The Elgin American seems to occupy a special place in the hearts of American bike freaks of a certain age. Perhaps time has mellowed their memories, because to me the American seems to be the mutant off-spring of a Shimano Skylark and a Simplex Prestige.
Like the Simplex Prestige, the American has plastic knuckles, although it is possibly a stiffer (but more brittle?) plastic that the Delrin that Simplex had chosen. The American improves on the usual Simplex recipe by having steel parallelogram plates - but is, if anything, slightly more crudely finished. Finally there is the small issue of the date - the Simplex was very long in the tooth by the mid seventies and not an obvious role model for an aspiring US company seeking to enter the derailleur market.
The Elgin American was manufactured for Sears by Excel, who also produced this model under their own brand. This example is a later version with slightly beefier knuckles and the improved design of hanger plate that bears on the edge of the rear knuckle. It also has rather distinctive two dimensional pulley wheels.
In my collection of US derailleurs, resplendent with CNC jewellery and SRAM’s carbon composite masterpieces, the Elgin American holds a proud position as one of the earliest US derailleurs that I own.
A classic - as long as you didn’t have to actually use it.