From time to time you'll see a Coast King bicycle come up for sale on auction sites like eBay but they are definitely not one of the better known American bikes from the 50's and 60's. Even on sites devoted to vintage balloon tire bikes, there is very little information about these bikes. Coast King was one of several bike lines produced by Ross Bicycles of Allentown Pennsylvania.
From War Production to Bicycles
Ross Galvanizing Works was started by Albert Ross in Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY in 1940. The company originally made galvanized parts for fencing but switched to galvanizing ship hulls during the Second World War. In 1946, the company was incorporated as the Chain Bike Corp. and started to build lawn mowers, wheelchairs, and in the 1950's, Ross labelled bicycles. The company built a reputation for making good quality bicycles and soon rivalled Schwinn, and was building more than a million bicycles a year in the late 1960's. Until they filed for bankruptcy protection in 1988, Ross came up with many innovative designs including muscle bikes like the Barracuda in the late 60's, and one of the first production mountain bikes, "Air Force One" in 1982. They were the first bike company to sponsor a factory mountain bike racing team.
Coast to Coast Hardware Stores
Ross Bicycles made bikes that were rebranded and sold by other companies. One of these companies was Coast to Coast Hardware which was established in 1928. Their stores were a common sight throughout the US until Coast to Coast became part of the True Value Hardware stores chain in 1996. Coast to Coast stores sold their own line of Coast King bikes which were made for them by Ross Bicycles.
The Coast King Starliner
One of Coast to Coast's more popular models was the Coast King Starliner. This bike featured typical 1950's cruiser bike styling including a spaceship ornament on the front fender and twin bullet headlights powered by a battery tucked away in the gas tank.
The Starliner is a very nice bike and since it's not well known even among balloon bike aficionados, it's not as collectible so they can be bought for next to nothing.
If you're looking for a balloon tire bike with classic 50's styling, you might want to try to track down a Coast King bicycle. It might take you awhile though, because they just aren't that common.
Western Flyers on YouTube
You can find some interesting videos where people are sharing their experience with the Western Flyer Bikes. Take a look: