HERMOSA BEACH 1967 BY LEROY GRANNIS
Al Fritz, creator of the Schwinn Sting-Ray passed away last week at the age of 88. The Schwinn Sting-Ray, with its chopper-style handlebars and banana seat, has sold millions since its introduction in the 1960s. His “creation” however was actually inspired by a trend he spotted in Southern California of kids customizing and souping-up their bikes to look like motorcycles. Realizing the mass-market potential, Fritz built a prototype which he called the “Sting-Ray”, because the shape of the handlebars reminded him of a swimming stingray.
Despite initial corportate resistance, the first Sting-Ray was produced in 1963 and went on to great commercial success before it was discontinued in the early 1980s. Various models were produced during that time, including the iconic “Orange Krate”.
FROM TOP: 1964 AD FOR THE SCHWINN STINGRAY WHICH SOLD FOR $49.95; STILL FROM “JOE KID ON A STINGRAY”; STILL FROM BRUCE BROWN’S “ON ANY SUNDAY”
While Schwinn marketed the bikes as wholesome family fun, the documentary “Joe Kid On a Stingray” recounts that the sport of BMX began with kids in the 1970’s modifying their Sting-Rays to look and race like motorcycles.
On Schwinn’s website there is a fun retrospective of The Schwinn Stingray : 1963 to 1981. The Sting-Ray has been reissued on a limited basis a few times since it was discontinued, selling out every time, and a 50th anniversary version is set to be released this year. Vintage models now sell for thousands of dollars.
For more about Al Fritz, click here to read The New York Times obituary