1930s-1950s Mecadural Duralumin ‘Electra’ All-Aluminium Roadster
How often do you find a bicycle made out of a recycled blimp?
I don’t know much about Mecadural Duralumin bicycles, apart from the frames and components being commercially available for companies to assemble and add their own badges. According to the transfer on the rear mudguard of this Mecadural, this one is an ‘Electra.’
Caminargents were top-of-the-range aluminium bicycles; with their distinctive octagonal tubes and ornate cast lugs they were expensive to produce. So I suppose the Mecadural frames filled a gap in the market for those who couldn’t afford Caminargents. Nevetheless, the combination of components used was at the discretion of the assembler, and this particular machine is the nicest I’ve seen, with a beautiful stem and ornate mudguards complimented by the headlight …which reminds me of a miniature Zeppelin airship.
This style of aluminium bicycle was made between the 1930s and 1950s, constructed from Alumag (a brand of aluminum-magnesium alloy) tubing held in place in the lugs by internal expanders. Duralumin is twice the strength of aluminium, despite being light in weight, and was originally designed for use in Zeppelin airships and early aircraft.
The Hindenburg had a duralumin structure, incorporating 15 Ferris wheel-like bulkheads along its length, with 16 cotton gas bags fitted between them. In 1931 the Zeppelin Company purchased 11,000 lbs of duralumin salvaged from the wreckage of the October 1930 crash of the British airship R101, which might have been re-cast and used in the construction of the Hindenburg.
Although aluminium bicycles were in use since the late 1890s, it’s possible that the Hindenburg disaster led to a surplus of duralinum, influencing its increased use in bicycle manufacture.
‘When the great airship Hindenburg crashed in Lakehurst New Jersey in May of 1937. It was the death knell to the Dirigible. The great fire and blaze that was created when she exploded and burned cost the lives of 35 people. Oddly enough much of the ship burned and much of the fabric that surrounded the frame of the vessel was lost. But surprisingly, more than what you would imagine survived. I have seen many pieces of the Hindenburg and seen a lot of fabric from her. Plus even more widely found was much of her duralumin. This was the material that the frame of airships were made from. A very light alloy and as light as a feather. It was the material that would allow the airship program to exist in all the countries that had one.’ *
duralumin, strong, hard, lightweight alloy of aluminum, widely used in aircraft construction, discovered and patented in 1910 by Alfred Wilm, a German metallurgist; it was originally made only at Düren in Germany. The original composition has been varied for particular applications; it may contain about 3 or 4 percent copper, 1/2 to 1 percent manganese, 1/2 to 1 1/2 percent magnesium, and, in some formulations, some silicon. After heat treatment and aging, these alloys are comparable to soft steel in strength.
Duralumin alloys are relatively soft, ductile, and workable in the normal state; they may be rolled, forged, extruded, or drawn into a variety of shapes and products. Their light weight and consequent high strength per unit weight compared to steel suit them for aircraft construction. Because duralumin loses strength in welding, a special laminated sheet form called Alclad is used for aircraft construction; it has thin surface layers of pure aluminum or a corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy covering the strong duralumin core.
I bought a duralumin badge (above and below) to attach to the handlebars of this machine. How often do you find a bicycle made out of a recycled airship?