Viking Models

This page is work in progress.  I am currently working on a chart showing which models were available in which years from the late 1940s until the original company ceased trading in 1967.  Here is a very early version of the chart which is very short of information.  I do have some of the information for making it more complete, but I would welcome your input to help its completion and accuracy:

In the above chart, where a name is indented it is the model name of a complete bicycle based on the frame model above the indentation.  So, for example, you can see that at various times the Clubmaster bicycle was based on Master SS, Severn Valley and Tour of Britain frames.

Not much information seems to exist on Viking models prior to 1940.  The earliest catalogue information that I have relates to the late 1940s.  Trawling through the internet has not thrown light on anything other than the “Master Series SS” frames, designed for club riding and racing, with SS/T (track) and SS/L (ladies’) versions.  The SS was available built up as a Clubmaster or as a Racemaster, the names being self-explanatory, and the SS/T was available built up as a Trackmaster.  I don’t have information on the relative volumes of frame sales versus bike sales, but would imagine that more were sold as frames because of the punitive Purchase Tax that applied to complete bikes but not to components.

The photographs of circa 1950 cycle show stands show a range of bicycles, including children’s and more utilitarian models which I suspect were not built by Viking (the Co-op has been suggested as a source).  Many cycle dealers would handle just one or two brands, so these bicycles enabled Viking dealers to offer a full range to meet all needs and earn a bit of extra cash in the process.

In 1950, the Severn Valley was introduced, marketed as more suitable for road racing.  It had slightly more upright angles than the SS which continued alongside.  The price lists show the Severn Valley as costing more than the SS, even though it did not have any chrome as standard whereas the SS had a 3/4 chrome front fork as standard.  Additional chrome was available as an option on all models.

Viking sponsored a racing team in all this time, presumably riding Master SS until the Severn Valley came along, and this was presumably the frame on which Ian Steel won the 1951 Tour of Britain, unles of course the team rode special bikes, on which the Tour of Britain model, introduced in 1952, was based.

The Tour of Britain model was the flagship of the range for several years with its Nervex Professional lugs and reinforced pump pegs and rear brake bridge – arguably unnecessary features but sounding good for the catalogue description.

All the above models were constructed with Reynolds 531 butted tubesets, with Accles and Pollock Kromo stated as an alternative.  However, the Mileater, introduced in 1951, used straight gauge rather than butted tubes as did the Ian Steel model, introduced maybe a year or two later.  The Ian Steel model was an entry-level racer at a lower price point than the other models and clearly designed to capitalize on his racing success.  This model had the front gear shift arrangement favoured by Ian Steel, whereby the cable from a handlebar control went via a stop on the top tube to a Sturmey-Archer type cable pulley just under the seat lug and then down to the Benelux front derailleur.  This same arrangement has been seen on Tour of Britain frames, but is not mentioned in the catalogues as a feature of the ToB.

The Severn Valley appears to have dropped out of the catalogue for 1956 and the reappeared in 1957 replacing the Tour of Britain as the top model, at the same time as acquiring Nervex Professional lugs.  The catalogues do not show the Tour of Britain as continuing beyond 1956, but there are owners who say that they have later Tour of Britain models.  I hope to get to see some of these and check their features.  The fact that they are not listed in the catalogue does not mean that they did not exist – anything is possible with Viking.  From this distance, I do not know whether it was a strength or a weakness that Viking were prepared to make variations in specification to suit individual customers.  It clearly increases the cost of production and would only have been good business if it gained customers or enabled them to charge profitably for these variations.

Model Names:

Master Series SS:

This is a slightly surprising name so soon after the Second World War, especially considering that SS Cars Ltd changed its name to Jaguar Cars Ltd in 1945 because of the connotations of “SS”.  The catalogues do not hint at what the initials might stand for.

Severn Valley:

Introduced in 1950.  A name clearly derived from the Viking team victory in the 1948 and 1949 Severn Valley Grand Prix and Bob Thom’s individual victory in the 1949 race (he was third in 1948).  The following is a quote from the Wolverhampton Wheelers C.C. programme for the 2007 Severn Valley Road Race:

“May I welcome you to the Severn Valley Road Race, also incorporating the National Junior Road Race Championship on this occasion. This race was originally called the Severn Valley Grand Prix, which started and finished in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. It was a major event in the classic series in the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s. Over the years, because of outside problems such as traffic density etc, the race was moved to a smaller circuit as is used today, but still taking in the Severn Valley, following the river of that same name.

Riders in the past have included semi-professional teams (Independents) and elite amateurs. One well known winner was the late Bobby Thom, who was captain of the Viking Cycles Team. Later, world champion, Hugh Porter took the honour.”

Tour of Britain:

The Tour of Britain model was introduced following Ian Steel’s victory in the inaugural Tour of Britain in 1951. The race was sponsored by the Daily Express newspaper.  1951 was also the year of the Festival of Britain which was organized by the British Government to celebrate, or engender a feeling of, recovery from the Second World War.  I have not found a connection, though there may be one in the Daily Express archives, or maybe it just arose out of the “feel good” atmosphere of 1951.

Ian Steel:

Model name introduced in 195? as a budget racer for aspiring Ian Steels. In the Viking racing bike hierarchy it was beneath Tour of Britain, Severn Valley and Mileater(?). The first versions used the front gear shift arrangement of Ian Steel’s Tour of Britain winning bike.

World Champion:

To quote from the 1964 brochure: “The World Champion frameset is similar in all respects to last year’s Twenty-Five Model, re-named because it was selected and ridden to victory by at least one World Champion in 1963”.  I am really looking for someone to tell me who it was.  Beryl Burton?  Hugh Porter was National Pursuit Champion in 1963, but still a long way from being World Champion: he is photographed riding a Viking as an amateur.

Other model names appear to have no special significance, presumably being chosen as descriptive of potential use or because they were thought to have some marketing value.

To be continued: