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…
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.
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!!