Australia leads the world in cycle fashion. The recent development of the streamlined bicycle has put Australia ahead of any other country in the world, said an engineering expert of Bruce Small Pty Ltd. He said that, although some American bicycles for boys were streamlined, they were also heavy enough to make them impractical and that the Malvern Star with the new look was a streamlined lightweight improvement that was stronger and more resilient than any conventional bicycle on the market. City shops are featuring the new look cycles and frocks.
– Australian Newspaper interview with Mr. Weston of Bruce Small Ltd, August, 1948
Some of Malvern Star’s adverts announcing this revolutionary new bicycle have a big trumpet proclaiming ‘BS’ …which might not initially inspire confidence in the product. However, I put the Malvern Star ‘Streamlyne’ to the test against the Canadian CCM Flyte, and I can confirm that the chief engineer’s testimonial is true. The Malvern Star seems large compared to most ladies’ machines of the time, but (thanks to top quality BSA parts) it rides superbly. The Flyte has has a more lavish design, but is a heavy old clunker suitable only for doing a local paper round. No other company made a female or lightweight bike of this style. Bruce Small is to be congratulated for turning this innovative design concept into a low-cost usable bike …a ‘world’s first.’
Although Malvern Star was Australia’s primary cycle manufacturer, within the world cycle industry Bruce Small’s company was what would be considered a medium sized independent. Probably only someone in his unique position – independent, but dominating a local market – would be in a position to manufacture and sell such a thing.
The North American cycle industry comprised corporations rather than small independents. Launching a new range of girls’ bikes was not viable in the late 1930s. After WW2, Great Britain badly needed foreign exchange to repay war debts to America, so a wide range of British lightweight bicycles was imported into the USA. Their market for both lightweights and ladies bicycles was therefore well-covered.
Europe had many small independents, but was too busy recovering from the war to need a radically new design of ladies’ bicycle. Great Britain was totally dependent on public transport and bicycles until the mid-fifties, as nearly all new cars and motorcycles were sold for export. Existing models – generally updated pre-war models – sufficed. Nevertheless, after six years of war, there was an intense interest in new innovations and inventions.
Describing it as ‘streamlined’ may be stretching the imagination a little, though this was the terminology associated with this style of bicycle. With the benefit of hindsight we might now criticise the design of this model: for example, using a normal ladies frame compromises the suggestion of streamlining; as does the front curve welded onto the existing fork rather than using a separate fork as with the American models. However, it would have been vital for Bruce Small to keep production costs down sufficiently to sell them at normal prices. Those pronounced decorative front forks, complimentary duplex ‘streamlined’ rear seat stays and a duplex top tube on a traditional ladies’ frame make this a totally unique style of bicycle and an important part of the history of bicycle design.
1950 Malvern Star ‘Streamlyne’
Frame No OM 22748
MALVERN STAR: CORONATION, NEW LOOK, STREAMLYNE, CORONATION, ELIZABETHAN
The bicycle’s first incarnation was a ‘Coronation’ gent’s machine in 1937. This was the year of the coronation of King George VI.
Presumably WW2 interrupted production of this new model. For the war, the company made two military models, a rebadged BSA Airborne, and the model below.
My Mum often told me about the ‘New Look’ that became the fashion after the war. Britain’s first major fashion trend for over seven years was launched by Dior on 12th February, 1947. It was a revolutionary new way to show off the female figure and a backlash against the austerity of the war years. The signature shape was characterized by a below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, pointed bust, small waist, and rounded shoulder line. Mum was then aged nineteen, so it would have been her first exposure to the launch of a major collection. However, fabric was rationed in Britain, and it was not until the fifties that the New Look’s influence filtered down to the clothes in the shops.
Bruce Small took the name of the ‘New Look’ for his new style of ladies bicycle when it was launched in 1948.
Bruce Small also sold frocks, so he knew when the New Look was becoming the old look. In 1950 the ‘New Look’ became the ‘Streamlyne.’
In 1953, it metamorphosed into the ‘Coronation’
…and subsequently, in 1954, the ‘Elizabethan.’
CCM FLYTE v MALVERN STAR NEW LOOK (‘CORONATION’)
Pics and info with thanks to Australia’s premier vintage bicycle forum – Bicycles Network Australia