Friday, July 18, 2008

1981 Fuji Gran Tourer SE

Recently picked up a 1981 Fuji Gran Tourer SE. The original owner claimed to have only ridden it once, then laid it up in the attic. It is 100% original. The original chrome spoke protector isn't installed in this picture, but is in a box nearby. That is an early Blackburn rack, marked "Jim Blackburn".

This is exactly the sort of bike I wouldn't have been caught dead riding back when it was new and I was a young Europhilic snob. Safety levers, stem shifters, it has many appalling features. But time is a rider that breaks us all, and something in this bike spoke to me

This Gran Tourer is constructed of chromoly steel. The earlier ones in the 70's were hi-ten steel, this is a significant upgrade. Several years later, Fuji moved to Valite tubing for their midlevel bikes. Opinions vary on the merits of this versus chromoly. Valite is denser than chromoly, but most of the Valite tubesets are butted, whereas the chromoly tubesets on early 80's midlevel Fujis are typically straight gauge. So, its a wash, perhaps.

An easy way to identify hi-ten or cromoly Gran Tourers at a glance is the model name "Gran Tourer" on the downtube. If it is in large, white block letters, as is this one, it is cromoly. If it is in dark, finer cursive script, then it is hi-ten. That's been true of all the examples I've seen.

The front forks are chromed, a common classic touch on Fuji's through the early 80's and is something for which I'm a sucker. Brazeons are few, allowing for many different configurations.

While you're at it, check out the vaguely French headset and the lug pinstriping - very classic elements.

Vintage Fujis are unashamedly Japanese. While many other Japanese marques adopted western names or others meaningless to Americans - what is a "Nishiki" - Fuji was pretty out front with a name that is the national symbol of Japan and a Rising Sun logo on the headstock. This, in the early 80's, when Americans were being laid off across the nation and the Japanese economic juggernaut seemed unstoppable.

Componentry is sourced from Suntour, Dia Compe, Sanshin, Sugino axis, not a bit of Shimano to be found. This is common on nearly all Fujis at least through the early 80's, and is something that increases their appeal to many. Resistance ultimately proved futile - Shimano began cropping up on Fujis and we all know what happened to Suntour.

This Gran Tourer has a Suntour Compe V front derailleur, which is top normal. This is the first bike I've owned with such a feature and makes one wonder why all bikes don't have such a thing.

Ultimately, I couldn't leave the bike bone stock. In a future post, I'll detail the (reversible) mods to this bike - the pictures above are all as found, but here is a preview of what this Gran Tourer is looking like these days. This is an in process pic, it isn't finished yet.

I'm keeping all the stock bits, carefully wrapped, so this bike can be returned to a factory original condition should I or a future owner so desire. I also have the original receipt ($289 in 1981 dollars) and owners manual.

Yes, your eyes did not deceive you, it now has a touch of harlequin wrap. Some people think harlequin wraps are an unspeakably vile abomination. While I obviously don't agree, I will concede that it adds a lot of "drama" to the bike.

This is before applying shellac, which did tone down the red a lot. Even still, I'm not sure I'm going to keep this wrap. But I will keep the Suntour Cyclone brake levers, MKS touring pedals, VO fenders, Brooks B17 saddle, Suntour Superbe downtube shifters, plus some other additions yet to come. Stay tuned


Anonymous said...

How much did you pay for this bike? I have a 1980 Fuji Gran tour with the original decals - all original everything, actually, and I want to sell it and have no idea as to reasonable ball park pricing. I bought it myself in 1980 for $400.

Anonymous said...

This thing is gorgeous. WoW! Bought the 1980 black version ($260). Incredible ride for an 18 year old starting college. Later bought the 1986 Palisade, still ride it. Recently acquired 1981 (has a two nicks on the paint--OMG!!). Looking forward to riding all spring and summer, and for years to come. Like your mods, I am jealous. Does yours still live?

robatsu said...

Hey, thanks.

Actually, I ended up really jazzing this bike up with some upgraded parts.

But now that I'm moving to Japan, I've got to thin the herd, so I've been taking this one back to stock (or just a frame) for sale and putting some of the parts on my 1972 Fuji Finest.

The black Gran Tourers are really sharp looking IMO.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed the discussion on the excellent made Janpan export
1981 Fuji Gran Tourer SE.
If only they would make this level of bike on mainland Japan, and not farm them out to China!!!
I purchase my same model for lest than $50.00 dollars. It needs mucho work,but all parts except seat are made in Japan - Excellent workanship. Best, Archangel, Michael

Anonymous said...

I just bought one from a friend and thought it was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen. I fixed up the chain which was the only thing wrong and took it out for a quick test ride, about 5 minutes into my ride I decide to turn back and then flipped over the handlebars of the bike, I scratched up my face and had to of the spokes penetrate my leg. It's still one hell of a bike.

christopher said...

I bought this model a couple of months ago from a craiglister for $100. It was in decent shape when I got it but parts were stripped from it to make it a single speed, back brakes were taken out, rims look like they spray painted over rust. So all in all I might have paid a little bit over but it will probably only cost me $150 to get it where I want it with no rims, wheels and convert it to a fix gear. Still a pretty sweet bike and hopefully after I am done it will look even better.

michael said...

I had a Fuji stolen about a month ago and immediatey looked on craigslist for a replacement. I need the 64cm frame and there was one for $100. I put about $500 into it for wheels and cables and seat and ...ect... I love it.

Anonymous said...

nice bike! do you know what size crank puller matches this? I have the same bike and want to service the crank bearings.

Kevin said...

Great blog. I recently picked up a black 1982 Fuji Gran Tourer frame only. Planning on a Single Speed Freewheel conversion. Paint and decals are all original, and need TLC. I will post some photos as soon as I figure out the best way to restore her for the streets and trails of St. Louis.

Anonymous said...

I have an identical black SE model from 1980. Classic lines... beautiful bike. In fact, I just rode it in the 40-mile 5-Borough BikeNY tour, and it held its own against a horde of modern ultralight carbon nanotube-something bikes. I was proudly thinking I must have the oldest Fuji on the ride when I spotted an even older guy on a model from the mid-70's! Impressive!

My son rides a Bianchi, but loves this Fuji and made me promise to will it to him. Very low maintenance, just keep the chain lubed and it stays good to go.
Anyway, thanks for this blog. Good stuff!

Travis van Dongen said...

I am building up a late 80's model Fuji Gran Tourer SE and I am wanting to know the wheel size that came on the bike? I purchased a frame and fork that was stripped. So I am not certain if wheels were 700 series wheels or 27 x 1 1/14?
Can anyone help me out?

Anonymous said...

Yes Travis. They are 27 x 1.25" Best of luck to you