Holy Grail: 1971 Schwinn Sting-Ray “Grey Ghost”

Our faithful readers and fans know that we usually stick to motorized classics and antiques, however we saw this and just HAD to tell you about it! It’s up for sale right now here on eBay in Benton, Arkansas, so let’s check it out!

We should start with a very brief bit of history: According to Wikipedia: The “dandy horse”, also called Draisienne or Laufmaschine, was the first human means of transport to use only two wheels in tandem and was invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais. It is regarded as the modern bicycle’s forerunner; Drais introduced it to the public in Mannheim in summer 1817 and in Paris in 1818″

The story of how the Schwinn Sting-Ray came to be is much more interesting, and isn’t nearly as complicated – it’s not like anybody had to really do a lot of engineering or road-testing for a bicycle. In fact, the man who came up with the idea for them in the early 1960s, Albert Fritz, was a manager in Schwinn’s R&D department, having started there as a welder when he came home from WWII. He put two and two together when he learned that kids, particularly those in California, were home-modifying their existing traditional bicycles by removing extra bits and adding chopper-motorcycle parts like handlebars and long seats. Real motorcycles were very cool at the time, since muscle cars were still in their early stages, and young people who wanted those kinds of things did the best they could to have a kid-version of those grown-up toys. Fritz was an intelligent man, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Schwinn could do well selling people exactly that which they were busting their humps to create from scratch. Schwinn executives weren’t sure, but they took Fritz’s word for it, and ended up selling four times more Sting-Rays the first year of production (1963) than their best-selling traditional models – and they had to stop early because their tire supplier couldn’t keep up with demand. Schwinn made multiple versions of the Sting-Ray from 1963 to 1981, totaling many, many thousands, and their competitors made many, many more. Some say that the Sting-Ray helped pave the way for BMX bikes, but that’s a whole other story.

So, for this particular piece, let’s look: The seller tells us: “All original no touchups. Has peppering on it on the Chrome in some places and the handlebars are the worst.” We can see that it is far from pristine, with worn paint and dry-rotted original rubber, but it looks complete. It even has the “Stik Shift” and white-lettered rear tire!

I’ll admit that I don’t’ know my head from my tail when it comes to old two-wheelers, however I had a similar bike at one time, and I totally dig nostalgia pieces like this. At the time I’m writing this, the bid is up to $1,700 with a few more days to go. What do you think it’ll go for? Do you have a memory of one of these that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Great find, Russell. If this doesn’t bring a smile to every baby boomer, well, I don’t know how to finish that. These bikes, and the many derivatives defined our childhood. We got hurt on these, but was all in good fun. The Schwinn Sting Ray was the Honda 750 of bicycles. It was so unlike anything we had ridden. Soon, everybody was taking their sisters 20 incher, and making a Sting Ray out of it. “Wheelie Kings” became the new fad. Most were the one speed type, but I read, in 1967, they came out with the 3 speed shift. Some of the names were, Orange Krate, Lemon Peeler, Apple Krate, Pea Picker, and this Grey Ghost, all painted neat colors to match the names. But they weren’t cheap. I read in 1968, a then new 5 speed Krate bike cost $86.95 or almost $600 bucks today, so it was out of reach for many, getting a .50 cent weekly allowance. We still had plenty of fun with our one speed home mades. Fun time to be a kid.

    26
    • Morgan Winter

      I was so jealous of my twin cousins’ Orange Krate and Lemon Peeler!

      11
    • RG in PDX

      Yes, this was the preferred ride of the rich kids in the next neighborhood over. I had a purple Pep Boys bike that was kind of a wimpy clone of the Sting Ray, but probably was, like, $39.95. My dad blew up the front tire filling it at the gas station on its first day. So many adventures on that bike!

      6
      • bone

        Just like me, I had a dark purple Spyder bike from Sears , that bike and I went everywhere !

    • Ronald Parker

      I wanted one but my parents wouldn’t let me cause they already bought me a 24 inch 10 speed so I adapted it with a banana seat and ape hanger handle bars. Didn’t look quite as cool without the stick shift, springer front forks and the tiny front wheel but it did go faster.

    • Jim k

      I begged and borrowed and traded for my pea picker.. which about 8 years ago sold during my divorce ..!!

  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I had a blue Ramshorn, 5 speed as I recall. I think it had a slick on it? That thing would really wheelie! And Howard is right, at least for me, I did get hurt. Great times, as long as you were home when the street lights came on.

    26
    • Ed

      Not to nit, but the Ramshorn had a skinny rear tire.

      1
  3. Will Fox

    About 6 weeks before Christmas, 1970. While Mom and Dad were grocery shopping, 10 yr old me scampered down to Rockbrook Schwinn to ogle the latest offerings. And there they were…Cherry Picker. Orange Crate. Apple Picker. Cotton Picker. And last but not least, a Gray Ghost! My knees went weak; I wanted `em all! It was almost too much excitement for this lad! Anyhoo, my eyes rested on the Cotton Picker–all white. Drug Dad down to the store window before we went home to show him what I found. Thought all my begging was for naught, but there it was by the tree on Christmas morning! My first 5-speed! I was the “King” of Davenport street and the envy of all my friends for what seemed like forever. One of those memories guys, I can recall like it was this morning. Especially the memory of my Dad, who I miss every day. Thanks for making my wish come true, Dad!

    75
    • On and On On and On Member

      Good story Will, my buddy collects these and has a Cotton Picker. Now a socially unacceptable name BTW. When these came out I never had one, couldn’t afford it. When the Schwinn Varsity came out I bought one of those instead. I think of my Dad every day, funny as we grow older we think of all the stuff we never said to them when they were here. Now we wish we did. A serious life lesson.

      29
      • Ronald Parker

        I wanted one but my parents wouldn’t let me cause they already bought me a Schwinn Varsity 24 inch 10 speed so I adapted it with a banana seat and ape hanger handle bars. Didn’t look quite as cool without the stick shift, springer front forks and the tiny front wheel but it did go faster.

    • Howard A Member

      Aww, it’s the stories I like. Don’t put away the hanky just yet. About 20 years ago, my late sister and my brother-in-law, used to buy storage locker stuff that the people abandoned. On one purchase, they got a “Schwinn Sting Ray” bike. I was curious, but busy trucking then and didn’t get to see what it was. My sister got sick and passed away, and my brother in law sold everything and moved on, I never did find out what happened to it.

      8
    • Cman

      I had an new Orange Krate as a kid. I’ll never forget that Christmas, and I remember delivering newspapers on it. Huge canvas bag on the handlebars and the little front wheel made for interesting handling characteristics. My friend set his on fire for a “smoke show”. Thought I was King of the Road on that bike. Baseball cards in the spokes. I remember seeing a Super Bird while riding it and thought WTF?…that bike likely set me on my career path. Friends got into touring on 10 speeds so had to move on but never lost the bug. I have an original paint Orange Krate today and a Ghost with a rear disc brake. Pretty rare I think. I enjoy looking at them. Some people don’t get it but I think my grand kids will…one day…

      14
    • Troy Member

      Rockbrook Schwinn in Omaha?

  4. Fred W

    Kid down the street (“Robert”) had a gas powered Model T as a little kid, and one of these sharp looking bikes later. My parents bought me a clunky 26″ Sears tank type bike for Christmas the same year. Robert stopped short in front of me and I fell and broke my left arm. I was a deprived child.

    9
  5. Big Len

    Always wanted an Apple Crate.

    6
  6. Will Irby

    I couldn’t afford the Orange Krate that I really wanted, but I did get a brand new metallic green Sting Ray with the 2-speed rear axle (I called it a Powerglide). I could wheelie it from my parents’ house all the way to school, which was 6 blocks away and included a few hills and corners!

    12
    • Brad Schaack

      Had a 2 speed also but my pride and joy was my Schwinn Pea Picker. Yes it was green and I loved it. I was the envy of my neighborhood

      1
  7. M.Balmer Member

    I asked Santa for one of these when I was 7 in 1968…

    I’M STILL WAITING, FAT BOY !!

    Maybe this year…?😀👍

    34
    • Dave

      Well…you could go and buy a Fat Boy.

      I modified an AMF Roadmaster 20 inch bike with the tank horn and “luggage tail”. Hi rise bars, banana seat, the whole deal. I rode everywhere, dreaming of the day I could buy a motorcycle.

      I was 28 when I finally began riding. One summer evening I parked where I used to watch the sunset when I was a kid. A cop stopped to ask me what I was doing, and after explaining, he smiled and wished me a good evening.

      You either have the gene or you don’t. Neither of my sons do, but every time I saddle up I’m 14 again.

      If I sat on that Schwinn I’d probably break it. But they were the stuff of holiday and birthday dreams for my generation.

      16
  8. Clay Harvey

    In September of 1970 my aunt bought me my only brand new bicycle. It was from Sears and was a stingray with the high sizzy bar and a steering wheel. It was called “The Wheel” Every kid in my small town were envious, and some of them went out to wrecking yards and got old steering wheels and put on their bikes. Does anybody remember them? Mine was metal flake blue.

    14
    • Morgan Winter

      Clay, I remember them. https://i.pinimg.com/564x/4c/20/98/4c20981e73d728b1a5f397bc805424cd.jpg I think Huffy and Western Flyer had versions.

      12
      • Clay Harvey

        I don’t remember what brand it was, I know regular price was $54 and we were about to leave when the salesman said it was on sale for 39.95. I was one happy camper

        7
      • keith

        And Sears had their version, a Spyder. 3-speed handlebar shifter & banana seat just like the Stingray + knobby tires. Believe I got it for Christmas must have been the late 60’s. Then another year I was given a sissy bar. And Sears sold parts too, finally had to replace the shifter.

        6
  9. John Norton

    The best! Had a 76( I think) Orange Krate- that thing was as heavy as it’s Corvette namesake! Jumping ramps was en vogue at the time, and it took some real work to get that springer front end to decompress and raise up! LOL! How lucky were we to have grown up when we did?! So cool…

    9
  10. Mark

    I had a gold Schwinn that looked like that bike, it was a bike that my dad found for sale at a Goodwill store in 1974. It was in used but nearly perfect shape when I got it, and sadly I rode the wheels off it. I can remember after a couple of years of hard use, it went out for the “spring clean up” trash when the smaller front wheel got bent and a replacement could not be found in our small town. I got a brand new “Free Spirit” brand 10 speed for my birthday. At the time I was ready to ride a 10 speed and get away from the “kids” bike as I was then in Junior High school, but I sure wish we had not put the bike out for trash. I can only hope someone came along and took it before it went to the landfill. I’m 55 now and I’m still riding a Schwinn I got thirty years ago. I rode that Schwinn from Pittsburgh PA to Washington DC and back on the GAP and C&O trails.

    8
  11. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    No disk brake on it so that’s a deal breaker……had a gently used orange Manta-Ray and found an Apple Krate – I spied the stick shift sticking out of the weeds as it was laying over….it didn’t last long in my stock. Here’s my first conversion of a side walk bike….wish it was color – it was a Burgundy paint job I did.

    Why can’t I post pictures ?

    3
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Hey stillrunners, try posting your picture before making your comment. Then go get a cup of coffee or a beer before you post. It seems to take a bit of time before it works. Best of luck, Mike.

      5
  12. Troy s

    I’m a child of the seventies, and I definitely remember the Sting Rays paving the path to BMX bikes. First with the tall bars and small seat, some kids had a banana seat,, they were stripped down bikes with different sprocket’s. Fun times, then came the A and A bars all black, smaller seats, longer cranks, ashstibula forks….I was all into that early BMX stuff as a kid even though I was a lousy rider.
    R and R, DG, and FMF came along and made these garage built bikes obsolete, if,, and it was a big if, you or your folks could afford them. Ha, great memories!

    3
  13. RCinphill

    I had a Schwinn Stingray my dad found in someones garbage for just a few weeks before we turned it into a BMX bike. Great memories.

    3
  14. John B

    Holy crap…the flashbacks I’m having…what a bike! But it does seem to me that if you had earned enough coin to buy one of these, you were better off with a ten-speed Varsity, Continental or even the 15-speed Paramount. Great to see old Schwinns coming out of the sheds and into the light of day. Find a new cheater slick for this one and ride with pride! I think this link to craigslist might work. Five old Schwinns for the princely sum of 4000 bucks. https://raleigh.craigslist.org/bik/6997299568.html

    4
    • Rob S

      This is cool reading everybody’s stories! 1970 my dad traded a chainsaw for a cotton picker. 5 speed, full suspension, banana seat, everything but the tassles on the handlebars. I raced everybody in the neighborhood and beat them all! It was like magic, the cutest girl on the block always wanted to hang with me! She would cheer me on when I raced the other kids. I polished the chrome so much I wore through it! That picker and I were inseparable. I eventually out grew it and passed it down to my bonehead brother who took it all apart, for no good reason and sold the bits. Still can’t forgive him for that. What a great time to be a kid!!

      1
  15. RCinphill RCinphill Member

    Here is my current collection of Stingrays plus about 10 more on the side.

    9
  16. RCinphill RCinphill Member

    All original paint but 2

    5
  17. RCinphill RCinphill Member

    ..

    5
  18. John Holden

    Great letters and memories! Thanks to everyone.

    6
  19. Doglips

    I have a mint original 1971 Pea Picker with a rear disc brake I bought in 1988. It was ridden about 4 blocks and put away in a basement. It now sits in my office next to my desk (along with a 1999 Grape Krate) and I personally have not ridden either as the tires still have the “nibs” on them. Thanks to Ralph Nader my parents wouldn’t let me buy one because it was “unsafe” despite having my own money to pay for it. But now I own 2!

    9
  20. ace10

    That frame looks identical to the one on my Scrambler from the later 70’s. Good grief she was a heavy beast, but I couldn’t break her. Nobody could. A true two wheeled tank.

    6
  21. Danger Dan

    1999ish Schwinn re-introduced the stingray. We were struggling mountain bike racers and the PR people at Schwinn proposed a relay around the Schwinn booth then up behind the booth on a big dirt shoulder. 4 Schwinn sting ray bikes, 4 teams, 4 guys, winner takes all. The clincher was each participant had to pound a FULL pitcher of beer in between handing the bike off. It was mayhem. Just beer flying everywhere and guys wrestling for bikes. Everybody knew it was up to the last lap and all eyes were on this legendary rider CJ to take the win and all 4 bikes for his team. He did not disappoint. The front wheel of that bike stayed off the ground almost his entire lap and the crowd went wild. He was an outstanding Retired bmx pro and it really showed. Even though he was at the races to support and wrench he still had his skills and was not to be denied. Cecil had to slam that last pitcher though and he did with style, finishing just as the last rider pulled in with a huge smile on his face.
    I have the bike now that CJ is at the bmx race in the sky. A gift from his family. Life can be hard, life can be short, be kind, give a guy a lift up, give a good deal on a set of wheels if he/she is polite and cordial. The lowballers can beat it.

    8
  22. Skippy

    Funny how many more comments there are here than I usualy see for cars. Yes, I had an Orange Crate as a kid. Lots of great memories. $2000!!!!!! I saw them for $100 just a few years ago. There is a bycicle museum in Pittsburgh and they must have 500 of these, as well as thousands of other bikes from our childhoods. I wonder if the guy’s plan was just to keep them until…people went crazy.

    3
  23. Kevin

    It was1970. I was ten. I got an Orange Crate for Christmas. Best Christmas present I ever had! Loved that bike more than life itself. I would park it outside our front porch after riding all over our neighborhood. One month after I got it, it was stolen right off the front porch. I never got over that. Really. I’m about to turn 60, and I still feel sad that I didn’t bring the bike inside the house that night. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that it might be stolen.

    10
  24. 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    Nothing but awesome, I’m 45,and had one similar handed down to me in 1983 that was yellow No idea what it was called,but had the same everything! It had no signs of lettering by the time I got it. That thing was the coolest damn bike I ever had,and the black marks you could make with it by lockin up the rear wheel after top speed was awesome.lol I wouldn’t part with it for anything, until my parents divorced, it got put in landfill during one of the moves by the “new” mom. Would love to find another one.

    3
  25. Comet

    This brings back memories. At the time me and every kid I knew wanted a “crate” Schwinn. I made due with a crappy Montgomery Wards pile.

    2
  26. bull

    I got a 68 Orange Krate new from Bob’s Bicycle Shop on Broadway in downtown Nashville TN.

    I don’t remember this however my mother tells me the story of when we went to pickup the bike late on Saturday afternoon we walk into the shop and a man was sitting on my bike looking at it. He saw me walk up to the bike and stare. He asks “Is this your bike young man” and I say yes sir. He then says it is a very nice bike and he is going to get one just like for his grandson.

    That man on my bike was ROY ACUFF! He was also downtown getting ready for the Saturday evening Grand Ole Opry show.

    8
  27. 427Turbojet Member

    One of my uncles bought the Studebaker dealership in my home town and ran it as a repair shop. In ’69-’70 he had rented part of the shop to a kind of “fly by night” body shop operator. I was 13 and had made a stingray type bike by putting a 26 inch fork on a 20 inch, bought a slick rear tire and a banana seat. I worked at the body shop, sanding and taping cars. We were painting a very nice 57 Belair 2dr hardtop, going from the original salmon/white top to a gunmetal gray. The shop owner was going to let me paint my bike with the left over gray. Then I saw a plum crazy Road Runner. My bike now had to be plum crazy! Rode it till I decided to go to a “grown up” bike.
    As a side note, the dealership and land was sold in about ’72 and a new grocery store was built on the lot. I remember the Studebaker neon sign lying on a pile of rubble before it went to the dump. Who wanted an old Studebaker sign? Sigh.

    7
  28. JoeNYWF64

    & you can’t even get raised white letter tires today on the 3 overpriced pony cars or corvette.

    1
  29. moosie moosie

    When I was a kid my bike was a hand me down from my Uncle via my older brother, it was what was called a truck bike, 26″ balloon tires , coaster brake. Rich kids had the new Schwinn bikes, just at that time English Racer bikes were getting popular with the skinny tires and caliper front and rear brakes, 3 speed shift lever on the handle bars, I loved my old truck bike, 1 speed and the brake worked fine as long as the chain didn’t come off the sprocket, it had sheet metal attached to the frame backbone to mimic a gas tank with a horn button that honked a horn inside, playing cards clothespinned to a fender brace for sound effects. I cant remember what happened to that bike when we moved from the Bronx to Rockland county N.Y.

    1
  30. cmarv

    I had a Raleigh Chopper . I got it for my birthday , I broke the frame where the seat went in . I got a used Pea Picker to replace it . The Chopper rode and handled better but the frame broke . I abused that Pea Picker in a big way and it held up . Wish I still had it .

    3
  31. Steve

    I had one like that but it was orange. Cool bike. When the three speed shifter broke I took the ball off and made a knife out of it. Being a kid in the 70’s was fun.

    3
    • Howard A Member

      When the shifter was in 1st ( closest to the seat) and your foot slipped off the pedals, there was a moment of great pain,,, :0

      5
      • Dutch 1960

        Yup. Rode a block or two on my buddy’s Sting Ray Fastback (the black version), banged my boyhood into the shifter somehow, and quickly handed that thing back. Happy to stay with my lesser version Sting Ray and not suffer the pain.

        1
  32. EJ 819

    Oh the memories from all you fellow barn find folks that’s why I love this site. .well that and the cars we all know and love.. the leads to each and everyone’s favorite cars from our past with the opportunity to obtain or reminisce each one is a bonus !! Thanks again bfs

    2
  33. JT

    J T – I grew up in Nazareth Pa, home of Mario Andretti ran into a friend at a car show recently, and a guy had a Stingray, my buddy lived in the neighborhood where Mario rented a house with a big parking lot behind it , he would use the lot to set up his sprint cars . In 1967 Mario had his white #1 Dean Van Lines Lola on trailer, my buddy had chopper bike with a real high sissy bar , he was looking at the car and Mario comes out and says I want to ride your bike,my buddy said sure, gets on it does a wheelie flips back lands on the sissy bar and starches it all up, my buddy said he always wanted to ask him if he remembered that, Mario is super cool!

    2
  34. CATHOUSE

    Did anyone else notice how the ebay listing says “original owner” in the title and then when you read the listing the seller bought the bike from a friend who bought the bike from the original owner? So the seller is actually the third owner. I guess that the truth stretching that we see so often in so many of the vehicle listings has overflowed into other listings as well.

    3
    • moosie moosie

      Yep, I caught that & it made me laugh, Original owner twice removed.

  35. CATHOUSE

    I too remember these bikes as a kid. I did not have a Schwinn, mine was one of the knock off brands. Which one I have no idea. We set up a jump ramp and would get as much speed as we could, hit that ramp and see how far we could fly. That was fun until the time I did it and the front of the banana seat came off the seat tube. Needless to say when I landed the seat was no longer in place. That was a wake up call.

    1
  36. Terry Bowman

    We had “THE” rich kid in the neighborhood get a 20′ 3-speed Schwinn Stingray, as in the photo for Christmas one year. He wouldn’t let anyone ride it, so we made our own, without the shifter. The bikes we had were bought from Western Auto and we kept them for life as a kid. Just added parts to keep up to date. I also used mine for a paper route. Funny how our bikes gave most of us the starting knowledge to work on our cars. Truly believe that without our bikes many of us would not of carried over to working on cars. I remember as a tot (5-6 years old) my father bought me my first two wheel bike. Two days later I took it all….. apart and spread it out on the rear patio and thought my dad would be proud of me for doing so. Wrong, he was pissed and told me to put it all back together if I was ever to ride it again. Tried to get Mon involved, but she sided with him.LOL Two weeks later I was riding again and been taking things apart and putting them back together ever sense. I do have a part box with items that have been left over through the years.

    3
  37. chrlsful Member

    like the springer/girder frnt end, frnt drum, & rear shocks on this 1. Pops (died the spring @ 94 yr 11 mo) bought me a 3 speed (1964?). Broke a wrist B4 he could give it 2me. Went out’n hada ‘twist grip’ conversion so I could still drive it. I’d put that on this’un, drop the ‘stick shift’.

    Thanks Russell !

  38. Jerry C

    Wow. So many responses. In ’73 my dad bought me a brand new Schwinn 5 speed. I want to say a Sting Ray, but it did not have any shocks in front or back. It was candy apple red with a white banana seat with the word Schwinn on the side of it. I remember my dad paid $102.00 for it. The kids at school thought I was spoiled (they didn’t know what I had to do to earn it), and the second day I took it to school, someone stole the seat! The 5 speed was cool, except whenever I jumped the bike, the chain would come off

    1
  39. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Nov 24, 2019 , 3:34PM
    Winning bid:US $3,138.01[ 27 bids ]

    1
  40. Marc Hansen

    I ride my Pea Picker everyday….weather permitting. but I live in SD do about ten times a year :)…..thanks for sharing. keep the shiny side up

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