Since we'll be getting our VO Freewheel hubs in a month or two, I've been thinking about multi-speed freewheels. I still don't think VO will make freewheels, but I'm at least exploring remote possibilities. So I dug around in the bins of unusual old parts that we keep for inspiration and found this new-old-stock Maillard 700 "Professional Team Issue" freewheel system.
It consists of a BSA-sized freewheel body and a range of cogs (from 13t-22t plus replacements) that can be built up as a 5 or 6 speed freewheel. There is even a removal tool and spare spacer included. I'd forgotten I had this and looking at it again I'm impressed by the idea. You could set up your cogs for each race or route, a straight block for a flat criterium or 13-22 for a hilly road race.
This is the only example of a kit like this that I've seen, but apparently there were five versions available. Note that three were Dural, which is one of the earliest types of age-hardenable aluminium alloys. Those might have been pretty expensive when new. My kit is "acier" or steel alloy.
If we do manage to find a factory that can make freewheels to our quality standards, we may attempt a kit like this one. But making really good freewheels is hard. I remember the problems when we sold Soma's IRD freewheels. So we might all be better off sticking to Shimano freewheels or looking for the better versions of the old Suntour and European units. Frankly, there is no good reason to use freewheels over cassettes on new bikes, other than a certain retro-cool factor. But they are needed to keep all those great older frames original and on the road.
By the way, if any of you collectors want this kit, shoot me an offer. I don't think I'll ever use it.