Wilsons of Birmingham
Posted: Tuesday 02nd June 2020
Here is an informative advert for Wilsons of Birmingham taken from Cycling of December 1961. They also had a ‘Sale’ advert in a Cycling in 1959. If you know anything about this builder or if you own a Wilson machine please let us know so we can begin to acquire more information. The adverts shows that Wilsons had a very respectable racing team and seemed to produce some very desirable classic frames.
Mick Butler is the first to offer some information (where does he get it all from?):
“Wilsons of Birmingham sponsored a team for many years and the shops slogan was “The shop with the stock”. They equipped many of the trade teams with their own branded clothing especially Viking and Falcon.
Vilosport jerseys made in Birmingham were exclusive to Wilsons and the Falcon riders were Geoff Bye, John Perks, Harry Perks and Frank Clement. They also made the Copdale tracksuits supplied for the 56 Olympics, Ovaltine, Viking and the Wilson Cycle Team.
The name of Wilsons appeared on a wide range of clothing shorts, pluses, bokkers and jackets. They also more or less had the monopoly on the “Leech” quick release saddle bag attachment.
If I remember correctly, the trade team frames were orange (like Cinelli or Merckx Molteni and Holdsworth) with black head and seat tube band. Mick Edgeworth, John Perks, Geoff Bye and John Chance were the team riders and the Wilson they rode was the Italia model. Mick Edgeworth won the 1965 Grand Prix de Derval in France on a Birmingham Wilson. I always thought that Bill Gameson built their frames. Gameson was a Birmingham trade builder who built for lots of
the West Midlands lightweight shops.
Wilsons were agents for Hetchins and other well known makes.”
“Major Nichols used to make the frames for Wilson cycles and I used to spray them and put the Wilson transfers on for them. Dark Flamboyant red with black panels were his standard colours on the Nervex pro frames. The period I was with Major Nichols was from 1958 to 1965. I used to work there every day after school and all day Saturday, then later on after Major was badly burned in an accident I went to work for him full time. I used to do all the spraying, building of stock bikes, wheel building and most of the repairs. I think Major started to build Wilson frames after Gameson retired. In the early sixties Major built frames for numerous shops.”
My grandfather JA Wilson started his motorcycle and cycle repair business in about 1919. After WW11 my uncle, David Wilson took over and moved the business towards lightweight touring and racing cycles which became successful enough in the ’60’s to enable him to sponsor a professional team. This was before my time so I cannot add much to what has already been printed previously. I do remember however that at some point he did sponsor or part sponsor a Moulton rider or riders.
During this decade he also set up a small company called Vilosport that made a range of saddlebag carriers e.g. The Leech. There were different models for both Unica plastic saddles and at least one for the Brooks range – certainly the B17. These were brilliant and I used one for the 30 mile round trip I made each day in the mid 1960s to and from school. The attachment made to carry a spare tubular tyre was not a great success – although it looked great it was too complex. Vilosport also made a number of accessories for The Mini; the best being a rod operated door handle that replaced the plastic cord that was originally fitted. <br/><br/>All these products were made on site at 216 Aston Road; I remember seeing one of the fly presses that were used.It was also during this time that my uncle started selling Wilson bike frames made by a company in Birmingham, sorry I do not know which one (probably Majopr Nichols – see entry above – ed.). I had a road frame made for myself in 1964. Around this time the centre of Birmingham and the road network was being extensively upgraded; this ment access to Aston Road was difficult and trade gradually dwindled. My uncle finally closed the business in about 1968.