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History

Jan de Wilde, born in 1907 in Amsterdam, grew up in the bicycle business. At the age of seven, he already helped his father in his bicycle shop in Amsterdam. When he became sixteen, De Wilde started working at the Hartog cycleworks in the Haarlemmerstraat in Amsterdam. Here he learnt how to build bicycle frames, and in only a few years he became manager.


De Wilde in front of his father's shop

Jan de Wilde as a 7 years old boy in front of his father's shop

 

In the early thirties Hartog moved to Zeist, and De Wilde followed. During the economic crisis in Germany, director T. Hartog employed skilled workers from German bicycle factories. Around 1934 Hartog advised De Wilde to start his own business.

     Acting on this advice, De Wilde started selling ‘Hartog’ bicycles in his shop at the Oud Arnhemse Bovenweg in Zeist. The business went very well, and soon at the Steinlaan in Driebergen he opened a second shop. At the end of the thirties De Wilde sold his two shops and moved back to Amsterdam. Here, in 1942 he took a participation in the enamel coating works ‘Linco & Co.’. This company also produced bicycles.

     In 1946 de Wilde bought out his partner van Lienen and so he became the sole owner of ‘Rijwielfabrieken J. de Wilde’ located in the Govert Flinkstraat 231 in Amsterdam. Here De Wilde employed thirty people. Due to lack of space the company moved to the Gelderschekade 115, where at first only frames were built. Starting in 1947 also complete bicycles were manufactured and sold under the brand name 'Straaljager'.

 

Straaljager folder

"Straaljager" folder from the early 50's

 

At the beginning of the fifties the company employed fifty people. Outgrowing his site at the Gelderschekade, De Wilde decided to build his own factory in the fishing village Volendam. This site was ready in 1952. De Wilde now produced ‘Straaljager’ bicycles, tandems and -for a short while- motorised bicycles. Moreover all kinds of frames were manufactured for wholesale trade.

     At this stage the production of bicycle-frames amounted to approximately 25,000 per year. Within the Netherlands De Wilde had now risen to the group of major bicycle manufacturers and frame-constructors. Using the brand name ‘Thunderjet Cycleworks - Volendam/Holland’ he exported his tandems (two up to six seated!) to the USA. Indonesia was an important export-market, too.

 

Thunderjet quintuplet

"Thunderjet" quintuplet

 

Manufacturing of the ‘Straaljager’-bicycle continued up to 1958. Then De Wilde refocused his attention to the sole production of frames. The company grew and now counted 80 employees. Export centred more on Germany and France.

     His two sons, Willem and Herman also worked at the company. In the early sixties Herman De Wilde was production manager of the company, until he died unexpectedly in 1963, 28 years of age.

     In 1963 or 1964 Mr. Visser, a well known professional in the bicycle branch, became production manager at De Wilde. Before he had worked in the management of Juncker in Apeldoorn, and from the twenties up to the early fifties he had been manager at the bicycle factory De Locomotief in Amsterdam. Mr. Visser modernised the production of De Wilde extensively and until the end in 1977 he remained the owners right hand.

     In 1968 De Wilde bought the bicycle factory Veeno, which bankrupted and closed in 1967. Later in the seventies, using this brand and the names Veenolite, Tors and Vedra, De Wilde again started producing his own bicycles, with inclusion of tandems. For export, mainly to Germany, the brands Straaljager and Rocket were used.

     But at this time the main product remained bicycle frames. Amongst the clients in the seventies were named brands like Servellen/DCR, Benzo and Valenzo, but also wholesalers with brands like General All-Steel, Armeevo, Royal Granada, Bell-Air, Holland Sport, IJsselmeer, Rezo and Olympic.

     In 1970 J. De Wilde fell ill and his eldest and only remaining son Willem took up the task of managing and leading the firm. He decided to move the entire company to Nieuwe Niedorp. Here De Wilde had bought a bankrupted company in 1962, to be used as secondary factory. Before it’s decline this company had produced bicycles under the name Havrelux with frames bought from De Wilde.

     On march 6th 1973 the founder Jan De Wilde died. His son remained as general manager of the company. Following the dollar-crisis part of the export collapsed and he started to reorganise and reorient the company from specialised framebuilding to complete bicycle-producing. In 1974 the company-name was changed to ‘Rijwielfabriek Veeno De Wilde BV’.


     De Wilde sought for new models and ideas and came up with an ancient one: the classic ladies’ roadster model. In previous years this pre-war model had lost popularity, but De Wilde saw prospect. At the ‘Tweewieler RAI’ (the annual Dutch bicycle trade fair) in 1976 he introduced the ‘Veeno Tors - model 1886’. Later this model would find a rising market. (Indeed nowadays in the Netherlands this so-called ‘Omafiets’ is one of the most popular types of bikes and very much in want with consumers and bicycle thieves - note from the translator). Furthermore De Wilde sold common sports bikes of brand Vedra, Veeno tandems and Veenolite road racers.

     In this period the annual production amounted between 80,000 and 100,000 frames, including 25,000 to 30,000 complete bicycles. Of this total one third was exported. The company was modern, well run and had plenty of work. Because of an incurable illness the dynamic Willem De Wilde contracted, in the begining of 1977 the success turned. Further complication was the not yet completed reorganisation.

     Without De Wilde at the helm all coordination in the firm was lost. The organisation of such a company with over 300 suppliers is a complicated and sensitive matter. Soon the stock-availability became erratic, bicycles couldn’t be completed, deliverance’s were delayed. The solvability of the company was in question. Suppliers, alarmed by rumours about the owner’s illness, closed down all credit. It was a vicious circle. The tragedy of the situation was best expressed by the words of the owner. From his sick bed Willem said: ’If it’s up to me, I would go directly to the factory. A few calls and the telex, I would have it all running in no time. But I’m not able to!’

     In September 1977, just before on November 4th the not even 45 year old Willem De Wilde died, Rijwielfabriek Veeno De Wilde BV went bankrupt. Searches for a successor/buyer in the Netherlands or Germany were unsuccessful.

     Finally, the company was sold to the bicycle wholesaler Smits in Capelle aan den IJssel. He auctioned ‘Rijwielfabriek Veeno De Wilde BV’ in may 1978.

     The last page of the De Wilde story was the demolition of the old factory in march 2006.

 

Source

The information about Rijwielfabriek De Wilde is derived from Jan de Wilde. He is the grandson of the founder and is searching for Thunderjet, Straaljager, Rocket, Havrelux and Veenolite bicycles. Additionaly, he collects transfers of these brands, old invoices, articles of advertising matter as well as all information about 'Rijwielfabriek Veeno De Wilde B.V.' (Thunderjet Cycleworks). If you have got material or information for him, please send an e-mail.

 

Have you got an old Thunderjet bicycle? Then add the bicycle to the bicycle database and get feedback about your bike. For more information click here.

 


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Copyright by Jan de Wilde and Herbert Kuner, 1999 ...
All rights reserved.

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Last update: 03/30/2006