G519 Restoration

"Anatomy of a G519 Restoration"

Bergerwerke received this Columbia G519 series MG from a collector who wanted to have it restored to it's former glory. It was in good shape structurally, some rust, but still possessed a lot of character; its true history begged to get out from under 60 plus years and several post-war civilian conversions. Some of the original color could still be seen underneath the coats of paint. In addition to being somewhat "civilianized," it was also missing some of the original contract parts, but at least I had a good starting point.

As with every restoration, the bike was completely disassembled both inside and out. The innerds were cleaned or replaced with new components. Much was salvageable so little changes were made other than replacing bearings and races. Next came the sand blasting and paint removal of all exterior items. The frame was blasted and cleaned, removing all the layers of paint, including the original green zinc chromate primer. Of interest was the embossed heavy steel head badge, which was installed at the factory directly onto the metal frame with no primer underneath. This left a nice Columbia shield pattern of rust on the head tube. Many of the parts were originally "black out" parts, and not initially sprayed with OD. I chose to refinish it this way, but did have to remove some of that paint as they were, believe it or not, commercial chrome underneath and heavily corroded. One can see in the photos which parts were left as "blackout" parts.

Much of the exterior was rust pitted and some spots required all-metal filler to improve the corrosion. The body (frame, forks and stem) were all pretty good, so little was repaired other than around some of the brazed joints. (This frame happened to not have any of the extra reinforced joint welds so they were easy to clean up). I figured I was going to have to straighten the forks as I so often have to do or worse; cut them and reweld the top tube back on. Fortunately, they were suprisingly straight, so I cleaned and refinished them and the body was ready! The truss system required little repair other than some rebending of the rods. I did replace the incorrect top truss bracket with a BW custom bracket, however, and aligned the tubes to fit just right. Since the handlebars were removed long ago, I added a pair of NOS military Torrington wide bars with some Bergerwerke OD plastic grips to complete the stem assembly. The steer tube gave me some trouble, as most of the bearings and cups were heavily worn. However, after some "repfab magic," it turned velvet-smooth in the bushings! The Bevins bell had some issues. This bell had been chrome underneath without benefit of any zinc primer before its coating of OD, so the exterior surface was in tough shape. Because the bells were painted OD, I did not have to rechrome it and after cleaning and refinishing, it was refitted to the bars and completed.

The heavy duty military fenders were structurally solid but bashed around over the years. But after a lot of love and some treatment on the English wheel, they returned to their Gothic shape and looked factory fresh. The wheels themselves were in fair shape structurally, but needed a lot of cosmetic work and tuning. This is where it can take some time. Each spoke had to be looked at. The rims were re-trued and refinished and the hubs were gutted and restored. This MG had two different styles of rims between the front and rear, which was fairly common among interchangeable bikes. The front had the Huffman style "high-bevel" rims while the rear was the standard Columbia type. Aside from some pitting, they were restored to factory condition. I also added a pair of correct brand new WW2 style US Royal chain link tires to complete the wheels.

The crank set and sprocket were in good condition and were cleaned and treated but I had to make some slight modifications to the military BD chain links to get it fitted just right. I replaced the existing pedals with Torrington #8s and exclusive BergerWerke "war shortage" wood pedal blocks. All else was fine-tuned for fit, cleaned and refinished. It was coming along nicely.

The original Persons military seat frame was another story. It was completely warped and almost thoroughly damaged. The frame needed to be reshaped and tweeked before the process of cleaning, blasting, and refinishing. It was fortunate that the original saddle pan remained of the seat top. This way I could completely replace it with a BW custom made cover of smooth-grain cowhide, old-style batting underneath, and the classic Persons stamp to complete the saddle. I completed the components with the addition of the head lamp. I replaced the existing incorrect torpedo lamp with a working NOS military Delta "winner" style light. This and a few other minor additions such as some new binder bolts for repair and accuracy completed the MG which was now ready for final finishing.

The MG was zinc primed and top-coated with a flat lusterless olive drab enamel, just as the originals were. I would have liked to have been able to keep the existing OD paint but unfortunately, too much of it was gone and unfinishable. Regardless, the final result looked great! This restoration took a rough example and brought it back to as if it had just rolled out of the Columbia factory for service. When this restored G519 finally was returned to its owner, heres what he had to say:

"...My Father bought the bike (S/N MG48466) for me in 1948 as a child.  I was completely overwhelmed at seeing it completely restored, and as it was when my Father bought it for me. My compliments to you on the job you did. I see that the original bikes in WW2 had tool kits behind the seat.  My bike didn't have that when I got it. My Father did change the handlebars so I could ride it better since I was 8 years old.  I don't know what happened to it. Also changed the headlight but I don't remember why.  Thanks again for the beautiful restoration."

See the article about this restoration