Super Elliott was founded by Bertrand J. Elliott and Laurie A. Elliott in February 1902 and began business as cycle builders at Payneham (S.A) trading under the name of Elliott Bros.
In the first week of business Laurie A. Elliott competed in the SA League 25-mile road race finishing in 1st position in front of the Elliott Bros. shop, this gave great exposure and setup his position in the trade. Measuring a modest 10ft x 15 ft in size it was demolished a few months later by fire but was soon rebuilt. The business was extended to Norwood (S.A) within12 months and by 1907 moved to a larger premises a few doors from the Norwood Town Hall.
Cycles were priced at £4 upwards while their top grade “Elliott Special” racing cycle was available complete with genuine BSA parts for £16.
In the belief that lightweight motor cycle would replace “push bikes.” the Elliott Brothers began to concentrate on motor cycles and imported various types of lightweight engines while still producing their cycles.
Motorcycles were finished with Elliott Payneham displayed on the fuel tank and carried the Chater Lea frame and components, they were available in single geared form or 2 speed gearboxes with Villiers 269cc two-stroke engines.
By 1908 the Elliott Bros. held their own competition, the Elliott Bros 1-mile scratch race held at Payneham, it was during these events that a splendid assortment of bicycles were on view, numbering fifteen and were composed of all the very latest models and ideas in cycle construction. The machines won the admiration of everybody, and gave proof that they were as competent builders here as in any part of the world.
The majority of cycles were sold very quickly on the day. On display was a specially built for cycle for Charlie Baulderstone, the road champion.
In 1917 Elliott Bros. exhibited their range of cycles and motorcycles at the Adelaide Royal Show with huge success, the interest proved so successful in high demand that with soaring sales the business grew in popularity.
The Payneham shop/garage was expanded and country outlets began to stock the Elliott branded bicycles and motorcycles.
The Payneham cycling club soon formed in around 1919 with the Elliott Brothers having a large involvement in the start-up as the Payneham oval was frequent among racers in the area.
By 1920 the partnership between B. J. and L. A. Elliott was mutually dissolved, an argument had formed and Laurie A. Elliott remained at the Payneham premises while Bertrand Elliott carried on with the business under the name of Elliott Bros. at Norwood. Motor cycle parts were not easy to import with the outbreak of War so he began to make his own engines.
Victor (Vic.) Elliott, the younger brother of Bertrand Elliott entered into partnership and they secured a store at 63 Pirie Street, Adelaide (SA) Victor Elliott had already established himself well in the motorcycles area and was the record holder in numerous events including the Adelaide to Melbourne run and later added the 10-mile and 50-mile cycling championship to his name.The location provided the assembling of bicycles and repairs, done upstairs as it provided ample space for storage. Victor Elliott had already starting to lay the foundations for chain branches and agencies across S.A; he was in charge of retail and bicycle operations while Bertrand Elliott handled the Norwood store, motorcycles section, bookwork and executive side of things.
By the mid 1920’s Elliott Bros. cycles ranged from £7 10, bicycles with Eadie freewheel, mudguards, pump, tools, bag and carried a 2 year guarantee including a 12 month guarantee on tyres were priced at £9 10. Their top of the range Elliott Special racing bicycle priced at £13 10
A factory workshop was established in Gawler place, Adelaide (SA) it was an ex-old livery stable with big round doorways. The workshop contained motorcycles with seven to eight employees who included Jack Wise and Frank Duckett who were top grade speedway motorcyclists, they travelled around the world and later went on to open their own business. During these times it seemed that lightweight motorcycles seemed to be going out of fashion, so Elliott Bros decided to handle the heavier type of machines and became agents for such makes as New Imperial, Humber, Big X. Henderson, Excelsior and Matchless motorcycles.
One day Bertrand Elliott said to his brother Victor “I am satisfied that the push bike has a bigger and more definite appeal for the working man, who cannot afford a motor cycle.” so in 1928 Elliott Bros decided to discard the petrol-driven machines for human power and by the 1930’s the cycle industry was booming.
With an Australia team competing in the ” Tour de France” in 1928, Elliott Bros. released a special “Tour De France” model in 1931, this was their superior racing model. This new model featured a special designed frame and forks with dropout ends for quick changing wheels, a chain oiler, Chater Lea crank set, hook for chain on back forks, a new shape of T.D.F handlebars, Bidon food carriers, anti-shock grips with Austral speed tyres. Priced at £19 it was built upon the continental principles.
By 1933 a new store opened at 147 Rundle Street, Adelaide (SA) and now had acquired thirty hands employed across its four outlets. In the same year the company formed into a Limited company and in 1935 changed their name from Elliott Bros. to Super Elliott.
With sales increasing from hundreds a year to thousands, Bert Elliott decided that the firms activities warranted a business tour to Great Britain, so in 1937 he accompanied Mr Bruce Small and entered into negotiations with the B.S.A Co. Birmingham corporation and an arrangement was made to merge the wholesale departments and form General Accessories (South Australia) Pty. Ltd. for the manufacture of bicycles and distribution of accessories at wholesale rates only. Laurie Elliott became manager of this new company.
One of Elliott’s prime early pioneers of frame building was talented employee Claude Bushell who would create decorative lug-sets.
Having already built the many frames for Elliott’s his tools consisted of small shaped files, a hacksaw and a drill as he would create styled lug-sets and join the tubes together.
Bushell prided himself that he would never cut out two the same and wouldn’t buy anything if he thought he could make it. These decorative features were heavily admired and with no plans to work from it was all was freehand as he went by filing away.
Bushell, the innovator was always looking upon how to make frames stronger, lighter and always experimenting with brazing techniques.
During the 1930’s Nickel plating on frames was commonly asked upon as an extra option on purchase however customers soon found themselves having to bring back their bikes as they found that the electroplaters were buffing the nickel to the point where it had weakened the tubing and were breaking at the lug joint.
Bushell had the idea that chamfering the lug would not allow the lug to become weak when buffed and continued this in his building process. Bushell also credited himself with the idea that the round tubing for forks could be improved by adding a corrugate/cleat into it, it proved a success and this method still continues into today’s manufacture. The workshop also enlisted the exquisite skills of Len Edwards, his speciality was also building frames consisting of intricate shaped cut-outs, to tailor for the top riders with personal attention to a perfect made to measure frame for each rider.
Using special techniques of using rivets to secure to the frame before sweating them to the frame and adding a small percentage of silver when brazing created frames that would take two to four weeks to complete.
Another talented frame builder was Tom Robinson (see individual profile); Tom was an ex-army First World War man who was already an accomplished championship rider in the 1920’s and was proving himself as a fine craftsman.
While Bushells frames were unique at each build Robinson’s frames would be to a certain style, slightly varying the decorative cut-outs, much of his work carried the fancy gothic script “E” on the head-tube which would become the signature of a top Super Elliott frame.
One of the early Elliott’s painter was Percy Kutcher being able to paint anything solely with a brush.
Around the 1930’s Herbert (Bert) Charles Standish who was an accomplished cyclist in the 1920’s had been working at the workshop during this time but had now been transferred to the Rundle street branch as Manager.
Elliott’s had become a one stop shop for all cyclists needs, all parts and equipment were available including its various range of cycles to include Juvenile, Tricycles, delivery trivans and its club racers to superior racing models.
With tough times apparent during the depression era, common practice was that bikes were sold on a hire purchase, debt collection was pursued if payment terms were not met with repossession, however during this time cycling clubs had been forming and holding racing events with prize money awarded to the winners. Racing sports people found this a way to make money during these times with many country towns hosting carnivals to attract interest and talent. It was around 1934 Victor Elliott decided to sponsor a team, the Super Elliott Professional racing team, his plan to showcase the Super Elliott brand locally and interstate.
His choice of riders was four upcoming individuals, Keith Thurgood, Deane Toseland, Phil Thomas and Jack Conyers. Each were selected for their speed, agility and success’s on the road and track events and it wasn’t long before they became household names as they cycled supreme wearing their Super Elliott jerseys.
The Super Elliott team car named “Polly” the Pontiac became a crowd favourite as the team travelled to carnivals, with bikes strapped to the car they were met with cheers upon their arrival. Further success from the four riders, these included; Keith Thurgood winning the Austral Wheel race in 1936 and victory in the South Australian Centenary Derby. Deane Toseland won the 1938 Melbourne to Warrnambool race and followed this up again in 1939 to become Australian Road Champion, he broke an 36 year old record of becoming dual winner of the Melbourne to Warrnambool in which he defeated the cream of Australian cyclists and registering the fastest time in that year and was also at this stage a multiple winner of many events.
Phil Thomas had won the 5 mile S.A Championship and Jack Conyers won Payneham’s Cycling Clubs 26 mile event.
Local papers displayed advertisements featuring Super Elliott cycles with their four prominent riders breaking records and fastest times riding a Super Elliott cycle, this was heavily marketed. Super Elliott also sponsored many events and ran their own competition offering the Super Elliott cup in various racing events.
Super Elliott also employed a frame enamellers Rex Hunter and Les Hall; Hall would highlight the chrome or nickel, use motifs, flags, panels of club colours, fathering, fancy scrollwork with artistic designs, these were achieved with the aid of stencils and made by Tom Robinson which would become a work of art.
Further stores were opened in regional South Australia and by 1939 Super Elliott boasted 113 agencies throughout South Australia including Victoria and New South Wales.
With the success of their riders on various meetings Super Elliott now offered models based on them, the Thurgood road and track racer, the Toseland “Tosey” Centenary road racer with 3 speed Cyclo gear and the Thomas road and track racer models.
These were offered for public sales and built with their top quality BSA parts, track bikes were optioned with wooden rims, supremely built and were the choice for aspiring racers.
By the 1940’s, there was an increase in both amateur and professional cycling in the metropolitan and country districts of SA, with new clubs formed and an influx of junior riders many choosing to ride a Super Elliott cycle.
Jim Nestor was gaining success and popularity and carrying the Super Elliott name to victories local and interstate and bicycle sales were booming with Super Elliott going from strength to strength.
Head office and showroom was now at 200 Rundle Street, Adelaide (having moved from 147), Super Elliott’s had become the leading store with bikes catered for everyone, from family commuters to special elite racing models.
Bertrand and Victor Elliott were still very much active riding to work on their cycles and with daily advertisements “You must choose a Super Elliott” and “Super Elliott dominates again” was common sight in the local papers.
Demand grew for further stores opened in interstate towns of Warrnambool, Bairnsdale and Ararat.
As World War II broke out many riders joined the defence force and following the end of World War II, Deane Toseland went on to set up his own cycle business at North Adelaide called Toseland cycles, located at 163 O’Connell Street, Adelaide. He was an agent for the Super Elliott brand and also carried Rudge, Whitworth and his own branded cycles with speciality in repairs and building wheels.
Jim Nestor continued with success and went on to be selected for the 1948 Olympic cycling team in London, Jack Conyers became Manager at 200 Rundle Street location with Phil Thomas appointed Sales Manager in 1948 and Keith Thurgood had roles at the factory. Keith was still competing riding in veteran events.
At this time new names were gaining popularity in the professional ranks with star racers Deane Whitehorne and John Law.
By the 1950’s branches were in abundance around South Australia, Adelaide CBD, Hindmarsh, Port Adelaide, Enfield, Norwood, Renmark, Mount Gambier, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Burra, Broken Hill and also in Ballarat (VIC). Super Elliott’s became also stockists of British import Philips and also selling popular Cyclops trikes for kids and other sporting accessories such as rifles and fishing gear.
In 1951 Victor Elliott died, he had been awarded life member of the league of SAwheelmen.
Super Elliott continued popular throughout the years with new models released and was competing well against other cycle shops.
In 1956 Super Elliott released two models, the Moretini ” Arena Special “track racer and Baldini “Special Tour ” road racer to commemorate the successes of World Champion cyclists gained in both Australia and abroad.
These frames were built with continental lug-sets with lightweight tubing and included high pressure wheelsets and special fitments throughout. The Baldini “Special Tour ” road model was fitted with alloy sidepull brakes and gears, it was modelled after Ercole Baldini who won the gold medal at the Olympic Games.
Both bikes could be built to individual specifications with hand cut lugs, enamelled in special designs and assembled in Campagnolo, French or english gears or fittings.
Len Edwards was still working with Super Elliott’s though later going onto work for Malvern Star for two years.Tom Robinson and Les Hall were also still working past their retirement age with Herbert Standish going on to open his own store in 1954 at Unley Road, (SA).
Ray Greenslade, another talented enameller joined and brought his own signature work of fine feathering by hand while still actively working in his paint shop in Adelaide, his lining was noted as being geometrically perfect with the aid of stencils made by Tom Robinson.
The 1960’s started to see the personal attention of frame building almost at an end from the past builders who had left their mark on attention to detail and artwork like frames.
Bikes, frames and cycling gear was imported and frames were built up and many of Adelaide’s early long standing cycle shops had now closed or were on the verge to.
The Super Elliott name was still riding strong among the racing scene.
In the 1970’s – 80’s Super Elliott continued its reputation of fine cycles, however the mass produced world imports were now sweeping Australian cycle stores and had developed their own in- store brand “Pursuit” built by Wayne Roberts.
Roberts went on to build many custom frames, his son Luke went on to dominate in individual and team world events.
Roberts also built under his own name “Roberts” and also the Ciombola brand and carried through into the 1990’s. Repco cycles were also offered as were other makes and other sporting accessories.
With hundreds of races won, Super Elliott has played a big part in the business and industrial progress of South Australia and has remained the popular choice for cyclists and continues today at the location of 200 Rundle Street, Adelaide.