Malvern Star Bicycles

The only bike to have in the 70’s was a Malvern Star. This company must have sold millions of bicycles because every kid seemed to have one. Here’s a brief history of how the company began…

Original metal logo

Malvern Star opened in a small shop at 58 Glenferrie Rd, in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern in 1902. It was started by cyclist Tom Finnigan who established the shop with the prize he earned (240 gold sovereigns) by winning the 1898 Austral Wheel Race. Finnigan specialised in touring and racing bikes, which he called Malvern Stars. The business grew with the popularity of cycling and despite competition from English and American firms. Part of Finnigan’s success was due to the endorsement of Don Kirkham, one of the best-known Australian cyclists. Finnigan introduced a logo featuring a six-pointed star, which matched a tattoo on his forearm, used throughout the 1900s. His family is still in the bicycle trade, running a shop in Northcote.

Finnigan retired and in 1920, the business was bought by 24-year-old Bruce Small. The retail business expanded in 1923 to Gardenvale, and in 1925, the headquarters moved to Prahran. The Australian teams in the Tour de France in 1928 and 1931 were sponsored by Bruce Small and Malvern Star.

With the Second World War, the supply of bicycle parts became scarce, so Malvern Star started manufacturing its own. Defence contracts help growth of the business. At its peak after the war, Malvern Star had 115 stores with 1,000 dealers.

After the war, Small’s Malvern Star bicycles were ridden by Sid Patterson, who won the world sprint championship in Copenhagen in 1949, the world pursuit championship in Liège (1950), the professional pursuit in Paris (1952) and professional pursuit in Zurich (1953). At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Ian Browne and Tony Marchant won a gold medal on a Malvern Star tandem.

Girl’s Malvern Star Dragstar

In the 1960s, Malvern Star manufactured the Dragster line of wheelie bikes. These have since been commemorated with a stamp by the Australia Post.

In 1970 companies under the Malvern Star banner were purchased by the Dutch multinational Philips, which sold Malvern Star in 1980 to Raleigh, the British manufacturer, giving it a major share of the Australian market. Changes in ownership of Raleigh’s parent company led to Malvern Star returning to Australian ownership in 1992 under Pacific Brands.

The “perfect’ bike (in my opinion) was a girls Malvern Star Dragstar. Of course it had to have a flower seat & matching basket on the front! We spent hours on these bikes riding up & down the street. If you were lucky, you had 3 gears!!

9 Replies to “Malvern Star Bicycles”

  1. My dragstar I got when I was about 10yrs old..
    It was metallic purple, had 3 gears you would change like a T bar auto, a black seat that went to about the top of your jeans at the back, a normal tyre on the front and a racing slick on the back plus it had the high rise sissy bars….Best bike ever

  2. I got the exact same one in purple for xmas. I think I was about 8 and had to teach myself to ride it.
    When I was about 11 I changed the seat, handlebars and took off the basket and it was a makeshift BMX.

  3. I remember in 1967, I had to earn $35.50 (Parents paid half) by fruit picking at some Orchards, that’s what I wanted for Christmas . I got it early November a 1967 a Green 20″ Dragstar with Sturmey and Archer 3 speed and I still have it, little modified had an accident on the farm and wrecked the front rim and forks, Replace with a chrome springer front forks. Still looks good, Granddaughter loves it . So I think they were in Australia early 1967

  4. I had a gold girtl malvern star dragstar bike for my 10th Birthday. I loved riding it. I hope to have one again. I’m sure I could ride it. I’ 5 Foot 2.5 inches tall’ lots of happy memories.

  5. I had a yellow ‘Dominator’. It had a small wheel at the front. 70’s boys didn’t ride bikes like that, especially yellow ones right. It was not very cool at all. One day I was riding up Caramar Drive, had my head down trying to get up the hill, and ran up the back of a parked car. Ooops, quick check for anyone watching and then rode my sorry 70’s kid ego on up the hill. 😉

    A mate, Jeff M., used to ‘pinch’ his big brother’s bike. He could not sit on the seat and pedal as it was too big so it was a case of standing on the pedals. He’d ‘dink’ me around on the rare occasion. I’d have to sit on the ‘knacker bar’ and off we’d go. One day turning left from Bidgee onto Wynden he had no brakes and went out into the middle of Wynden where a car was coming so we ended up laying the bike down in the road and the driver asked if we were ok. Of course we were, 70’s kids didn’t need brakes and 70’s kids had grazes.

    Riding to Ballam Park Primary one morning. I was riding my bike on the footpath beside the Naranga school and Ballam Park Tech oval. Jeff M. was down on the oval. Jeff M. decided to ‘pop a mono’. I will never forget the look of horror as his front wheel fell off. A bit like Kyote running off the end of a cliff after Road Runner and realising there was no ground left. 70’s kids still needed front wheels to safely land after a ‘mono’. A very memorable ‘arse-over-t*ts’ as they used to say back then!

    Remember the BMX? Remember that to fix a buckle in a ‘tough’ plastic rim you’d, apparently, put it in a freezer for a while.

    One kid in grade six, I’m pretty sure was Todd R. had a bike with mono-x suspension. How insanely wicked for 1979!

    In the early 80’s my school bus used to come back into Frankston down Oliver’s Hill. The bus used to get ‘tagged’ by a particular cyclist. Kids used to hurl fruit and uneaten sandwiches out the window.

    You were not a 70’s kid unless your chain came off all the time or your cordory pants didn’t go around between the chain and sprocket a few times and get all greasy.

    To finish off, I needed air in a front tyre of one of my bikes, Jeff M. and I went down to the bottom of Karingal Drive, where there used to be a Shell ‘servo’. I didn’t know how to use the pressure guage so J. helped me. He applied the air, I said (several times) “that’s enough” and he said (several times) “nah it’s ok we can go more”…then…bang!!! my tyre blew up and chalk dust momentarily filled the air. So I took my sorry 70’s bike back to my happy 70’s home.

  6. I bought one of those as in the picture off gumtree for 120 this year and have pimped it out , awesome

  7. i recently purchased one of these from a kid in my street that had picked it up off a scrap heap it is safely locked away now for my children and I to cruise on.
    not in as good condition as the one pictured but still good.

  8. After my blue-seated (of course) dragster, I had a ‘Cecil Walker’ for 19 years. ’twas still going strong…
    3 speed hub, changed by peddling backwards (don’t try that on a modern derailleur system!)…

    I remember those dragster seats as being really comfortable, too…

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