Text and photographs from William Bevington, author of "Japanese Steel: Classic Bicycle Design from Japan".
The Fuji Design Series, "DS," serves as a kind of capstone to the approximately twenty year span of the great classical era of Nichibei Fuji Cycle Company, LTD. Thanks to Brian L's dedicated findings of Japanese bicycle historical source material, we have the "Japan's Bicycle Guide" editions going back prior to the first Fuji US Catalog of 1971. Around 1967 Fuji leaves what I'll call the "late vintage era" and lists the "Fuji Racer" their finest bicycle in the Japan Bicycle Guide. Available in one size, 21" and built of chrome molybdenum steel tubing. By 1969, still only available in 21" the premier Fuji offering is called the "Finest." A classic road bicycle in every sense from components to tubular tires. The Road Racer as the top model is aptly renamed the Finest, but now what for the newer "Finest?" The "Newest" of course!
With Fuji's first US catalog comes the famous trio of: Newest, Finest, and S10-S. 1975/1976 is the year Fuji introduces its new top model — not the "Newest-Newest" as some might jest, but the "Professional." The professional would continue through several iterations, including the magnificently draped (if not technically superior) Fuji Professional Super Record cataloged independently in 1981 and 1982, but listed still under the Professional until 1985. By this time these magnificent bicycles are feeling the strains of the International economy (no longer super favorable to the appreciating Yen) and new materials, such as titanium. By 1988 the top of the line is the Fuji Titanium with a suspect livery of colored diamonds; the top of the line steel bicycle is the Opus IV — an amazing machine also hidden under the new post-classic liveries. At the end of this twenty year classic steel Fuji era: 1968 through 1988 are three years production of the sublime Design Series frames: 1986, 1987, 1988.
The DS was sold as a frameset only with the beautiful Hatta headset. Ranging from 49 cm to 61 cm (track) and 63 cm (road) 11 framesets were available to enthusiasts. In the rather strangely delightful color combination of Rosata and deep pink metallic over chrome (some called it Dentine) the livery was quite striking. The tubing is Ishiwata 019E, on the frame called Fuji 9658. The feel on the road of this steel is sublime, precise, subtle, exhilarating. The Design Series machines are the pinnacle of what Fuji released.
This DS Track is Suntour Superbe Pro equipped with Araya Aero 4 rims, bladed spokes, and Soyo 45 track tires. Not such an amazing back-story; I found it on eBay, and paid too much at the time. But I was not disappointed; the bicycle had never been ridden, a time capsule from i1985/1986 — Even the tires had never been glued on the rims. The track frame has the signature of Mark Gorski on the frame. Fuji sponsored Mr. Gorski, and he won the 1984 Olympic Sprint Gold Medal. So the signature carries some elegant history with it. The beautiful Japanese crests, eight designs in all, are supposedly the family crests of the various builders, but this has not received 100% positive verification. The Nitto racing stem and Nitto B123AA Craft alloy track bar are works of art unto themselves. Scott R. supplied me with the exquisite suede rosetta bar wrap. I under-wrap the bar with matching color cloth (one layer, no overlap) before stitching on the suede wrap. This provides a bit more cushion, but importantly allows one to pull the stitching a bit more and prevents the leather from ever rolling. Another bonus is the hole in the tape, where the waxed linen cord passes through, is not backed by the raw bar color. Instead of seeing pinpricks of alloy or steel, the matching warm color of the cloth tape yields a much more luxurious finish. The chromed fork crown with the lovely heart cut-away adds a sweetness to this purpose-built machine, this swan-song Magnus opus of the great Fuji classic era.