A word of thanks to the folks at Via Bicycle in Philadelphia (Bikeville.com) for deciding to let me be the newest caretaker of this 1946 Roma Cambio Corsa that has been a fixture in their shop for a number of years after being found in New Jersey. The near original condition of this Roma after 70 years is truly amazing as it appears that only the right or drive side of the Magistroni crankset has been replaced. Incredible! Here’s a few more pictures as I wait for the bike to be boxed and shipped to Toronto.
Gino Bartali (below) en route to winning the 1948 Tour de France, ten years after his first victory in 1938. Due to the war, the TdF was not raced between 1940 and 1946 and one is left to speculate how many more victories would have come to Bartali in those years.
Below is the 1946 Legnano Roma that was built by Bianchi Ugo for Gino Bartali. Bartali won the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de Suisse in 1946 and the TdS again in 1947. After his TDF win in 1948 he left the Legnano team and competed in his last major event in 1954.
Of interest, neither the 1946 Roma in this collection or Bartali’s 1946 Roma below have the familiar red and white Legnano logo on the down tube however it is on the 1948 Roma in the photo of Bartali above. This would suggest that the down tube logo was added to the Roma sometime after 1946.
You will also notice that the 1946 Bartali Roma has the serial number 4621 indicating that it was the 21st frame built in 1946. This serial number format was only used on the Legnano team bikes. The ’46 Roma in this collection has the serial number BO5289 in the expected alphanumeric format as it is a production bike. During these years the team bikes typically used a Legnano decal on the head tube rather than the Legnano brass head badge of Alberto da Giussano.
October 2017: The restoration begins
I have decided to begin the ‘light’ restoration of this rare Legnano to make the bike rideable once again. I have not set any timeline for the project and intend to chip away at it as time permits between other projects. The bike has now been fully disassembled, giving me the opportunity to check any structural or alignment issues on the frame and fully inspect all of the components.
One of the discoveries was this Roma was built with Mannesmann-Dalmine extra tubing as indicated by an engraving on the underside of the top tube just before the lower head lug. I had no knowledge of Legnano building with this tubing as almost all of the Roma construction through the 50’s and 60’s made use of Falck tubing with some Columbus and Reynolds 531 builds in the late 60’s by special order. The word ‘Extra’ is engraved on either side of the MD logo.
The number ‘3’ inside the MD logo references the triple butted tubing type that was produced by Mannesman, a German tubing manufacturer, in their Mannesman-Dalmine factory at Dalmine (Bergamo) not far from Milan. The MD tube set is listed on pages 244/245 in the extensive 1950 parts catalog published by Emilio Bozzi SpA. The frame minus the headset and bottom bracket weighs 2,7 kg (5.9 lbs), comparable to a late 60’s Reynolds 531 Roma of the same size but almost half a pound (400g) less than a Roma constructed of Falck tubing.
An important consideration on frames set up for the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa gearing is the condition of the teeth on the top face of each rear dropout. They are both in excellent condition on this frame which is key to the proper movement of the mating spline on the axle as it is released to changed gears. There was a special jig required to build these frames as the two rear lugs have to be in perfect alignment for the Cambio Corsa to function. It probably goes without saying that replacing these lugs if they are worn is not a simple fix and probably something to avoid if purchasing one of these frames.
There are also very long and elegant reinforcing tangs on the inside faces of the forks. This image also shows the lovely patina of the frame finish. Time and the elements has subdued the traditional ‘lizard yellow’ Legnano team colour to a muted golden yellow. Despite the poor condition of the original finish in many places I have no intention of refinishing the frame, just a gentle cleanup and a good coat of wax. This bike came to me from Via Bicycle in Philadelphia and they passed along that it was originally found in a New Jersey warehouse but with no other history. It may have been a private import or it was purchased from Tommy Avenia’s shop in Harlem, the first importer of Legnano and Frejus bikes to America.
Regrettably the spokes front and rear are not in good condition, making the wheels unsafe and they will need to be rebuilt. Cutting the wheels apart I have kept all of the spoke nipples for the rebuild once they are cleaned up. That said, I will need to consider a source for the replacement spokes that are true to the period as much as is possible. Removing the rotted tubular tires, the rims were thick with old glue that had also filled the eyelets, so it will be a long and tedious job with paint stripper to clean them up. The rims are Fiamme and fortunately they do not have any dings or bends that necessitate replacement.
With the front wheel disassembled I decided to bring the front hub back into running condition. This is a first-generation Campagnolo three-piece hub that was actually manufactured by Fratelli Brivio (F.B.) with the center barrel engraved with the Campagnolo logo. The quick-release lever has the open format for the letter ‘C’ as per the first Campagnolo stampings, and the retaining cone on the other end of the skewer has the early ‘dog bone’ pair of securing bolts.
The hub was in good condition overall, with no excessive were on the bearing cones or cups. The chromed steel barrel of the hub has a bit of the familiar pitting but again nothing excessive. Using several grades of fine emery and Wenol polishing compound I cleaned up the burrs left from the old spokes on the sides of the aluminium flanges and very lightly deburred each of the outside faces of the spoke holes to facilitate the wheel build. The only chrome plating that may be considered in this restoration are the handlebars and stem.
more to come . . .