Restoration Notes on the Sears Spaceliner
By Tom Findley
This project involved parts that could not be bought anywhere, and refinishing processes that would have cost much more than the bike is worth. I did an amateur restoration to make the bike presentable.
Parts: The chain guard and sprocket cap are from the Deluxe model. I put them on because they looked neater than the Standard versions. The pedals are Schwinn-stlye bow type with amber reflectors (1971-up). I painted the reflectors with Testor's Candy Apple Red spray paint. They look close to the originals, and lack the covers over the reflectors.
Chrome plating: The steel chain guard was pitted. The plating had flaked off the plastic sprocket cap and headlight housing. The cost and results of replating these parts would not be worth the effort. I smoothed the chainguard by sanding plus several coats of primer paint. I sanded all the plating off the plastic parts and primed them. I sprayed the 3 parts with silver paint. They look good.
Paint: The original colors of the bike were Candy Apple Red (not Testor's, though) and white. These would require custom mixed paint from a spray gun. I got Cherry Red and Gloss White enamel in spray cans from the NAPA store. I also used White primer. Fixing the inevitable chips will be possible with these ready mixed colors. The paint is a drag to work with. I found that if I applied a coat and waited more than 1 hour for a second coat, the new coat would craze the first coat. I had to wait 5 days for the first coat to dry before applying the second coat. The temperature must also be at least 65 degrees, or the paint will dry brittle and chip easily. I had to repaint some areas because of this, as the temp. was 55 degrees outside. I painted the rear carrier white, then masked off the areas to remain white and painted it red. You should paint light colors, then dark over them.
Decals: They are almost non existent. The slender V's on the front fork were originally white. I could only get them in red. I painted a white section on each fork leg so the red decals would work.
The word "SPACELINER" on the chain guard was not available. I took a tracing of the letters and spacing before removing them. I went to an art supply store, and got a sheet of vinyl press-on lettering in a style as close as I could get to the original. After putting them on with the same amount of spacing, they look good. If any of the letters come off, I have a good supply of extras.
The "SEARS" decal on the seat tube was also not available. I made a simple substitute with these steps:
1. Painted the tube white where the decal went.
2. Used 2 pieces of 1/8" chrome tape from a model car shop to wrap around the tube at the top and bottom of the white part.
3. Got some black vinyl circles from an office supply store.
4. Put the word "SEARS" on the circle with dry transfer lettering from the model car shop.
5. Put the circle on the seat tube. We will see how long tape and circle stay on.
The Headlight Cover has a piece of embossed tinfoil stock on each side. The tinfoil has an oval with "SEARS" on it. The tinfoil was missing from 1 side of my headlight cover. A new set was unavailable. I removed the existing piece, and took it to the local trophy shop. The man made new ovals out of the 2-layered black-white plastic he uses for making name tags. I left the side of the headlight cover smooth and painted silver, and glued the ovals on. Again, it is not original, but looks close.
The headlight lens was intact. I found that the screw hole in the headlight cover and batter tray did not line up, and I think this caused many lenses to break. I made 1 of the holes longer, and they fit together correctly.
The battery holder part was so eaten away with acid that it would not hold batteries tightly. I removed the rust, primed and painted the holder. The headlight switch is made of plastic, and would break after so many on-off movements. I think the parts are too flimsy to use, and I would not try to get Spaceliner headlights to work.
Tires: Sears Allstate tires are no longer available. I got new Kenda tires made in Taiwan and put them on. One original tire was almost bald, and the whitewalls were very yellow. I don't think I should be riding on 37 year old tires. There are 2 sizes of tires for middleweight bikes. Tires marked 26 X 1 3/4 are for Schwinn rims. Tires marked 26 X 1.75 are for all other brands.
Fenders: Rear fender was in good shape. The front fender had a small dent in it. I put the fender shiny side down on a wooden workbench. I got a hammer and a wooden ball 2" in diameter. I put the ball on the underside of the fender at the outside of the dent, and began tapping on the ball with the hammer. I managed to turn the ugly dent into a small depression that you have to look for.
Bearings: I replaced the crank and headset bearings. I took the front and rear hubs apart and cleaned and regreased them. The Bendix hub held no mysteries, and set the bearings so the wheel spins freely. In this case there is no play at the rim, which would be all right.
So now the bike is finished, rideable, and presentable. It is not quite original and will never be worth as much as a BMW 507, or even a Schwinn Phantom. I am pleased with the way it looks, and will ride and enjoy it.