Obtained: Late 2009
Found: Via Craigslist
The first bike boom Ten Speed I rebuilt was, appropriately enough, a mid 70's Chicago built Schwinn Varsity in "Sky Blue". My best guess is that it's a 1977 model based on the color choice. As I recall I bought this bike in 2009 for about $25 off Craigslist and it came with a dissembled rear brake and no tires or tubes. Unfortunately I don't have any "before" pictures but the frame decals were in such bad shape that they were unreadable so I used a plastic scraper to take them off the frame.
This bike basically sat around for two years which in retrospect was a good idea because in the meantime I built a single speed out of a neglected Azuki 10 speed and also built up a newer Schwinn Fastback frame-set with a modern Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed gruppo, and both projects taught me a lot. Its been awhile since I did this rebuild and I don't recall the full process I put it through but here is what I remember.
Schwinn is the only bike boom era company I know of that used the one piece "Ashtabula" crank-set on an adult bike. Usually this technology is only found on kids bikes and it contributes to the hefty 36+ pound weight of the Varsity. Its actually pretty easy to work on and really only requires a steady hand, a hammer and a large slotted screw driver. If I were to work on another Varsity I would follow the lead of my friend Hugh over at Hugh's bike blog and convert this boat anchor of a crank to a more traditional three piece set up.
In the case of any rebuild I replace as a matter of course; tires, tubes, rim strips, chain, cables/housing, brake pads, bar tape and all grease. And then anything else as needed.
The biggest issues, beyond the standard replacements, I had with this particular rebuild were:
A) the rear brake supplied with the bike didn't have a long enough threaded stud to work with the brake bridge, odd but true.
B) the rear derailleur was kaput
C) a worn out saddle clamp meant any test ride as an adventure and
D) the rear freewheel was worn-out and sounded like a dryer with shot bearings when you got it spinning.
I was able to replace A and B with period correct parts from a local shop, Recycled Cycles, that sells both new and used parts and took care of C and D new via Amazon. I wish I had done a better job at the time of taking pictures of the problem parts but here is a shot of the new cassette and rear derailleur.
The thrill I got from doing this rebuild was the lady who bought the bike was probably in her early 40s and after test riding she came back with a big grin on her face and said "that was like being 13 again!". That was all the incentive I needed to keep looking for old 10 speeds to resurrect.