Unknown Fila racquet

Discussion in 'Classic Racquet Talk' started by ritton07, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. ritton07

    ritton07 Rookie

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    Hi everybody,
    I knew that Fila was known for various wooden frames, in the 80s, but some time ago a friend of mine gave me this new Fila frame made of graphite, called Champion X-L; did anybody know about this model?
    (I had never seen it, on the net, before)
    He also told me it was used by the argentinian Horacio de la Pena, in the late 80s, I think
    (I didn't know about this player as well...)
    On the side of the frame, you can read "made by American Sports Equipment",
    I wonder if it was made in the US...(?)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. 6-2/6-4/6-0

    6-2/6-4/6-0 Semi-Pro

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    At a glance it looks very much like a Head Prestige frame. Possibly a rebadged or subcontracted frame from Head? No reason for me to think this other than a quick glance. Nice, unique find though...
     
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  3. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    It predates the Prestige by quite some margin I think. I'm not 100% sure if it's the same frame, but if it is, the release date was somewhere around 1982/1983.
     
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  4. zapvor

    zapvor Legend

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    that is amazing. thanks for sharing. you gonna string it up and see how it hits?
     
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  5. coachrick

    coachrick Hall of Fame

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    American Sports Equipment---Looks like something from the Tony Trabert C-6 family(Pro Group?), likely early '80s...grommetless and stripless, if I'm seeing it clearly.
     
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  6. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    Massimo,
    I don't know much about this frame, but it looks similar to other Fila composites from the mid-1980's. I don't think any of them were made in Italia - I had a midsize model with graphics somewhat similar to yours that was most obviously made in Belgium by Snauwaert:
    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=4275635

    -David
     
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  7. ritton07

    ritton07 Rookie

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    ...I'd love to, but I collect these frames, so, I am almost sure I will leave it in this condition....;-)

    ..thanks for all your feedbacks, I presume this model is not (was not?) that common... (or that successful)
     
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  8. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    Lots of interesting posts here today! Here is my contribution.

    For many weeks, no one wanted to touch these ex-beauty queens as they languished on fleabay, so I took them in and gave them a new home:

    [​IMG]

    With the exception of the Belgian-made "System", all of these frames are clearly marked as "Made in the USA". After some digging, I found this LA Times article dated November 1985, which tells us pretty much all we need to know about these racquets and their maker:

    http://articles.latimes.com/1985-11-05/business/fi-4536_1_rackets

    Briefly - It turns out that these Fila racquets were indeed 100% American made, right here in California, by a tiny company that employed only a dozen people in the US and twice that many in Mexico! They went on sale at the beginning of 1986, and probably only for a few short years, as David Fernandez, the man behind American Sports Equipment/Dasia/Atrigon (etc.) seemed to have shifted his focus exclusively to golf after the mid '80s.

    A few details jumped out at me. For instance, the article claimed that American Sports Equipment grossed 5-10 M per year, and sold a total of 150,000 OEM racquets over an 8 year span. Even if we took the low end of the yearly gross figure - 5 M, and spread that out over a generous 20,000 frames per year (Kunnan could have churned out more than that in a single day), that still comes out to $250 per frame (500 - 600 in today's dollars), and that's the cost to the vendors! I wonder what kind of retail markup was put on these frames when they actually showed up on a store rack, or if they were employed as "loss leaders" to draw in apparel buyers...

    In another LA Times article from '95, Fernandez claimed that his company was the one that made the very first Prince graphite racquets. This is news to me, as I had assumed that Kunnan Lo was given that honor through his extensive OEM ties with Prince, along with innovative (and cost effective)graphite manufacturing technology that his engineers had developed in-house in the late '70s.

    Fernandez was neither a tennis player nor a golfer, but he was a true techie. He is listed as the sole inventor on a composite jacket patent, and co-inventor, along with his daughter (? just like Lacoste?), on an elastic core patent, both of which are incorporated into the making of these Fila frames.

    [​IMG]

    Dasia was also a defense sub-contractor, making high end composite parts for aerospace applications using their proprietary technology, so the "Astro" in Astroceramic (space shuttle series) was not just marketing hyperbole. Indeed, Fernandez created a number of corporations with "Astro" in their names, at least one of which was a venture fund that financed his sports equipment projects. According to the '95 LA Times article, Fernandez's pivot towards high end golf equipment manufacture was in part driven by declining defense spending at the time (there is your post Cold War peace dividend!).

    Sadly, it doesn't look like Fernandez was ultimately successful in realizing his ambitions (the mess they got into with Nick Price over product endorsement may have been the last straw: http://www.golftoday.co.uk/news/yeartodate/news98/price.htm). Nevertheless, it was a valiant effort.

    Given the type of clientele Fila racquets were designed to serve, I would think that a large percentage of these frames should have survived to this day in more or less unmolested condition, waiting to be rediscovered. However, perhaps they are not as attractive to collectors as they might otherwise have been because Fernandez et al were too content to market these sticks exclusively to the 1% back then! Anyway, I personally find them quite interesting, if for no other reason than the fact that they represent one of the last real efforts to manufacture racquets in the US - ironically as OEM for a foreign brand!

    Incidentally, the only thing carrying a "Made in Italy" label in the family photo above is the velvety case for the Champion X-L.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2013
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  9. jimbo333

    jimbo333 Hall of Fame

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    ^^^^^Brilliant info and photos again, really interesting research. And as one of the originals here, I must say that it is great to see so much interest in "Classic Racquet Talk" at the moment!
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2013
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  10. Sanglier

    Sanglier Rookie

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    Thanks for the encouragement, Jimbo. As long as I have closet space left, I will continue to indulge in this guilty pleasure. I just hope I will never need to rent a storage unit :)

    All five of these Fila racquets came to me unstrung, two of which are NOS; I intend to leave them that way. The balance and swing weight data appended to the figure above were collected by taping two 9 g steel bolts to the frame at 3 and 9 o'clock to emulate strung weight distribution, and affixing a temporary cross string near the top of the hoop for the pendulum test.

    In order to verify that the data generated by my emulation setup were valid, I strung up the "Victory" for a follow-up test (I was also curious to see how well the graphite jacketed aluminum frame would perform, as this is one of the patented features of the Fila racquets). Mid-way through stringing the crosses, a mark of Zorro suddenly appeared in front of my eyes!

    [​IMG]


    About half a dozen holes on the two sides of my "Victory" frame didn't line up with their counterpart, the most severe of which is off by as much as half a centimeter!! I have never seen anything like this on even the cheapest of racquets, from any era, regardless of country of origin.

    Either a disgruntled employee was trying to send a political message to the management (or perhaps to the eventual end user?), or this is an indication that these frames really were made by hand one at a time, using primitive measuring tools. How this particular unit managed to make it past QC will probably remain a mystery (it shows signs of having been strung up and played, so it is unlikely to be a factory reject). I checked the other three frames made by American Sports Equipment to see if this was by chance a common characteristic among them, but didn't notice anything nearly so unusual.

    The balance and swing weight of the strung frame came out very close to what I had obtained through the emulation, so the latter worked out about as well as I could have hoped. However, the playability of this racquet did not measure up to its (crooked) good looks. Even strung at a relatively modest 50 lbs, the vibrations felt on slightly off-center shots were severe and distracting. Control was also mediocre. If this racquet was meant to be strung at a higher tension, I imagine the vibration issue would only be exacerbated (Thanks to Joe Sch's reading list, I acquired a copy of "The Physics and Technology of Tennis", and am slowly absorbing the content and learning to distinguish facts from fiction on this type of subjects).

    It may be sacrilegious in these parts to say what I am about to say, given the mythical aura of quality that we are inclined to bestow on the frames produced during the era that witnessed the birth of these Filas, but in reality, I think the ratio between the good, the bad, and the ugly was no different then than it is now. For every PS 85 or Prestige that was done right, there was probably one or more of these Victories that many of us either have never heard of or had willfully purged from our memory; and we certainly didn't require any help from some indentured Third World laborers to make them for us - we were perfectly willing and able to produce lemons on our own! When you really think about it, this shouldn't even come as a surprise - Just try picturing the kind of exceptional automobiles we were building back then (e.g., 1980 Chevy Citation, which I remember so not fondly to this day)... Why should tennis racquets be immune to our erstwhile war on quality?

    Still, when one is infatuated with someone or something, it's not that difficult to overlook the flaws. I probably won't take "Zorro" out for a spin again anytime soon, but it will live safely in retirement with me so long as I have room to spare. "Zorro" and its brethren may have struck out during their one and only at bat a quarter century ago, but they took some mighty big cuts and struck out swinging. That counts for something in my book...
     
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  11. jimbo333

    jimbo333 Hall of Fame

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    ^^^Has to be poor quality control surely. Strange though that only 2 holes are not in the correct place, you'd have thought all of them would be a bit out, rather than just 2, but I suppose it depends how these were manufactured. Anyway well spotted, very unusual, havn't seen that before, but then I havn't looked for it!
     
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  12. Boristennis

    Boristennis New User

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    Fila Graphite

    Only just seen this post (was actually looking for a release date of the Fila woods) however Mark Edmomson played with this frame abt 1983
     
    #12

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