Fox racquets?????

Discussion in 'Classic Racquet Talk' started by jimanuel12, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. jimanuel12

    jimanuel12 Semi-Pro

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    Does anyone know anything about Fox racquets??
    I just see some of them for sale sometimes and don't know anything at all about them.
    don't know what they are worth, are they any good?
    do they still make them and if so, who makes them??

    thanks
     
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  2. Steve Huff

    Steve Huff Legend

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    I played with a WB 210 for a while. Great control, low-powered, fairly dense string pattern. Fox made several rackets, but are probably best known for the Warren Bosworth, 10-sided, editions that Martina used for a while.
     
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  3. li0scc0

    li0scc0 Hall of Fame

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    I had a WB 210 Ceramic racquet, and loved it. This was back around 1990, when I stopped playing. When I took up tennis again in 2009, I dug up the ol' WB 210, but, alas, the grommets were trashed.
    The 10-sided frame is truly unique. Thin beam, fantastic sweet spot, stiff but not hard on the arm (at least that is how I remember it). Loved it.
     
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  4. tennis14000

    tennis14000 New User

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    Fox lives on

    I have a Fox 210 Graphite which is what Brad Gilbert used most of his career. Its black with a green stripe (some had an orange stripe) running around the frame and is gromett-less, ie, the strings rest on the frame itself. Its pretty stiff (for the era)and can be tough on the arm; but control is very good, you can thread the needle with it. Power might seem a tad low by today's standards. I also had the white WB-210 with red accents, but I didn't like it that much and sold it. It was a bit middle of the road-ish. These rackets all had the odd looking 10 sided angular head shape which was unique (and patented) to the Fox line. There were some more traditional looking Fox sticks also.

    Warren Bosworth designed these and although the Fox line disappeared some time ago, continues with a custom only racket (you order it to your desired specs and he builds it), the Bosworth Tour 96. It is similar in shape to the old 210 Fox sticks and is used by both Navratilova and Radek Stepanek. Its a cool looking frame. Martina says its the best frame she's ever used, and she doesn't get paid to play it (nor does Radek). You can find more about it at bosworthtennis.com
     
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  5. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    Fox had some really radical designs, most venerable of which were the beforementioned decagonal-headed WB-210's. Prior to that, though, as early as 1983, they explored some super-aerodynamic designs (about two years before Kneissl and several years before anyone else), released extended-length frames, and had some exotic composition layups which included boron. They also had some grommetless composite designs. Look for the ATP Silver Fox, Red Fox, Black Fox, etc. to see what they were making prior to the WB-210. They were interesting and technically-advanced, but lacked some pro endorsements (I recall Peter Burwash was one teaching pro who endorsed their stuff for a while) prior to Gilbert, critical for consumer sales. Seems like much of their stock wound up in discount sporting goods stores, too (such as Big 5, in the USA).
     
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  6. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    the other problem was that fox racquets got mediocre racquet reviews in tennis magazine.
     
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  7. ericsson

    ericsson Hall of Fame

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    I have a very rare ATP Fox Precision Ceramic in my collection, racket has a special extended throat.
     
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  8. Rorsach

    Rorsach Hall of Fame

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    And don't forget Ivan Lendl nowadays:

    [​IMG]

    You can't say that and NOT post a pic. Huphup.
     
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  9. ericsson

    ericsson Hall of Fame

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    You are absolutely correct!

    Here you go buddy:


    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Steve Huff

    Steve Huff Legend

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    I have one of those rackets also. Haven't had a chance to restring and regrip it lately, so haven't hit with it yet. The ones I used to play with did not have the "through-the-throat" stringing.
     
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  11. BobFL

    BobFL Hall of Fame

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    I have this one! Brand new and 12.6oz unstrung :D

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Don T.

    Don T. New User

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    Here are 3 Red Fox that are grommet-less in design...string simply goes thru frame. These 3 are all the same model but one has a satin finish on it. I've never strung one up so I can't speak of how they hit. I also have a Silver Fox that is about an inch longer than these. I'll find a pic of it and post it.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011
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  13. pudelko

    pudelko Rookie

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    Here is my Fox Ceramic Precision WB-210

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Don T.

    Don T. New User

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    Found this pic...notice the size difference between the Red Fox and Silver Fox...the Red Fox is a Composite, 27" in length, no grommets...the Silver Fox is 100% Graphite, 28-1/2" has grommets, larger head. Both made in the USA.

    Interesting note is the smaller Red Fox weighs 12.3 oz....the Silver Fox weighs 11.1 oz.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. Virginia

    Virginia Hall of Fame

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    Mine is slightly different - it says "Bosworth Signature Series" inside the throat and "ATP Graphite WB-215" on the side of the hoop. It's black with two shades of blue accents.

    Would that be a later model?
     
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  16. vwfye

    vwfye Semi-Pro

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    They had to lighten it to get a similar swingweight to a heavier stick...
     
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  17. Don't Let It Bounce

    Don't Let It Bounce Hall of Fame

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    The reports of the current custom Bosworths are so universally glowing that they have made me interested in the older 10-sided Foxes – even though I wasn't especially interested at the time.

    In the early/mid 80's they released the "Peter Burwash Fox" in Canada. IIRC, it was grey, grommetless, slightly bigger than the Prince OS's, and the string went through channels in the frame without ever going outside the frame. It was called something else (ATP Fox, maybe?) outside Canada. I can't think of another example of a frame named after a teaching pro.

    Off-topic: Looking at the Lendl picture, I see he's using a poly. When he first started back playing and was being interviewed before his exo with Wilander, he mentioned that he'd tried them but that they weren't for him. Anyone know which poly changed his mind?
     
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  18. jimanuel12

    jimanuel12 Semi-Pro

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    i have a fox ceramic racquet without grommets - anyone have any idea how old it is? it is a light gray color - 110 head size.
    thanks:)
     
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  19. coachrick

    coachrick Hall of Fame

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    Is that the internally strung ATP model? Little colored dots to 'guide' the stringer unfortunate enough to try to string it? If so, I'd say it's ca 1983 or so.
     
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  20. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    I'd say so too.
     
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  21. jayserinos99

    jayserinos99 Hall of Fame

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    does anyone remember the bronze fox? my dad used to have one a while back and i tried it out a long time ago, felt like a flexy 6.0 85.
     
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  22. coachrick

    coachrick Hall of Fame

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    Don't remember the Bronze but I played with the Grey Fox for a while 'back then'. Have one hanging on the wall now. Just as plain as can be...100% Graphite(so it states), bumperless boxy thing. With my current hair color, I 'should' use the Silver Fox now :) .

    I actually played against Bobby Riggs when he was promoting Fox back in the early '80s. He didn't hit a 'straight' ball the entire set of doubles. He used some oversize Fox model and I was just slapping away with my little mid. Good times! Thirty years later and my 'wheels' are as bad as his were then ;) . It's heck gettin' old!

    BTW, when I was stringing for the Atlanta Thunder of World Team Tennis in summer '91. Fox was a sponsor and quite a few of the players used Fox rackets(including Billie Jean King, league 'boss' and part owner of the whole shebang).
     
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  23. jimanuel12

    jimanuel12 Semi-Pro

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    yes it is the ATP model. just had it restrung, have not hit with it as of yet, the weather here sucks - too darn hot to get on the court.:)
    thanks for the input.
     
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  24. schu47

    schu47 Rookie

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    I've got a few of the eight-sided racquets, too -- a couple of the Ceramic Pro WB-210s, the white Bosworth model with the red dashes; a Graphite Pro 210, the black one with the green stripes; and a Target 210, basically a wide-body version.

    There is also a Ceramic Precision WB-215 from that same era, with a head shaped more like a Yonex and some of the mains running down into the throat of the racquet, a very interesting design; and three of those earlier 80s graphites -- a Red Fox, Bronze Fox and Silver Fox. The Red Fox is a typical graphite midsize, nice, heavy, solid like the others of the era; the Bronze Fox was similar but had a boron/graphite composition; and the Silver Fox was graphite but had a larger head, probably 90-95 sq. in. There are a couple of other models, I'm sure.

    I have always thought the Foxes were nice, solid racquets that matched up well with others of their era. The indicator of Bosworth's involvement seems to be the WB designation -- at least that's what I would assume. Seems like he came into the picture with Fox racquets after they developed the octagonal design. Does that seem right?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  25. coachrick

    coachrick Hall of Fame

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    OK, I've told the story before; but here goes one more time...
    When we would start a new series of group lessons, I usually made some notation next to the names of the new students...to aid in remembering them from one week to the next(Hey, I'm no Dennis Van der Meer ;) ). Usually the notation was so cryptic that only I would know what it meant...except when I wrote "FOX" next to one young lady's name. My then girlfriend thought that was a rather tacky way of describing the female student--until I explained that the name of her racket was, indeed, "FOX" :) .
     
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  26. blackfrido

    blackfrido Hall of Fame

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    love your collection! I had two of the Fox Ceramic Precision WB-210, played with them for a while then sold at the big auction....They play unbelievable, very solid frames.
     
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  27. classic tennis

    classic tennis Semi-Pro

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    I think they are still available new from the owner at foxtennis dot com I tried posting this before but the listing was deleted.
     
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  28. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    Of the many tennis racquet startups that sprang up during the technology revolution of the ‘70s and ‘80s, precious few have managed to survive to this day. In some ways, the rise and fall of these racquet technology gold-rushers followed the same predictable arc that computer equipment makers are still going through today (e.g., Kunnan Industry played the same consolidator role vis-à-vis the tennis equipment makers that Foxconn has been playing in the digital device sector). I’ve always been interested in finding out why some of these ventures made it while others didn’t.

    On the face of it, Fox seems to be one of the only “boutique” brands from that era that had succeeded in beating the odds, but it was never completely clear to me where they came from and how they got to where they are now. So I wrote to them and asked.

    A very kind gentleman who has been working at Fox since ’97 actually went out of his way to entertain my frivolous questions, but even he was having some great difficulties filling the chronological blanks that predate the current ownership. So I went a-googling.

    This is what I have been able to piece together so far using published business filings and news articles:

    - At some point in or just before 1980, Fox Tennis Racquets Co. Inc, operating from an office address in Manhattan Beach, California, was founded by a man named Vernon Beck. However, no corporation by that name can be found in the state business registry.

    - On April 21, 1980, a corporation was registered in California under the name Racquetech Co. Inc., through the prestigious LA law firm of Tuttle & : Taylor (as an aside: Edward Tuttle took part in the Manhattan project as an engineering supervisor). Some early Fox racquets were undersigned “by Racquetech”, but this may be a holding company rather than the manufacturer, just like ProGroup, which owned the Tony Trabert brand during that same period. Trade mark filings for the stylized fox head logo and “Silver Fox” were submitted in August of that same year.

    - Meanwhile, the chairman of Thrifty Corporation (one of the predecessors of Sempra Energy, which owned energy service providers, discount drug stores and Big 5 Sporting Goods), a tennis aficionado by the name of Leonard Straus, managed to convince the Thrifty board to acquire Fox/Racquetech as an investment. Vernon Beck then recruited Robert Miller, a former tennis pro, to head this new Thrifty subsidiary, based in San Diego, California. F(ox)T(hrifty)M(iller) Sports Corporation was registered as a Californian company on May 16, 1983.

    - An application to make “Fox” itself a trademark was filed with USPTO on March 2, 1984

    - On June 8, 1987, FTM Sports was re-registered in Miami, Florida. The corporate relocation may have had something to do with Warren Bosworth, who was based in nearby Boca Raton, and was credited with the creation of a series of Fox racquets that bore his “WB” initials in their designation. He may or may not have played as active a role in designing the later (post WB series) frames that also carried his signature.

    - From 1986 through 1991, FTM Sports operated with virtually no oversight from Thrifty, which was itself acquired by Pacific Lighting Corporation in 1986 and had a lot of core business related issues to sort out. FTM employed some 30 people at its peak and marketed Fox racquets, Cactus golf clubs and Bard sportswear. Evidently some funky book-keeping took place during those five unsupervised years. When Thrifty (now part of Pacific Enterprises) finally conducted a comprehensive audit of its holdings, it realized that tens of millions had been lost by FTM through creative accounting using shell companies. Legal actions were brought against Miller and others after they were relieved of their post. While the principals involved maintained their innocence, court records indicate that their convictions were later upheld on appeal.

    - In the years that followed, Thrifty took direct control of FTM, downsized it, and sold it to ProSports USA Corp of Salt Lake City, Utah, incorporated in 1992, which has continuously owned and marketed the Fox brand since then.

    - Warren Bosworth remained on FTM’s board until 2000, the last year FTM filed an annual report with the state of Florida. FTM Sports officially ceased to operate as an active business on November 19, 2002, when Thrifty (now part of Sempra Energy) withdrew its application for reinstatement, filed a day earlier. Meanwhile, paperwork for the formation of Bosworth Tennis Inc. and LLC were filed with the state of Florida in 2000, right around the time FTM was shutting down; yet according to Jay Bosworth, he had joined “Bosworth Tennis” in 1982, a year before Racquetech became FTM! I am guessing that Bosworth always operated as an independent contractor during his long association with Fox, and only decided to incorporate in 2000 in order to market his own custom racquets, as his relationship with Fox came to an end with the demise of FTM.

    It remains unclear to me whether Fox had operated its own manufacturing plant in California in the early days, or if it had contracted the work to a third party graphite equipment specialist in the LA area, such as American Sports Equipment, or maybe even the people who made the MatchMate frames. I am also unable to determine at what point Bosworth became involved in designing the frames for Fox. My suspicion is that the event coincided with the addition of “ATP” to the Fox nomenclature, given Bosworth’s ties with the organization. If true, then pre-Bosworth frames should be sans “ATP” prefix. I recently picked up a Blue Fox that – might – fit the bill:

    [​IMG]


    Unlike the Red and Silver Foxes that I’ve seen, the Blue Fox frame and cover are completely free of any mention of ATP. This 28.7" frame has an unusually narrow and elongated hoop, with a surprisingly minuscule sweet spot located very low on the face. I think part of the reason for this is that the grommet-less design on this frame (which is also present on a subset of Red and Silver Foxes) contains a built-in structural flaw – in that the strength of the bridge between adjacent holes does not appear to be quite uniform; there is evidence of a strong side, where something hard and perhaps cylindrical was molded into the graphite matrix, and a weak side that has no internal reinforcement. Over time, the string would cut through the weak side, so that the only thing holding it up is the narrow reinforcement piece on the strong side (green arrows). When multiple holes are similarly affected, the result is a rather Daliesque string pattern (which I initially mistook for a sign that Fox had infringed on that Lacoste patent for the zig-zag string layout). This problem seems to be present on the grommet-less Red Fox in schu47’s collection as well, though it’s clearly been addressed on the later grommet-less frames of the WB series.

    Anyhow, below are six of my seven Foxes so far, encapsulating three decades of evolution, innovation, and struggle for survival, arranged in a chronological order that seems to make the most sense to me. One thing is clear: The kitchen appliance inspired paint scheme on the Resistance is a low point in the history of Fox innovation. Maybe it was released during that period of great turmoil, when collapse of FTM seemed imminent? What other excuse could they proffer for tarnishing their erstwhile impeccable brand image with such hideosity? The last racquet on the right – an inexpensive ‘Falcon’ from ProSports – was born well after the FTM era. It may not have the same pedigree as the earlier frames wearing the Fox label, but it’s at least helping to keep the brand alive, along with a number of higher performance stablemates. That should count for something…

    [​IMG]




    If anyone has more to add to help flesh out the convoluted history of Fox, or corrections to make, please chime in!


    * A few additional details *

    Warren Bosworth is the author of four patents. Two were utility patents related to stringing machines, two were design patents pertaining to his racquets.

    His first patent (4366956), submitted in 1980 and granted in 1983, was a series of improvements on the Serrano machine, and was assigned to Tennis Machine, Inc., where one can still find certain parts for those old Serranos today. The second was an improved clamping mechanism he designed for Ektelon (4546977), filed in 1984 and granted in 1985.

    On January 3, 1986, he filed his third and fourth patents, both were of the "Design" type that covered only product appearance. One was for his angular WB-210 (D299042, granted in December 1988 ), the other for the WB-215 (D299672, granted in January 1989). Of significance is the fact that both patents were assigned to FTM and had 14 year terms; which meant that they expired in 2000 (assuming that the term began on the day of submission), the same year Bosworth Tennis was incorporated.

    This may be nothing more than a coincidence, but I'd like to think that Bosworth spent most of that decade waiting for the 14 year term to expire, so that he would be free to market his own custom frames based on the 210 design, and permanently leave the unpleasant memories of FTM behind. Given that FTM had nothing else in their IP portfolio other than these two Bosworth designs, once Warren chose to leave, there was no longer any value in keeping the entity alive, hence the final shutdown shortly thereafter.

    That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. :)

    ---
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2013
    #28
  29. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    I don’t have much to add to Sanglier’s (typically) definitively informative post above, apart from the observation that in the Big 5 Sporting Goods chain stores local to my home in Northern California in the years circa 1983-1986, the tennis racks there were overwhelmed with the various Fox models, almost like a “house brand.” Now, we come to find out that indeed, it was a sister holding under the umbrella of the parent company. Makes perfect sense, now!

    Also, understanding the “ATP” designation prompts the explanation that prior to 1990 or so, the Association of Tennis Professionals was strictly a player’s labor union operating within the men’s tour, not the Tour administration/promotion itself (as it is today). So seeing ATP branding or co-branding on tennis gear would be akin to seeing a Chevrolet Camaro UAW Edition at the local Chevy dealer; though now that I think of it, I do recall Adidas had an ATP line of clothes and shoes available from 1984-1989 or so, slotted below their Lendl and Edberg lines in their branding hierarchy – Edberg started out wearing the ATP clothes before his signature line was launched, and Tim Mayotte and many other second echelon male pros wore the shirts and shoes as well.
     
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  30. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    The Fox Target 210 Bosworth tennis racket was customized for several of his ATP clients and really played great. TW had a limited supply from Warren that they sold off. Its also a nice looker. If you can find one, I highly suggest adding to you stash
     
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  31. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    #31
  32. MAXXply

    MAXXply Hall of Fame

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    I used to covet the ATP apparel line as much as the signature Lendl /Edberg stuff. I attributed it to the ATP logo ("Jerry West/serve man" version - best ATP logo ever) that featured on some of the early gear. It still gets a few comments at the club :) Denton, Curren, Mayotte and Nastase featured together in an adidas ATP line print campaign too.
     
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  33. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    Thanks, Joe and Retro! I don't know why I am interested in this kind of useless information, but I just am; and sharing it with people who may also be curious about such things makes it feel a little less useless :)

    The backdrop of the group photo is my bed. I had the camera pressed up against the ceiling and the lens set to its widest angle. The photo has no horizontal cropping, so there was absolutely no room in it for a seventh racquet unless I turned some of the frames upside down. I had decided to keep them all upright to better show the relative proportions. I may try the collage route at some point to fit the Target 210 in, but that's going to require a tripod and more photoshopping...

    Incidentally, Retro, I know many life-long Californians have fond memories of those old Thrifty Drug stores (now Rite-Aid). If seeing these Fox racquets at Big-5 was strange, imagine how crazy it would have looked if they had shown up in the miscellaneous aisle at your neighborhood Thrifty! When Pacific Enterprises unloaded Thrifty's sporting goods holdings during their major restructuring effort, they also consolidated the drug store operations, which were underperforming and draining profits from their energy sector earnings. Evidently there was a lot belt-tightening in the early '90s; thousands of people were let go after Thrifty Drug merged with Oregon-based Payless, and the LA corporate office was shut down at around the same time FTM was being sold to ProSports. At least the F(ox) in FTM lives on today, unlike T(hrifty). M(iller) is also still around. He is based in Florida, and lists his occupation as a sporting goods consultant. He and Jay Bosworth would know the answers to all of my questions, but neither is likely to want to be bothered over such triviality. A rough picture is good enough for me however.
     
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  34. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    This sort of thing fascinates me, too.

    And yes, I grew up in the middle of California, in a city which had three or four Thrifty stores. Most memorable detail was the ice cream counter; one could get a triple-scoop ice cream cone (the scoops in neat, cylindrical shape as all Thriftys seem to have been equipped with the same proprietery ice cream scoop), for an insanely low price ($0.35 seems stuck in my 40-something mind, though this seems too cheap).

    Thrifty stores also had a much better fishing supply aisle than comparable stores of their ilk.
     
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  35. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    That's because you didn't realize that it was indirectly subsidized by your utility invoice, supplemented by FTM's 'imaginormous' profit! :)

    I am rather bummed that I moved here after their re-org, and never had the opportunity to find out for myself what kind of voodoo ingredient they were putting in that legendary ice cream that everyone is so nostalgic about today.
     
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  36. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    A-ha! So Thirfty ice cream was subsidized by Fox tennis in the 1980's? Or could it have been vice-versa?

    The Rite-Aid store in my community has a Thrifty Ice Cream counter, replete with the cylindrical scoop and my favorite orange sherbet in a big bucket. You should take a look in your local branch of Rite-Aid, to go to that voo-doo that they do so well. :)
     
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  37. rodracquet

    rodracquet Rookie

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    I liked the FOX WB 210 for the angles in the frame.

    [​IMG]
     
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  38. rodracquet

    rodracquet Rookie

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    Then I found an Australian Brand EMRIK model called ACE DRIVE with 12 angles

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2013
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  39. rodracquet

    rodracquet Rookie

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    Then another "sided" racquet is the Dunlop or in this case Topway

    [​IMG]
     
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  40. rodracquet

    rodracquet Rookie

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    And finally the Major Octadiagonal.....can't think of any more!!!

    [​IMG]
     
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  41. Hannah19

    Hannah19 Professional

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    Forgot the McGregor Bergelin.....:)
     
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  42. Triskadekaphilia

    Triskadekaphilia Semi-Pro

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    [​IMG]

    ATP Boron Comp WB-215

    Does anyone else have experience with this frame?

    Probably similar to the other frames listed above that have extended mains?

    It is a fun racquet to play with. It has a large sweetspot but has good feel and precision. Plus its eyecatching.
     
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  43. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    very nice! it even has more string in throat for my mishits!
     
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  44. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    I have just acquired an early "Silver Fox" - one of the very first racquets sold under the "Fox" brand. It has a boxier and less curvaceous profile than the one seen on the "Silver Fox" shown on the previous page, which I presume is a later variant.

    What struck me immediately upon having the racquet in my hand was how much it resembled the Dunlop Black Max Plus and early Match Mate frames. Indeed, the head is essentially identical on all three, as is the build quality, and paint finish, and butt cap, etc. The "Silver Fox" has a more 'conventional' bridge shape, but it uses the same (hand trimmed?) grommet strips as the Black Max Plus. Since the Black Max Plus bridge is concave, while the Silver Fox bridge is convex, the grommet strips sit flush on the former and flare out on the latter (incidentally, there is a rather pricey "Silver Fox" on the bay right now that uses grommet strips with rectangular protective 'ears' on the central mains. Identical grommet strips can be seen on the earliest Match Mates, as shown here: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=7169011#post7169011)

    [​IMG]


    Given that both Fox and Match Mate operated from LA in 1980, it is not at all surprising that they may have relied on the same contractor to make their first frames. However, while Fox quickly moved away from this particular design (after Warren Bosworth came onboard?) and may have switched production to a different factory, Match Mate kept the design virtually unchanged for the duration of their involvement in the racquet-making business, with only very minor improvements along the way.

    Below is what I think the family tree may have looked like in 1980, when the Silver Fox and Black Max Plus were born. I believe they were both based on the Tony Trabert Big Bubba, made by the same factory where the Big Bubba was produced:

    [​IMG]


    Both derivatives were modestly strengthened compared to the original (the Silver Fox went a little further than the Black Max Plus), and the grommet-less design of the BB gave way to grommet strips. According to Kuebler, there was also a plain "Bubba" in the Tony Trabert product line, which was presumably a shortened version of the Big Bubba. Depending on when this model was released, it may have been the direct ancestor, or a clone, of the Black Max Plus/Match Mate.

    As I see it, there are three possibilities: 1) Fox made the Dunlop Black Max Plus and subsequent Match Mate racquets on a contractual basis; 2) Match Mate contracted for Fox (oddly, the Match Mate trademark was not registered until 1985, even though it had been in use for a decade already); 3) an independent third party made the Tony Trabert frames, the Silver Fox, the Black Max Plus, and subsequent Match Mates.

    I think the last scenario is the most plausible out of the three, but so far I have been unable to identify who that contractor was. I had hoped to discover some evidence that would lead me to David Fernandez and American Sports Equipment, located in Camarillo, less than 1.5 hr drive from both Northridge (Match Mate) and Manhattan Beach (Fox), but no such luck. The frames that Fernandez was making at the time just look so much more refined and better finished!

    Someone out there must know exactly what was going on in SoCal during that interesting period ...

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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2013
    #44
  45. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    As usual, outstanding analysis and supporting metrics/presentation for this Fox and Match Mate history clip !

    I actually lived in those North LA areas (valley and south bay) during that period but was not that tuned into racket development, as I was happy playing the Prince and Dunlop models.

    Maybe VS or Gavna have some more info or knew David Fernandez or other American Sports Equipment info ?
     
    #45
  46. PBODY99

    PBODY99 Hall of Fame

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    Bosworth and Bard

    Lombards a Fla based mail order store had a line of BARD frames that Warren designed during the 1980's. A director shaped King, a mid Fire, each came in a Boron model and a Jade graphite model. Beautiful paint jobs, sweet playing frames.
    Guess these were something to do until the patten ran out.
     
    #46
  47. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    Missing link?

    For the handful here who are curious about the development of 100% graphite racquets in the US in the mid to late 70's, I have some fresh tidbit to share that might be of interest to you, specifically with regard to Fox.

    As I described in the earlier post, the resemblance between the Tony Trabert Big Bubba and the Silver Fox/Match Mate seemed just too strong to be purely coincidental. However, I was not able to find any obvious link between the ProGroup (the Tennessee-based golf equipment company that marketed "Tony Trabert" racquets) and Fox.

    Then I (finally) obtained a copy of the 2000 English edition Kuebler, which contains a lot more information on Fox than in the 1995 German edition, and could have kept me from embarking on quite a few wild goose chases in my search for answers on this topic.

    I imagine that as Kuebler assembled and edited the materials for his book over the course of many years, he may not have been fully aware of some of the clues embedded in his final product, which could have addressed some of his "note-to-self" type questions. For instance, if he had cross-checked the address of the "BBC Tennis Racket Co." (page 87) and that of the "Graphite Sales Company", the producer of Fox racquets (page 168 ), he would have noticed that they are one and the same!

    There are a few contributors here who have BBC racquets in their collection, namely the weird giant-headed "Titan" shown in one of the 'odd racquet' threads, but no one seemed to remember where this company came from and where it went.

    From what I have been able to gather so far, BBC appears to be the original brand name marketed by the Graphite Sales Company, which, according to Kuebler (quoting Bill Hodges), was founded by "K. (Vernon) Beck and J. Frerking". California state records show that this company was incorporated in 1975, the same year that the first generation graphites were unveiled by Aldila, Tony Trabert, and Dura-fiber. I have seen no evidence that suggests Graphite Sales Co/BBC was involved in making any of the first generation racquets, but it was not very far behind the leaders.

    The only magazine ad for BBC I found during my recent library visit appeared in the May 1978 issue of "World Tennis". It was for the "Graphite 1000", touted as the first all graphite racquet in the world with an "enlarged head". If true, this would make the "Graphite 1000" the very first 'modern' frame!

    [​IMG]


    The larger head size would have undoubtedly attracted the attention of the legal eagles at Prince, unless BBC was already on an installment plan with the latter. Whatever may be the circumstances, the next few BBC frames seemed to be expressly designed to circumvent the Howard Head patent: The aforementioned "Goliath" clearly exceeded the 135 square inch limit covered by the patent, while the "Big Ace" followed a more sensible approach by keeping the head size fairly close to that of the "Graphite 1000", while lengthening the frame to just 0.3" beyond the 28" limit specified in the Prince patent:

    [​IMG]


    Incidentally, the "Big Ace" shown in Kuebler is dressed in a paint scheme very similar to that of the "Graphite 1000", so my example above must have been a later version.

    As can be seen in the animation below, the resemblance between the "Big Ace" and Tony Trabert "Big Bubba" is extremely close. Both are grommetless, with an identical string pattern, and the same high-gloss finish. However, the TT BB is one inch longer, a fraction of an inch thinner, and 10 g lighter.

    [​IMG]


    The "Big Bubba" is so different in every conceivable respect from the "C-6", "Middy", etc. that there is zero doubt in my mind that it was manufactured by Graphite Sales Co/BBC under contract; which also contributes to my growing suspicion that the "C-6", "Middy", etc. were OEM'd as well, possibly by Fansteel, since some of those frames were adorned with Fansteel patent numbers.

    For one reason or another (perhaps due to litigation pressure from Prince?), Graphite Sales Co/BBC ceased to be in 1980, and Racquetech/Fox rose from its ashes at the very same location. There is a clear continuity between the BBC frames and the earliest Fox racquets however, as evidenced by the animation below. The "Silver Fox" is essentially a reworked "Big Ace", with a different bridge, an improved beam geometry and weight distribution, and a transplanted, grommeted string pattern from the "Graphite 1000". Even the aluminum "Bobby Riggs Hustler" carried forward many of the same dimensional characteristics (the better to keep the Prince lawyers away?):

    [​IMG]


    (continued below due to number of image limitations)

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    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
    #47
  48. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    (continued from the previous post)

    Then there is the Dunlop "Black Max Plus"/ Match-Mate angle. The former was (I was told by a pro who played with this frame) only a stop gap measure before the latter became commercially available. The "Black Max Plus" and the first version of "Match Mate Graphite" are 100% identical. There are in fact other clones of this frame floating around under different guises, at least one of which showed up on the bay several months ago wearing the "Aussie" brand (an inheritor of the Chemold "Rod Laver" privilege?). This frame is an even closer derivative of the "Big Ace", and was likely made by Racquetech under contract, at least initially. It too, wears the "Graphite 1000" string pattern:

    [​IMG]


    Match-Mate was trademarked by "The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tennis Practice System Corporation", a ball machine maker incorporated in 1977 in Northridge. As it so happens, their business location is a mere 8 miles away from the Chatsworth address that Graphite Sales Co/BBC/Racquetech/Fox operated out of. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that when Match-Mate executives wanted to get into the racquet-making business, they simply took a 20 minute drive to see the nearest manufacturer, and licensed the best frame they saw. Alternatively, perhaps someone who once worked at the Graphite Sales Co/BBC joined "The Great A.P.T.P.S. Corporation" and brought his racquet making knowledge and practice with him? If he had been living nearby he wouldn't even had to move. :)

    My understanding at this point is that Match-Mate carried on making incrementally improved versions of this frame for some years even after Fox/FTM quit making anything themselves and moved to Florida in '87, so this design (in its many iterations) had achieved quite an impressive lifespan, especially considering the fact that it had begun its journey as a boutique product, and remained as one till the bitter end. It may or may not have been the first modern graphite racquet in the world, but it almost certainly was the last production racquet to have been made in Los Angeles (if not the US). :(

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    Last edited: Dec 11, 2013
    #48
  49. High street sw19

    High street sw19 Rookie

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    Apart from Gilbert and Sandy Collins?...did any other Pro play Fox?
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
    #49
  50. MAXXply

    MAXXply Hall of Fame

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    Hank Pfister and Steve Denton appeared alongside Bosworth and Gilbert in mid-80s WORLD TENNIS magazine ads for FOX. Not sure if they actually used them in tournament play though.
     
    #50

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