Fritz, Schwinn’s research and development director, was intrigued by what was going on in California, so he created the first Schwinn Sting-Ray from parts. Despite skepticism by company brass, it was a hit. More than 60 variations followed, including some with three-speed and five-speed “Stik-Shift” gear changers, just like real hot rods. Others had seat shock absorbers, drum brakes and spring-action front forks, like real Harleys.
There were standard Sting-Rays, like mine; plus deluxe and super-deluxe models, Fastbacks, and the color-coded Krate series: Apple Krate, Cotton Picker, Lemon Peeler, Pea Picker and Silver Ghost.
Other manufacturers offered kids’ bikes with high-rise handlebars and banana seats, but Schwinn cornered the market on style, durability and beautiful, eye-popping candy colors. “Radiant Coppertone” “Sky Blue” and “Flamboyant Lime” were popular paint options. “Opalescent Violet” wasn’t, but I loved mine.
Al Fritz worked for Schwinn for 40 years, and the Sting-Ray was his masterpiece.
“If you cut my arm,” he once said, “little Schwinn bicycles will flow out.”
Little Schwinn Sting-Rays, that is.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at email@example.com.