light components and it was fitted out instead with Trent Tourist equipment. Like many of the models that year, it featured a bright and colourful livery with cream coloured "flash" head tube and elaborate transfers.  With its white-walled Dunlop Sprite tyres, tan-coloured saddle and kit bag, red mudguards and pump, this was not your typical roadster but neither was it the expensive and sophisticated first Lenton Tourist.  


The Lenton Tourist made an unexpected (and very brief) reappearance in 1957-58 using the Lenton Sports frame (and possibly reintroduced to use up leftover stock) with Trent Tourist components rather than the alloy GB ones of the original model.

A rare original c. 1957 Lenton Tourist frame as offered on eBay (UK).  These used leftover stock of Lenton Sports frames and were fitted with Trent Tourist components.
Details from the same Lenton Sports frame showing the "flash" paint treatment of the peak head which was introduced with the 1957 models. 



TRIUMPH TORRINGTON no. 428
1957

In 1954 Raleigh acquired Triumph Cycles of Coventry. In keeping with its policy of branding or marketing essentially the same cycle under different marques, the Triumph name was initially offered on most of the existing Raleigh range beginning with the 1955 season.  Within the Raleigh product range, Triumph would replace the Robin Hood marque as a budget line for the Home Market whilst the latter was now exclusively an export brand.

Among the models introduced in November 1956 was the Triumph Torrington (no. 428), a rebranded Lenton Sports. And not to be confused with the original (and superior) Trumph Torrington of 1950.  

The new Torrington was an economy version of the Raleigh Lenton Sports whilst retaining the Reynolds 531 frame.  It had a fixed chainwheel featuring the Triumph name, a stem-mounted lamp bracket, a conventional RI pattern stem (as used on all the three-speed 'sports' models), Lycett or Wright's saddle instead of Brooks and was offered at £16. 19 s. 3 d. with single gear instead of an FM hub.  It also featured its own distinctive fork crown.  

Even at its lower price point, the Torrington was withdrawn from the range the following year when Raleigh decided to position the Triumph range as a wholly budget roadster/sports/children oriented brand

The new Triumph Torrington in the 1957 catalogue

The Triumph Torrington in the Raleigh Industries dealer's catalogue 1957.

For some reason, the model was afforded two different illustrations in the dealer's catalogue, this being included in a supplement but visually identical in fittings etc.

The specification for the Gents Triumph Torrington in the dealer's catalogue

The Ladies Triumph Torrington shown in Lustre Napoleon Red.

The specification for the Ladies Triumph Torrington. 

A rare and beautifully original (except for the saddle) Triumph Torrington.  As with other "badged" versions of the Raleigh Lenton, this features its own distinctive fork crown. Credit:  fredhaj.tripod.com/triumphclubmanpage


RALEIGH LENTON MARQUE III no. 6
RUDGE PATHFINDER PHASE
III no. 106
HUMBER CLIPPER SERIES III no. 306
1957-1959


A sporting mount, appealing particularly to those who require a fast, lively mount of modern and proved design, combined with a price well within their reach. 
Raleigh advertisement, March 1957



Nothing reflected the changing times more than Raleigh's complete revamping of the Lenton Sports for the 1957 season.  What had been, in essence, a pre-war 26" x 1¼" wheeled hub gear or fixed/free club machine, was retooled, reconfigured and restyled into something vaguely contemporary.

Dubbed the Lenton Marque III (the "Sports" was dropped), the new model now featured 27"x 1¼" Endrick wheels with large flange Continental style front hub. And taking a "belts and braces" approach to gearing choice, could take either the Cyclo-Benelux Mark 7 four-speed derailleur,  Sturmey-Archer hub gear or fixed/free rear hub.  Brazed-on fitments for bare wire controls on the top tube and chainstay were provided and the pump pegs relocated to under the top tube to make room for down tube gear lever. White tape and plugs on the distinctive steel "Continental" shaped 7/8th handlebars and ornate, even gaudy transfers, imparted a European flavor. The cost for the rejuvenated model went to £23.17 s. 6 d.; not quite the value for money of yore given the late Super Lenton, a superior machine, cost £22. 12 s. 8 d. the year previously.



The model got a new lease on life in 1957 with the completely restyled Lenton Marque III (Rudges were known as Phase IIIs and Humbers as Series III) although the basic frame remained the same and, of course, so did Reg Harris' endorsement. These were offered in both gents and ladies models.

The ladies frame version of the 1957 Raleigh Lenton Marque III. Credit: V-CC on-line library.

The new Lenton Marque III in the 1957 dealers catalogue.

The specification for the Gents Lenton Marque III.

The Ladies Lenton Marque III in the 1957 dealers catalogue.

Specification for the Ladies Lenton Marque III

The new Rudge Pathfinder Phase III in the 1957 dealers catalogue

Specification for the Rudge Pathfinder Marque III.

The Ladies Rudge Pathfinder Phase III

Specification for the Ladies Rudge Pathfinder Phase III

The Humber Clipper Series III in the 1957 Humber catalogue.  This was truly the end of an era, being the very last last club lightweight manufactured for the venerable Humber marque.  

Advertisements for the new Marque III version of the Lenton Sports in the CTC Gazette April and August 1957 respectively. That on the left unusually referencing the history and introduction dates of the model as the Clubman and Lenton Sports.  

The new Lenton Marque III, "a fast, light, lively machine of modern and proved design", as advertised in the CTC Gazette in June and December 1957 respectively. The distinctive "Continental" bend handlebars fitted to all Raleighs with dropped 'bars that year were like the old Strata "South of France" or GB "Road Champion" bends.

The Lenton Marque III and its Rudge and Humber variants introduced elaborate, colourful bordering on gaudy transfers as well as dramatic contrasts in the colour schemes.

A rare and beautifully original 1957 Humber Clipper Series III. This was the final Humber lightweight model. Credit: Flickr (account Paul)

1958

1958 specification changes
  • initially advertised new Sunset Yellow with black details livery not produced and the model instead offered in Lenton Green (Raleigh only) with yellow peak head, mudguards, pump and tape or Royal Carmine with Grey peak head, mudguards and pump with white tape.
  • New "Reg Harris Road" bend 'bars
  • New fork-mounted boss for headlamp bracket

The Lenton Marque III in the 1958 brochure in the Sunset Yellow and Black scheme it was, in fact, not actually produced in that year. It features the new Reg Harris bend 'bars.

The Lenton Marque III ladies model as depicted in the 1958 brochure. This was Raleigh's last ladies frame Reynolds 531 lightweight and last offered in 1959, the new Grand Prix coming only in a gents frame. 

The Raleigh Lenton Marque III in a different 1958 catalogue. Credit: Sheldonbrown.com

Advert for the Raleigh Lenton Marque III showing the new Reg Harris Bend 'bars of the 1958 models.  May 1958

1959

1959 specification changes

  • saddle was now a Brooks B15 Swallow


The Lenton Marque III/Rudge Pathfinder Phase II/Humber Clipper Series III were withdrawn at the end of the 1959 model year.  Marking rather a milestone and an end of an era, it was the last Raleigh made lightweight supplied with hub gears or fixed/free and was also the last Humber badged sports machine in Reynolds 531.  The final act of the Lenton saga was played out by Raleigh and Rudge with derailleur gears.


The Raleigh Lenton Marque III in the 1959 catalogue, its last appearance.  credit: Bulgier.net



RALEIGH LENTON GRAND PRIX no. 7
RUDGE PATHFINDER GRAND PRIX no. 107
1957-1961




An absolutely up-to-the-minute sporting machine, specially evolved, at a most reasonable price, for the rider who requires  eight gears. The ideal mount for speed and controllability. 
Raleigh advertisement, March 1957


The final variant of the Lenton was introduced at the November 1956 Earl's Court Cycle Show for the 1957 season: the Grand Prix. This was the first Raleigh/Rudge (there being no Humber badged version) to have a derailleur gear as the only option with no provision for the traditional single-speed fixed/free hub or Sturmey-Archer hub gear. Instead, the Lenton Grand Prix no. 7 or Pathfinder no. 107 was fitted with an eight-speed Cyclo-Benelux Mark 7 derailleur with a 14T, 16T, 18T and 20T block and a Williams double 46T/49T chainring with a Benelux hand-control front changer.  This was offered only in a gents frame.

Alloy GB Sports brakes, Racelite large-flange hubs and a Brooks B15 Swallow saddle made for a high standard specification and warranted a "thoroughbred" pricing of 25 guineas. It was certainly up-to-date as the derailleur and the saddle were brand new offerings that year as well.  New, too, were the colours: Silver Grey or Black with white peak head and fitments or the familiar Lenton Green with Carmine peak head and fitments.


The new Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix as displayed for the first time at the November 1956 Cycle Show. This featured the new Cyclo-Benelux Mark 7 four-speed derailleur which was also introduced at the Show, the new Brooks B-15 Swallow saddle and new "Continental" pattern steel handlebars. 

The Lenton Grand Prix in the 1957 Raleigh Dealer's Catalogue.

The specification sheet for the new Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix.


The last of the Lentons was the Grand Prix no. 7 or Pathfinder Grand Prix no. 107 as above of 1957. The basic frame was the same as the "old" Lenton but the 8-speed derailleur only gearing and the Continental "style" set it apart as did the Brooks B15 Swallow saddle. The Rudge variant featured a Polychromatic Silver Gray livery and ornate transfers.

The specification sheet for the new Rudge Pathfinder Grand Prix.  

The Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix in the 1957 catalogue. And yes, still available in Super-chromatic Lenton Green (with contrasting Carmine head tube). Credit: V-CC on-line library.


A largely original and "as found" 1957 Raleigh Lenton Prix showing the early clamp-on fork lamp bracket.  This also has the original mudguards with the spear point front extension, 1958-60 models had squared off front 'guards. 


1958

1958 specification changes
  • Brooks B15 Swallow saddle
  • new "Reg Harris Road bend" handlebar
  • New fork boss mount for lamp bracket
  • squared off front mudguards rather than spear point extension

The Lenton Grand Prix as depicted in the 1958 catalogue with the squarer Reg Harris handlebars introduced that year. 

The Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix in a different 1958 catalogue. Credit: Sheldonbrown.com

The heart of the new Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix was its derailleur gearing, built around the Cyclo Benelux Mark 7 four-speed derailleur with a rod-operated front derailleur giving eight-speeds and a double ring Williams chainset.  Note the new Polychromatic Silver livery introduced with these models.
Showing the front derailleur and the unusual placement of the Reynolds 531 transfer on these models.  Although no longer employed by Raleigh and now making his own range of lightweights, these new Lentons were still badged as "Reg Harris Road Model".

A beautiful example of a 1958 Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix as offered for auction in the US in April 2017.

Another view of this exceptional example.

Details of the same machine, showing original downtube transfers of 1957-58 machines.


This beautiful "time capsule" condition late 1958 Lenton Grand Prix was offered on eBay in the US in 2011. Note the rod-activated Benelux front derailleur, the squarer Reg Harris bend 'bars and the heron heads chainring. Although the catalogues show a conventional Williams chainring set, all examples of machines sold in the USA, at least, have the heron's head version instead. The Grand Prix, shown at the 1960 New York Toy and Bike Fair, was hugely popular in the United States and most surviving examples are on "the other side" of the Atlantic.

1959

1959 specification changes
  • new colour Sunset Yellow with Black peak head, mudguards and pump replacing Black/White and the traditional Lenton Green.

The first advert for the 1959 model Lenton Grand Prix, August 1958. For the first time since 1949, it was not offered in its trademark Lenton Green and a new livery of Sunset Yellow with black details was introduced along with the silver.

The Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix in the 1959 catalogue. Credit: Bulgier.net

Advertisement for the Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix 23 December 1959

1960

1960 specification changes
  • cable operated front Benelux gear changer
  • Weinmann 730 brakes
  • Weinmann rims
  • new pattern steel 2.5" stem
  • 15/16th steel Maes bend 'bars
  • chrome decoration piece fitted over fork crown

Amid all the change and upheaval occasioned by the acquisition of Raleigh Industries by Tube Investments in 1960, the venerable Raleigh Lenton would be one of dozens of models withdrawn from production as a whole new range for the giant merged company was developed, Reynolds 531 production shifted entirely to Carlton at Worksop (Raleigh having acquired Carlton just before the TI takeover) and the number of marques and models reduced.


The Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix in a 1960 Raleigh leaflet. Credit: Paul Whatley

The revised 1960 Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix in its final appearance in a UK market catalogue..

For the United States export market, at a time when sales of "racing bikes" for the midrange market begin to burgeon, Raleigh exported a final consignment of Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix.  This was introduced at the New York Trade and Toy Fair in February 1960.  These models differed from the UK market ones in having GB Sports brakes and Dunlop HP rims.


The spec sheet for the Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix as introduced at the New York Trade & Toy Fair, February 1960. Note the provision of GB Sports brakes and the front derailleur is still listed as hand operated.  However, the final consignment of models shipped to the US had cable operated front derailleurs

The Lenton Grand Prix was last offered to the British market for the 1960 model year and out of production by November. For 1961 Raleigh completely revamped its sporting and racing range with new models such as the Gran Sport, the first Raleigh to feature Campagnolo 10-speed derailleur gears, and the Blue Streak with a 10-speed Benelux derailleur but all were 2030 steel framed.

However, Lenton Grand Prix models continued to be sold in the United States through much of 1961 indicating the much of the remaining stock was exported

It should also be noted the name "Lenton Sports" was revived briefly c. 1962-3 for a 2030 tubed budget machine sold in the United States under the Robin Hood brand.

The end of the Lenton Grand Prix also marked the end of Reynolds 531 production at Nottingham and all such frame manufacture was henceforth concentrated at newly acquired Carlton's Worksop plant. Indeed, it wasn't until the mid 1980s that Reynolds 531 frames were made at Nottingham and other than the Raleigh SBDU products, almost all Reynolds 531 frames sold by Raleigh in the U.K. for the next two plus decades were sold under the Carlton name.


THE LENTON IMAGE


Detail from a 1953 Raleigh poster showing the Lenton Sports

The era of the Lenton (1948-1960) was also the final heyday of the cycle as image and icon in art for brochures, advertisements and technical handbooks.  For most of its production, the Lenton Sports, Rudge Pathfinder and Humber Clipper had pride of place in the often beautifully produced catalogues and posters of the era, depicting not only the machine in minute and accurate detail but also in settings and situations which today harken back to a Golden Era of club and recreational cycling in Britain.

Catalogue Renderings


The Raleigh Lenton Sports, 1949

The Humber Clipper, 1952

The Rudge Pathfinder, 1954


Catalogue Artwork


The Raleigh Lenton Sports, 1951 catalogue

The Rudge Pathfinder, 1951 catalogue

The Rudge Pathfinder, 1951 catalogue

The Humber Clipper, 1951 catalogue

The Raleigh Lenton Sports, 1950 catalogue

The Humber Beeston Tourist, 1951 catalogue

The Rudge Aero Tourist, 1951 catalogue

The Raleigh Lenton Tourist, 1950 catalogue

Posters


Raleigh Poster for the new "Elizabethan Models" for 1953 and featuring the Lenton Sports in a Torquay-esque setting. 


Raleigh poster dating from 1952 and the "Star Performers Choose..." advertising campaign and featuring the ladie's model Lenton Sports.

Mid 50s Rudge poster featuring the Pathfinder.

Newspaper Clip Art





Exploded Parts Diagrams

From the Raleigh Spare Parts catalogue c. 1954. Credit: ThreeSpeedHub.com

credit: ThreeSpeedHub.com


LENTON LIVERY

Yes, for a brief period in 1958-59 you could actually buy a Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix in classic Raleigh dipped black enamel. But otherwise, it and its Rudge and Humber sisters were characterised by its atypically (for Raleigh) bright range of paint finishes, in rich enamels, polychromatics or lustres and, of course, all sprayed not only on Raleigh's famous "spra bonderised" treated steel but also over a good healthy coat of traditional Raleigh dipped black enamel.  The finish was further enhanced by box lining in contrasting colours as well as increasingly ornate and elaborate transfers.

This section seeks to document the various colours and finishes Lentons, Pathfinders and Clippers were available in as well some of their transfers, either reproductions or from surviving originals. Time has not been kind to most of the paint finishes of these machines and many of the polychromatics and lustres chalked with age and the adhesion of the sprayed colour coats over the dipped black undercoat was not as good as it would have been over a proper primer.  Indeed, the black revealed under the decaying colour topcoat is often as good as new.  But when seen in the window of a cycle shop in the gloom and mist of a British city and set among staid black roadsters, a brightly coloured Lenton, Pathfinder or Clipper appeared as if transported from another planet.  It was the gleam in a many a lad's eye and temptation to dad's wallet.

Finally, an obvious caution to viewing the below colour charts from various Raleigh Industries catalogues of the era: printers ink on paper is not paint on steel and computer screens not neutral in portraying hues, tints and warmths of paint.  These are literally for "illustrative purposes" only.  And there are obvious gaps especially the rainbow of colours introduced post 1956 for the Lentons and Grand Prixes.  If the cycles were colourful, the brochures often were not by this time or the illustrations so small as not to give a good indication of the colours and transfers.

Raleigh Lenton Colour Chart c. 1948-1960

This .pdf file contains a chart listing all of the colour finishes for Raleigh, Rudge, Humber and Triumph models of the Lenton.

Cut & Paste the below link to access Google Drive file

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S9r7n8TQmmd-JFnYikQGXqBTDwL0bl8U/view?usp=sharing


   
Raleigh colours, 1950 showing no. 7 Superchromatic Lenton Green and no. 11 Polychromatic Oliver Green.

Rudge colours, c. 1954.

Raleigh Industries (for Raleigh, Rudge, Humber and Triumph) colours, 1956


LENTON LEGACY


Before the first year of decade of the 1960s was over, the change and upheaval that would characterise so much of that eventful ten years had already been wrought in what was then the largest cycle company in the world.  No longer independent, Raleigh, which had bought out so many famous makes over the years... Humber, Rudge, Triumph, BSA, Carlton... had itself been swallowed up as the British cycle industry faced challenging and uncertain times.  The bicycle itself was evolving and the classic British "club bicycle" of the late 'forties was out of favour amid more Continental designs and fancies.


The Lenton Sports was, perhaps fittingly, an early casualty of the New Order.  And a symbolic one, too, since it best represented and help achieve the post-war renaissance of Raleigh and so many now nostalgic aspects of British club and recreational cycling of the era.  Dismissed and even derided among some as a "schoolboy bike" and at best an entry level lightweight, it was cherished by far more as a milestone "grown up racing bike" for many and a chance to discover the world of sports cycling.  Reg Harris may have "Ridden a Lenton" but more importantly so did many a chuffed son or daughter to whom a Lenton was their prized possession.

Today, the Lenton Sports conjures up the vanished charms of 1950s British cycling-- riding on roads largely bereft of motorcars and country lanes right out of Frank Patterson's sketches for Cycling, celluloid mudguards, Brooks saddle bags, Sturmey-Archer hub gears, Dynohub lighting, Endrick rims and Dunlop tyres. And the very name recalls when Lenton, Nottingham, England was the home to the largest cycle factory and The British Bicycle was the envy of the world.

While there were certainly more sophisticated and better lightweights on the market, the Raleigh Lenton in its myriad forms probably did more to introduce people to sports and club cycling than any single model. It remains one of Raleigh's most popular bicycles and an icon of 1950s Britain.


An original condition Raleigh Lenton Sports outside the former Raleigh Headquarters Building in Lenton Blvd., Lenton, Nottingham. Credit: Ed O'Brennan via Flickr








Acknowledgements/Credits

Paul Whatley, Raleigh Marque Specialist, V-CC
Raleigh, Past and Prescence of an Iconic Bicycle Brand, Hadland, 2011
Websites:  ThreeSpeedHub, Veteran Cycle Club online library










2 comments:

  1. I started using my Lenton sports again for the past 18 months. It is the same most delightfully light weight, fast and easy bike I have ever owned. I first started riding the bike in about 1970 and my impress was the same - it feels like it is pulling me along not holding me back in any way.

    I have taken a few details and used them on my blog;

    http://blog.andrew-lohmann.me.uk/2018/10/lenton-sports-bicycle.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fantastic piece of work. I've recently acquired a 1948 Super sport that needs lots of work. This document is proving to be a very valuable source of information

    ReplyDelete