Rambler Owners Club
THE RAMBLER OWNERS CLUB
The Rambler Owners Club started when I found the 1950 Rambler Autocycle pictured above. I’d not seen one before, so I researched it. In the early internet days, information was hard to find, though I did find other machines named Rambler.
GORMULLY & JEFFERY & Co
The earliest use of the Rambler name was by the American bicycle company Gormully & Jeffery of Chicago, who started manufacturing Ramblers in 1878.
In due course I also bought an 1895 Rambler bicycle, and then a Rambler Rear-Steering Tandem. So I extended this website to incorporate that company too.
THE RAMBLER ROADSTER
The Rambler name was also used by several British bicycle manufacturers and, after WW2, by Norman Cycles Ltd of Ashford, Kent, for their export business.
British industry had been nationalized for the war effort. Postwar, Great Britain was saddled with a massive debt and, as a result, the country turned to exports.
Nationalization of the bicycle and motorcycle industry did not end right away. The Government kept their fingers in various pies. While it’s not generally known what went on behind the scenes, it makes sense that the Government would want to assist British exports as much as possible in order to receive maximum foreign exchange and maintain a profitable workforce at home.
The roadster pictured below may not look particularly exciting. But it was one of my most exciting discoveries. It’s a superbly-preserved Rambler in totally original condition , as exported to the colonies by Norman of Ashford, Kent.
Holliday St, Birmingham
Rambler Ltd, based at Holliday St, Birmingham, had been a bicycle manufacturer in the twenties. Their products were known as The Rambler and The Roamer. It’s not known why Norman established a separate company for exports and used the (by now, redundant) Rambler name.
Names have always been a valuable commodity. Who owned the name until it was used by Norman?
Was it something to do with Raleigh? TI/Raleigh took over Norman in 1954. Raleigh used the Rambler name for their BMX bike in the 1980s. The situation seems similar to Mercury Industries Ltd, a company established in 1947 for bicycle exports: likewise, the Mercury name had been used by different companies in the 1920s, and was used by Raleigh in the seventies for one of their models.
During the War, Norman had manufactured motorcycles for the army. Norman also made Rudge autocycles. In 1943 the rights to the Rudge autocycle were acquired by Norman and were manufactured and sold under the Norman brand. Ron Butler (formerly of Rudge Whitworth) joined Norman Cycles as Sales Director.
Rudge was owned by EMI, which had strong ties with the Government – EMI was awarded the contract by the Government after the War to make the Cyclemaster, in return for services during the War, when their Hayes factories made radar (and were badly bombed). My guess is that the Government had a hand in the establishment of Rambler Cycles, and that’s why Norman required a separate company for their export business. Maybe we’ll never know?
As a footnote, I’ve now imported a semi-complete Rambler bicycle from New Zealand. It differs from the Norman Rambler. When I build it up I’ll add a new page for it and compare the two.
THE RAMBLER OWNERS CLUB
Mine would appear to be the only Rambler Autocycle in the country. So I’m the only member. The Rambler Owners Club is more the result of a perverse sense of humour than a desire to congregate in a pub once a month for a club meeting to discuss the shortage of short-reach spark plugs, etc etc.
Nevertheless, if another Rambler owner somewhere in the world does happen to find this website, please get in touch and send some photos. I’m Colin, by the way, and my email address is in the picture below: