Here's a little story about a score the true BMX collectors should appreciate.
A chance call put some super-rare BMX parts in my hands and started a pretty
unique project. You might have to be a BMX collector to appreciate these
wheels but to put things in perspective, a pair of the original black wheels
currently sell for approximately $1000 and as far as I know, these are the only
colored Tuffs Wheels with first generation Campagnolo flanges in them. In case
there is any confusion: these are not graphite wheels - just the hubs from graphite
Tuff Wheels inserted into colored outers.
Colored Skyway wheels showed up occasionally in BMX magazines. From my
understanding, these wheels were only made specially for the Skyway riders
and never actually produced for sale.
In March of 2007 while I was trying real hard to get my bikes and booth
together for the first show I was going to display at - Roseville in May -
I called Skyway asking if they wanted me to handout some Skyway stuff at
the booth. Parrey asked if there was anything I needed for myself and I
said "well, what's the deal with those graphite flange keychains do you
have just fronts or all that's needed for a set of wheels?" I thought
I'd make a white pair just for fun. He mentioned how they used to swap
hubs out and do things there and that there might be some others in there.
So, just days before the show boxes start coming. Some wheels, stem pads, brochures and a bag full of flanges and axles and stuff. Campy flange and axles and stuff...
You can iMagine I was floored. A mix of just plain "wow" and "oh no,
now I have to find wheels to put these in and the rest of the campy
parts to put in them." I guess that's one of those good problems huh?
I had seen the magazine photos of blue and white graphite hubbed wheels
so it wasn't a stretch to think red, white and blue. One set is promised
to a friend who wants to do his old VDC up. I told him that if he got
the VDC and the white tuffs to put them in, I'd give him the flanges.
We'll see if he pulls it off or loses interest. That's a tough first
I also knew I didn't want to let on about this so the reveal could be
a little more fun. Sorry if I'm being a bit Sander-like but I didn't
have the steam left in me to do what I really wanted which was to make
a fake ad with them all and ask if anyone had any of the wheels.
So, anyway with the flanges and a good start on the Campy stuff it was on.
I started stalking Tuffs and Campy parts on eBay. I knew the white Tuffs
would be hard to come by and that I might have to piece them together
from multiple sets but it was also important to get wheels with nice
looking stamping on the sides. I still have not seen a white Tuff with
braking surface stamping although I've heard at least one report.
I also wanted to workout the best way to remove the flanges and rivet in
the new ones and getting the color back in the wheels was also something
new to me. So, I needed something to experiment with. This set of
painted wheels with the front badly cracked came up on eBay so I grabbed
them and went to work:
At first I thought drill press and even bought a self-centering rivet
drilling tool but in the end, just starting with a center punch and
regular hand drill with a 5/32 bit and some oil was the ticket. Later on
when I got good at it, I could get a hub out in like 15 minutes or so.
After setting up a good work area, the process is basically:
Note: not seen here which I used on the wheels I was careful with are
a towel under the wheel and masking tape around the hub.
- Set each rivet on the flat sided head.
- Hand drill with 5/32" drill using some angle to keep yourself centered.
- Take an 11/64" drill and drill just a little. This makes the next step
- Take a set of vice grips and pinch and twist the remainder of the head off.
- Tap the rivet through. Best to have a piece of wood with a hole for the
rivet here since the riveting in of them make them tough to get past the
Tracking down rivets and the machinery to do it was the foggiest part
of this scavenger hunt. It turns out that these were some darn long
rivets and not something laying around in a parts wharehouse. I got
on with another member - who I'll keep anonymous so as not to tip his
hand on his project - who had also been looking and was going to try
to get some made. Anyway, I went down a lot of dead ends while putting
together my own solution. At the outset, I knew screw heads and bolts
just couldn't be part of the final project.
I remembered that the hobby shop had a rack of metal tubing and stuff
so I went out there and got some 5/32" aluminum tubing figuring that
I could thread it, put a stainless screw in it and maybe file the head
flat to remove the visible slot. Worked like a champ. This would at
least be a workable solution until I could get some real rivets put in.
One thought was to fill and paint the ends or glue on a thin piece of
stainless. I tried some aluminum foil and a hole punch but the foil is
too thin. May still pursue this.
By the way, I had already tried to see if I could drive these up to
Skyway and have them riveted but they didn't have any of these special
rivets left and there are some pretty big minimum orders to get them made.
It was taking shape but the ugly painted wheel wasn't looking too good:
So, I cleaned it up. This wheel is cracked - no, that's putting it
lightly - it's full on broken. But, the color on it and the stamping
were really good. Spray paint makes a great preservative against fading.
This wheel was not dyed.
A nice pair of blue wheels with never a brake pad on them came up on eBay
and I scooped them up. As nice as they were, this was the start of my
fretting over compromises with the wheels themselves and some learning on
the amount of variation there was. Although these wheels both had the
stamping, one didn't have a serial number. Should I try to get another
one that does? Maybe I should have waited for another set of wheels?
The first nice red set I got had one wheel with the stamping and something
I'd never seen before - a wheel with no stamping anywhere at all. And,
the braking area was smaller. I'm gussing this was one that came out
of the first milling of the Tuff II mold and that it was quickly changed
after that to put the stamping in and widen the braking area.
So, to make a long story short, I got bogged down in getting the wheels
and what should have been three sets, turned into more. Things like: I
bought a beat front blue to go with the orphan rear that had been painted
gold. Well, this wheel came with a rear Tuff I and coincidentally,
there was a front for sale... Started getting carried away.
In the meantime, I had bought a set of blue wheels from OS BOB-O to
clean up and get to Brett Downs for the awesome rear Graphite coaster
he gave me. Thanks again Brett! This gave me a chance to try my hand
with the wheel dyeing and they came out nice! I had already bleached
a set of white Tuffs for the TA project so I was OK with the idea of
restoring white wheels.
Ebay can be a nightmare but how would any of this ever come together
without it? All in all, I love eBay but there are problems. I had
to return one pair of wheels that had about 14 cracks that weren't
mentioned in the posting. Two on the spokes and the rest of the wheel.
Bummer but the seller was actually really cool and we worked it out.
Not like this other guy who outright deceived and kept some of my money
with no item sent. Not here to complain though, just to illustrate for
those who might not think so: it's work getting this stuff together!
Also, there was always a consideration for destroying any wheels
unnecesarily so I waited until I was sure I had the pair I wanted to use
before drilling any out. And, I even passed up an NOS red set Richie
Haney had up since I thought that would be kind of a shame.
After a while, I just went for it on the blue wheels I had. Drilled them
out, dyed them and painted the stamping. Seeing those babies all done
up gave me a second wind to go through the eBay fits and starts.
The blue front wheel has the best parts. The flanges are NOS - no
marks whatsoever around the holes - and all hardware is NOS with "81"
Campy collecting was almost done too:
The wheels were coming together so I went into production mode on the faux rivets:
There was a log jam forming at the cleaning/bleaching tank. I finally
got a good set of matching red wheels together but wanted to bleach the
dirt off this other set of red that were dirty and faded. I needed one
more white wheel and PEP came through!
At this point, I didn't take a lot of pictures. Just jammed though it:
- Drill out 4 wheels
- Bleach two white wheels
- Bleach an orphan front white wheel
- Bleach the dirty red wheels
- Dye the red wheels
- Dye the dirty red wheels
- Assemble 4 wheels
- Paint stamping on 4 wheels
I do still need to workout the small dust cap on the rear flanges. I have some Campy fronts that may need to get drilled out.
And what you see in the above postings is the final result - red, white
and blue tuffs with real first gen graphite flanges and Campy hubs.
What's not correct on these is the rivets and piece of clear tubing
between the hubs. These aren't perfect wheels or perfect flanges (except
for the blue front flanges) but I'll leave the inspection to those who
see them up close!
But, are we ever really done? Given the chance I would still:
Either way I would like to hook up with a machinist who has access to
a screw machine and make some better replacement bolts for Tuffs that
could look the part and be ridable without requiring special tools.
I have the design and specs.
- Change the white wheels for some with stamping in the brake area
- Stamp a consecutive number in the blue wheel without a number
- Rivet the wheels together at Skyway to make it 100% legit
- Glue on thin stainless caps over the "rivets"
One of the head trips about doing these was "oh no, now I have to find
bikes to go with these" but now I'm thinking maybe they should just be
a wheel display anyway.
On bikes, I think they'd be cool with:
Blue: light blue PK with blue parts. I have the frame and some parts.
Red: Red GHP all the way.
White: First Gen Haro Master like the one my friend's friend's cousin has that I want to round up.