The Lambert Bicycle Co., on one hand, was a brave attempt of modern cycling to self-manufacture an affordable and high performance bicycle. On the other hand, Lambert-which-became-Viscount was a financial failure that ruined a number of ownership groups. Whatever history’s final verdict, they were fascinating bicycles. Interesting, only about 200 of these bicycles were said to have been sold in the UK, the bulk being shipped to the USA.
Retaining many of the original Lambert branded parts, changes included the filet-brazed frame, a Simplex derailleur and a new double chain ring crankset with large round cutouts.
An elaborately advertised and promoted brand name introduction was made in 1972. The USA directed portion of the enterprise was reputed to be promoted by a member of the Marriott family (hotels, airline catering, etc.)
The bikes were an incredible value in their time – the standard model Super Sports sold for $124.95 which featured the same frame as the more expensive models, that being of a “aircraft” tubing. The next model Professional Grand Prix was $134.95, sharing features with the base model except with having “sew up” tires & wheels rather than the 27″ clinchers.
The gold plated top model (of which I only seen one!) Professional Grand Prix 24 ct was with the addition of “Genuine” gold plating. It sold for $259.95! I couldn’t say how many of the gold model really existed….it is said that only 100 were planned and much fewer actually made.
It was also understood that the frames were originally made by the old Viking factory in south London. The first batch were lugged frames and quite nicely made. Later they became filet brazed (i.e. lugless.)
The Lambert components were all pretty special. The company really went way out on a limb, rather than buying all the various pieces from the normal sub-suppliers, they made or had made for them, parts of their own design and markings. (It is reported that many vendors for these parts were never paid!)
No bicycle manufacturer had made grand attempt in the post war cycling scene except possibly the huge Raleigh Company, and in that case not with the sporting emphasis as in Lambert’s case. These special parts included sealed bearing hubs, sealed bottom bracket (although the first batches had conventional cup & cone bearings), crank sets, front and rear derailleur , brakes and brake levers, handlebar and stem, seat posts, sealed bearing pedals and a special cast aluminum front fork (more on that later…….!) The headsets, rims, chain and tires were the only off-the-shelf items!
All the Lambert labeled components were not top grade, but also not so bad either, considering the era & the newness of the designs! The problem areas were as follows:
– The 2nd generation sealed bearing bottom brackets were troublesome; there was no taper on the bbkt. spindle flats; the cranks slid on & butted against a washer and then began to work loose.
– The handlebars became loose from their riveted center sleeve (gold anodizing or not!)
– The rear derailleur (a single parallelogram similar to a Huret Svelto) did not work awfully well, and was allegedly retired from production due to a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Suntour/Maeda Ind.
– The front fork (“Death Fork”) started to break at inopportune moments!
After a few years, Lambert became insolvent and thereafter became “Viscount” cycles, which in turn became heavily invested by the Yamaha Motorcycle Co. A new burst of life arose for the marque, but rapidly all the special parts went away and “normal” pieces appeared, i.e. Suntour and Shimano derailleurs, etc. Then the frames became Japanese and Taiwanese (which wasn’t too cool in those days) Yamaha finally de alone (the Trusty Co. had in fact been the behind-the-scenes manufacturer for some time)” and staggered on for a year or so before disappearing forever!
There was the great hubbub about the aluminum fork… At some point, a certain number had failed and the eventual owner company (Yamaha) recalled all the aluminum forks… I sold many Lamberts and never saw a broken fork, although I’m quite sure some broke. I would not advise heavy use or high speed descents with one…if your breaks, there is no Lambert Viscount Company left in existence to sue. Look at the method of joining the steer tube to the cast lower portion! Scary! Lambert fork details
What are they worth? To be seen as “collectable”, people need to know about a maker, and care about it….That puts the Lambert in trouble. Maybe someday they will be discovered, but right now you would have trouble finding an informed buyer at all.
Nonetheless, Lambert is a fascinating piece of cycling history and this marque may hold some promise of being seen as truly a collectors item in years to come!