1973 Tom Wallace Special - The Brisbane-made bicycle

Tom Wallace Special rear

  • Tom Wallace was a competitive cyclist, racing in the 1920s and 30s. He started manufacturing his own bikes under the Tom Wallace Special brand in the late 1920s.
  • This Tom Wallace Special was most likely built around 1974.
  • It features an English made Sturmey-Archer 3 speed internal hub gear.
  • Many of the details are hand painted.
  • Though somewhat period correct, the Elephant dynamo light set is a recent addition.

I'll be the first to admit this is kind of niche, but as a proud Brisbanite I felt obligated to write a bit about the Tom Wallace Special. These were a brand of road bicycle built by the eponymous Tom Wallace from the 1930s through to the 1970s and is one of only a handful of local Australian bicycle manufacturers.

Tom Wallace Special front light

When I was a broke student I couldn't afford to buy old cars or motorcycles to work on so I fixed up old bicycles. I would buy bits and pieces - an old dynamo light, a cool looking bell, some old style reflectors - from The Bicycle Revolution, a shop in West End that specialised in piecing together new bikes from old discarded machines. This particualr bike belonged to a bicycle mechanic who worked there who I had developed a bit of a rapport with, and though it wasn't officially for sale he agreed to a private purchase.

Though it's hard to date exactly, this particular bike was likely built in the mid-70s. Sturmey-Archer often stamped the year of manufacture into the casing of their internal gear hubs and this one reads "73" so we can assume the bike was assembled some time after that year.

The 3 speed Sturmey-Archer hub gears are smooth to operate and a lot more reliable than derailleur style gears. They also give you the advantage of being able to change gears while stationary or coasting, without the need to rotate the crank.

Sturmey-Archer gear select Sturmey-Archer hub

Many of the details have been hand-painted, most likely by Tom Wallace himself, though over the last 50s years the bike has developed a respectable patina that, in at least my opinion, only contributes to the look.

The dynamo lighting system is a relatively new addition to the bike, having been added 15 years ago. It features a front light with both high and low beam settings as well as a rear tail light. It too has patinated over time.

About Tom Wallace, the man

Tom Wallace (1902 - 1981) grew up in Gympie, Queensland and started competitive cycling in his teens, going on to win many state titles in his 20s and early 30s. Settling in the Brisbane suburb of Lutwyche, he established a small bicycle workshop in his garage where he began manufacturing frames. His business grew and soon he opened a dedicated bicycle store on Lutwyche Road. That store still operates today as a Giant dealership.

As well as being an able bicycle engineer, it is reported that Tom was also quite the businessman, sponsoring many bicycle events, setting up a pair of stationary bikes outside of Brisbane City Hall for tourists to compete against a clock, and taking a paint brush and tin of white paint with him on rides and painting his business's name on many vacant surfaces by the side of the road.

Tom Wallace Special paint Tom Wallace Special Elephant dynamo
Tom Wallace Brisbane logo Tom Wallace Special logo


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