Lambert was a brand of bicycles produced in Wolverhampton, UK between 1972 and 1974. I think that elements of its story may go something like this:
- 1n 1972 Lambert, a newly formed company, took over the old Viking bicycle factory in Wolverhampton.
- Lambert produced an adventurous and radical drop-handlebar bicycle called the 'Aerospace'. It had a very light, plain-guage, lugless Cr-Mo frame, had cast aluminium forks, had its own proprietary push-fit sealed-bearing bottom bracket and was fitted with a number of interesting proprietary components - including Lambert TA-like aluminium cotterless cranks and Lambert derailleurs.
- The initial Lambert derailleur was a rather crude flat-plate design, somewhat reminiscent of a Huret Svelto - but with a long pulley cage to allow for touring ratios. I have seen a number of slight variations of this derailleur with different logos and different cable clamp mechanisms. I believe that it was manufactured in nearby Birmingham by Cyclo.
- The company was almost immediately swamped by quality problems. Amongst many other issues, the derailleurs were imprecise and fragile. They were soon replaced by a Taiwanese manufactured copy of the Shimano Eagle - with 'Lambert' embossed on the outer parallelogram plate.
- The most famous quality problem was with the cast aluminium forks which were widely thought to break suddenly - and were nicknamed 'death forks'. While some early designs of the forks had an extremely questionable joint between the blades and the steerer, I was never exactly sure how many forks actually broke in use.
- By 1974 the company was in deep financial trouble and enjoyed the first of many changes of ownership. The bikes were rebranded as 'Viscount Aerospace'. To everyone's relief, the Lambert derailleurs were ditched and standard Shimano derailleurs were used.
- From 1974 the aluminium forks were significantly redesigned and were (possibly) considerably less likely to break.
- In 1977 or 1978 production was moved to a new factory at Potters Bar, just north of London.
- Possibly at, or some time shortly after, this point the aluminium fork was replaced with Cr-Mo fork, the push-fit bottom bracket was replaced with a conventional threaded unit and the Lambert cotterless cranks were replaced with normal Japanese cranks.
- In the early 1980s (1981?) I remember a rather avant-garde Viscount Aerospace touring model fitted with a full Shimano Deore groupset.
- Also at around this point, the company started to buy in some rather average bike models from other manufacturers.
- Sometime around the middle of the 1980s the company finally ceased to be.
- In less than 15 years the company had had any number of owners, and had acquired a fine reputation for appalling management, abysmal quality control and seriously dodgy financial schenanigans. All of which was a terrible pity, because somewhere in there was a rather promising bicycle trying to get out.
In so many ways Lambert was the DeLorean of the bicycle trade. All that was missing was the suitcase full of money and the 27kg of cocaine.