[This was posted on L&P on Aug 14, 2007, and before then on Zoss on Nov 21, 2000.]
Misinformation abounds on the Internet, and surmises and guesses about the Canadian Parker “Arrow” keep cropping up every few years, so I am going to archive this here. Over on the Zoss List in November 2000, Saul Davis dared to call this pen a Frankenpen, and Nathan Tardif jumped in to defend it as a production model. It just so happened that I had taken one apart a few weeks earlier, and I chimed in as well on the pen’s production-model status. I can’t give you the URL for the thread on Zoss because there is no archive for the pre-2005 messages, but below is a revised text of my post about the pen.
On Nov 21, 2000, I wrote on Zoss, “Sorry Saul, but everything that Nathan writes is true. You are right when you say that it was not a type of Parker 51 pen, but wrong when you say that it was not a Parker production pen in its own right, at least not up here in the Canadian Parker factory. The pen was based upon the Parker 51 Special, and also the Parker 21, and it had its own name, the Parker “Arrow”. It had a Vac nib with a Parker-21-type feed and aerometric unit set in a 21-type shroud, or hood. The hood is cut back to make a section that allows the open nib and feed to protrude from the end, and the section is always black, no matter what the color of the barrel. What probably happened was that Parker had an over-supply of Vac nibs in the 1950s, and they had the factory up in Canada use them up in this cost-effective way, using up old 51, 21, late-Duofold, and Vac parts. I personally know of the existence of over 10 of these pens, including 3 pens that Max Stiedman owns. I used to own one with a hunter green barrel and Parker 51 Heirloom-style Cap, and I currently own one with a blue barrel and a brushed-steel cap, and a much scarcer red-barreled one with a Heirloom-style cap. Here are the above two pens capped.
“The “Arrow” was a very strange amalgam of pens and styles. As well as the Vac nib and strange section and feed, the barrel is exactly the same as a Parker 21 barrel in length, diameter, and thread pitch. The aerometric-filling unit is that of a Parker 21, but it is embossed with the name “Arrow” over top an embossed icon of an arrow. The cap is the length of a Parker 51 Special cap, which is just a little shorter than the normal 51 cap, and it has the black jewel of the Special, but the diameter is that of a normal-sized 51 cap. That means that you can exchange the “Arrow” cap with a normal 51 cap, but not with a 51 Special cap, because the metal bushing, or ring on the barrel that the cap slides on is the size of a normal 51 bushing. I have seen various clips on the various caps, including Vacumatic 51 clips, Aerometric 51 clips, and the flat Challenger-style or 1940s-Duofold-style clips. Here’s one taken apart.
“The pens I have seen so far have had the Heirloom-style cap, but other styles of caps had been offered, including brushed steel. I say Heirloom-style cap because it wasn’t exactly the same as the Heirloom. The Heirloom is a gold-filled cap, with solid gold clip and barrel end trim, with widely-spaced horizontal and vertical lines forming large squares like a “window pane”, but the “Arrow” caps have gold-filled clips and have the horizontal lines only, not the vertical ones. It’s sort of a half-Heirloom cap.
“It’s truly an unusual pen, and the ones I have seen for sale at pen shows all sold for many hundreds of dollars, and I’m talking USD here, not Canadian. One of these pens sold at the Chicago pen auction a while ago for $125-150, perhaps because no one except the buyer, Dan Zazove, and I knew what it really was. I didn’t want another one, and there was no one else there to bid against Dan.”
Someone, perhaps Len Provisor because he’s interested in airplanes, suggested that the pen might have been named after the Canadian fighter jet, the Avro Arrow, because they both appeared about the same time, but I haven’t been able to find any corroborative evidence in advertisements that might confirm this connection, yet. And to confuse the issue just a little more, here’s a true Parker 51 Vacumatic “Arrow” Frankenpen that someone made up. And the real “Arrow” pen should not be confused with a new pen that Parker is calling the “Parker Arrow”, and another pen, a ballpoint they called the “Big Arrow”. Also check out this page on Tony Fischier’s website on the “Arrow”, and this French Parker, “La Plume”, except it has a screw cap.
Matt McColm wrote on Aug 18, 2007 that Ernesto Soler’s Parker 51 site had a Canadian green pearl vac w/ an Arrow section and 1956 nib, 51 clutch ring, and demi vac 51 cap w/ Parker clip. It was on his site updates page, but has since been removed. Not only was the pen he mentioned there on Ernesto’s site, the “Arrowvac”, but there was also this pen, the “Vacarrow”. The first pen was the closest to an “Arrow” with its cut-back-shroud section, which was also why Ernesto called it an “Arrowvac”. But the second one had a more traditional Vac-like section, and he rightfully called it a “Vacarrow”. However, both pens are somewhere between prototypes and frankenpens. I don’t think either pen was a prototype, because that would mean that they were being considered for being put into production. I think they were pens made up by Parker employees for themselves. That makes them more than just frankenpens. It makes them legitimate one-offs, probably made in the Parker factory, but not “Made by Parker”, that is, made for Parker.
But the pen with the brown Vac barrel looks like it has a traditional section with the stepped profile machined off. It also looks like it has a Waterman’s Taperite bushing, which just happens to be very close to the sizes of the two types of Parker 51 bushings. That means that the 51 and Taperite caps are interchangeable, if you ever need a frankencap for your 51 with a missing or damaged 51 cap. It also makes the brown Vac pen a true frankenpen, since it mixes parts from at least two pen companies. The two pens on Ernesto’s site are at least all-Parker. Here are some pictures of a Taperite pen and a Parker 51 pen, and a Taperite cap on a Parker 51 frankenpen.