1948 Malvern Star ‘5 Star’ Track Bike
Frame no 8M27517
I was driving back to Brighton with the Malvern Star in my van, having built it up after its arrival from America (where I’d found it). The sun was shining – a rare occurrence in December 2012 – and I was wondering where to take the 5 Star’s photos, when I spotted the tower of Harveys Brewery in Lewes in the distance. I parked by the gates and asked permission to use the brewery as a backdrop. They were very friendly and amenable, so here you can see Australia’s top bicycle parked in an environment appropriate to its heritage. Barry McKenzie would be proud…
Warren is Australia’s foremost Malvern Star enthusiast, and he explained to me that the 5 Star was introduced in 1939, and the frame number sequence of this bicycle 8M 27517 can be broken down to show 8 as the year of manufacture 1948 and M as made in the Melbourne factory. He adds that 1930s frame numbers were a simple numeric sequence without a prefix and if it was 1958 it would be ’58M xxxxx. This is useful information for dating Malvern Stars. Thanks Warren.
Warren believes the transfers (decals) date from the mid-fifties. So I wonder if it was originally made without transfers? From the mid-thirties British track bikes were not allowed to race with any form of advertising on them. My 1937 Curly Hetchins has later transfers for this reason, and that’s why many builders developed distinctive frame styles for easy identification of their machines. As I found this Malvern Star track bike in the USA rather than Australia, it was most likely used for international racing, and the later transfers might indicate that it was also used in Great Britain.
Malvern Star Cycle Works
58 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern, Victoria, Australia
Malvern Star was established in 1898. At this time, companies took on agencies from British and American brands, importing bicycles in knock-down form for resale locally. They also imported BSA Fittings bikes and added engines to produce Australia’s first motorcycles.
But the guiding force behind Malvern Star was Bruce Small, an entrepreneur, promoter and salesman who bought the company and its small suburban bicycle shop in 1920, and developed it into one of Australia’s largest manufacturing and retailing enterprises.
One very important aspect of his business was the BSA franchise which Bruce Small obtained in 1935, after ruthless dealings with other competitors. This was essential to his company, as BSA was a manufacturer of quality bicycle accessories and components. The BSA franchise gave him a ready overseas and interstate market. The 1936 Malvern Star catalogue below displays the BSA ‘Piled Arms’ merged into the Malvern Star logo.
I think BSA must have complained about the misappropriation of its trade mark logo, because the Malvern Star catalogue of the following year shows a traditional BSA logo.
Before it was acquired by Bruce Small, a small number of motorcycles were produced by Malvern Star using imported British-built JAP engines. The Malvern Star Auto-byke was introduced after the Second World War as an economical, lightweight motorised bicycle at a time when few cars were available and petrol was still rationed. Malvern Star assembled the machine in Australia using locally-made frames and a variety of imported components including a British-built 98 c.c single-cylinder Villers Mk. 1 two-stroke engine with a two-speed gearbox. Small had obtained an exclusive Australian licence for these engines in 1945. Similar machines were made in Britain and sold in Australia under the Excelsior brand from 1937 with the same 98 c.c Villiers engine. Advertising for the Auto-byke promised ‘fun and adventure in the great outdoors.’
The above ad is from 1944. Below is a 1942 Malvern Star catalogue. I particularly like the page advertising ‘Speedy, economical transport for the defence of Australia’ which shows a cyclist wearing a tin hat being pursued by bombers.
Lewes, E. Sussex