1951 Fongers bicycle


In the time when my MG J2 was built in the UK, the notion of owning or even driving a sports car was completely alien to all but a very few inhabitants of The Netherlands. Our country managed to stay neutral during the Great War, and it wasn’t untill after World War II that people began to realise that it might be wise to actually enjoy life for a bit before it comes to a sudden end. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany is quoted to have said: “When the end of time comes, I will go to Holland because there everything happens fifty years later!”

My ancestors would turn in their graves if they knew how much time and money I’m spending on a tiny old car that doesn’t even run most of the time. When the J2 was built in 1933, my grandfather (who was then 31 years old) was an expatriat in Antwerp managing the work of 100 people in a tin can factory for the Dutch Verblifa company. He must have been quite well off, but he rode a bicycle to work, and if the weather was poor he would take the tram. In his spare time he took evening classes to promote his career and he spent a lot of time doing charity work for the protestant church. When he took a vacation, he would take long walks in the countryside, wearing his three piece business suit as always. The thought of an English girl receiving a sports car from her mother for her 25th birthday would have shocked my grandparents.

However I think they would have approved of my most recent acquisition! It is a very respectable means of transportation and a sensible long term investment if properly maintained. Fongers bicycles were made in Groningen (in the north of Holland) from the late nineteenth century untill the 1970s. They were expensive but beautifully made to a high quality standard and in a conservative style, to last a lifetime. They were used by the Dutch army as well as the royal family. My interest was sparked by the announcement of an exhibition on Fongers in the summer of 2010. An internet search quickly led to an advert offering one for sale. A few days later I went to pick it up and came back with a big smile on my face.

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My new piece of Dutch industrial heritage