This was the first ‘condorino’ that I acquired from Alessandro Nati of Arvello, Italy (aka tullio_s_quickrelease of eBay) a 1960 Mod. 50 Gran Sport (Serial No. EP 9460) in the classic metallic ‘lizard yellow’ paint scheme that distinguished the Legnano brand. I have had some people comment that it is a colour one might expect to see on a fishing lure rather than a bicycle. However to the ‘cognoscenti’, this unique yellow-green metallic finish is to Legnano what the infamous celeste blue is to the Bianchi brand. In production, the frame received a terracotta primer as the base finish, then a metallic silver lacquer to create the pearlescent effect followed by the semi-transparent yellow-green lacquer. The overall paint scheme also included a white headtube and white banding on the downtube, both of which where painted before the decals were applied.
The Mod.50 was Legnano’s top of the line ‘condorino’ featuring the Campagnolo Sport Group (c.1953) including the Legnano branded Campagnolo Sport chrome hubs (locknuts stamped ’58) with quick release skewers, Sport derailleur and the Sport single shift lever with a brazed-on fitting to the downtube. Complimenting the Campagnolo components is a proprietary Way-Asauto steel crankset with the letters ‘L’ set within the chainring webbing (inside arms stamped ’60), Way-Assauto bottom bracket and headset, Way-Assauto pedals, a Regina Corsa 4 speed freewheel, Universal 39 side pull brakes (Brev 361666) and a Dansi front light and dynamo. Classic ‘condorino’ DNA at its best!
The bike is only partially assembled in the photo above after it arrived from Italy. The overall finish and condition of the bike was poor and clearly it had not been ridden in many years however the completely original condition and lack of damage is rare for the 50+ years that have passed. The bike was also free of any serious rust or corrosion so it must have been stored indoors for most of its life. Mod.50 is now in the talented hands of Noah Rosen of Vélocolour undergoing a complete restoration that should be completed by late 2013.
This treasure of time was still wearing original Pirelli Stella tires with their cream sidewalls and clay coloured tread surface. I knew Pirelli had made bicycle tires but from what I understand they stopped production in the 70’s. However tire moulds must have also existed in Brazil as it is still possible to obtain Pirelli branded tires although I do not believe that they are being made by Pirelli. You can see these ‘faux’ Pirelli tires on the Mod.44 page, cream in colour, without the pink-brown tread surface and after countless hours of searching I can assure the reader that they are as close as you can now get to the originals.
1960 Mod.50 Gran Sport Restored
Almost three years later, what a great restoration project this has been. This was the very first vintage Legnano that I purchased and imported from Rome. What a sight it was when I unpacked the battered, second-hand cardboard box that arrived at my doorstep. The picture at the very top of this page was a quick first assembly taken the same day to check that nothing had fallen out ‘en route’ to Toronto. It was, as they say, a bike that had been well used and well loved for 50+ years and it now had a new owner, a new home and a new lease on life.
Despite the overall worn condition, the best thing about this old ‘condorino’ was that it was 100% original. Not one piece missing or ‘changed out’ from the day it first rolled out of the factory. Due to climate or perhaps its resting place at the end of the day, there was also very, very little if any rust on this bike. However, there was a lot of old tar-like, road grime protecting many of the components and fitments that would require hours of soaking and careful scrubbing to eventually reach the shiny chrome and aluminium surfaces.
It was my intention to maintain the classic ‘lizard yellow’ Legnano paint scheme however as the months passed I acquired another ‘lizard yellow’ 1967 Mod. 50 Gran Sport in beautiful condition that did not require refinishing. So what to do? I have managed to acquire a number of original Legnano sales catalogs over the years and discovered that Legnano models were available in classic black . . . and so black it would be for this restoration.
Consulting the catalogs, I also noticed the only substantive difference between the Mod.50 and the Mod.53 was the addition of Ambrosio dropped road bars and stem, Mod.39 Universal brake levers and the Way-Assauto ‘Sprint’ road pedals. Fortunately I had all of these original components in my collection of spare parts to make the modification. Like the Mod.50, the Mod.53 was a four speed configuration in these years and a general purpose road bike intended for sport riding and weekend outings.
more to come . . .
Here’s a blueprint of the bike as restored:
Model: Gran Sport Mod.50/53
Serial No: EP9460
Frame Size: 56cm ctc
Crankset: 48t Way-Assauto for Legnano (inside arms stamped 60)
Bottom Bracket: Way-Assauto
Pedals: Way-Assauto WAS (nos)
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Sport
Shifter: Campagnolo Gran Sport (braze on)
Freewheel: Reginal Extra (15/17/19/21)
Chain: Regina Extra
Hubs: Campagnolo Sport Low Flange 36h
Rims: 622 x 22 DIN Beretta 28 x 1.75 (nos)
Tires: Deestone Gumwall 700c x 28 (modern)
Handlebars: Ambrosio for Legnano 38cm
Stem: Ambrosio for Legnano 100mm
Brake Levers: Universal Mod.51
Brake Callipers: Universal Mod.39 (long reach) Brev. 361686
Seat: Brooks B17 (modern)
Rear Rack: Velo Orange (modern)
Hey there. Explain Condorino to me. I just bought one I guess. Made by Berga. It is what they call the handlebars. And the translation comes out josephinesrafael. What does that even mean?
Formally these first multi-speed, derailleur equipped city bikes that emerged in the 1950s were referred to as Sportivo models in the Legnano catalogues. They were also produced by the prominent Italian companies including Bianchi, Atala, Torpado, Bottecchia and Doniselli to name a few. The street term ‘Condorino’ was adopted as a name to describe the Sportivo models that featured the uniquely shaped handlebars that must have reminded people of a condor bird in flight . . . or rather ‘condorino’ for a small condor. Not unlike the name ‘Topolino’ (little mouse) that was given to the much loved and very popular Fiat 500 automobile that was produced between 1936 and 1955. To my knowledge I have not seen the term ‘condorino’ used outside of Italy or have I seen any non-Italian maker of these unique and very beautiful handlebars.
Where can I buy these tires? I bought an Invicibele
The best direction I can provide is to watch the Italian eBay site as these vintage tires come and go. Here is the link to get you going http://www.ebay.it/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2047675.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xbici+epoca+copertoni.TRS0&_nkw=bici+epoca+copertoni&_sacat=0 . Happy hunting!
My first trip to Italy was with my father. He was an Italian prisoner caught in Tunisia. He eventually was brought to a prisoner of war camp in the San Francisco Bay Area. He returned to the USA and married. In 1960 he and I went to the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. He bought me the 4 speed bike and I used it for many years after. He sold it for $50 to a friend. I remember going to the bike shop with him. I was 8 years old.
Hi Bob. What a wonderful memory. Thanks for that. If there is an old photo of you with your Legnano as a kid . . . would love to post it. Best regards and be well during this difficult time. Mark.
Hello, I am starting to restore my sixties Bianchi condorino. It will be a total rechrome, because the chrome is pitted. The bike is chrome and turquoise (not celeste). The paint has to be painted over the chrome because there is a chrome strip along the fenders and chainguard. My question is regarding your black bike: was the chrome redone over the whole frame. Did Velocolour do the chrome (outsource) and the paint? I am pondering having the chrome done and lightly blasting the areas to be painted and handing it out to separate shops for paint and chrome. What do you think?
Hello Alain . . . and thanks for writing.
To begin . . . it is becoming very hard to find people that are interesting in chrome plating bicycles or bicycle parts these days. Even harder to find a plater that will not ‘overwork’ your parts in the process of readying them for plating as most of the cost is in the cleaning and polishing. Velocolour no longer takes on chrome plating work for this reason.
If you do find a plater willing to do the work for you, let them know the general areas that will NOT be painted as this will same them a lot of work in polishing areas of the frame that do not require it. Also, be extra careful in letting them know to go easy on the polishing stage so that lugs are not thinned or engravings and detail lost on the dropouts.
Lastly . . . the costs of plating continue to rise so getting it done well is the only reason to venture down this road unless you have very deep pockets and $$ to spare. There is a shop called The Plating House on Viceroy Road in Concord. The did some wonderful work for me in the past (the black Legnano you referenced), it has since changed ownership and I have heard mixed reviews but not from personal experience.
Let me know how it goes . . . best regards for now,
Hi Mark, thanks for your quick reply, and especially your valuable information. I. have restored old cars before so I know all about plating and chroming. I have a reliable plating house in Quebec, but I made the mistake of going to a “Harley” shop once and they overplated and buffed all makings to oblivion on my Austin Healey parts. And I had to sand down some parts to make them fit! I have had aluminium mouldings done by the Plating House and they did good work, but that was years ago. I generally sandblast all my parts and sand out the pitting, so the plater has clean metal to start with. I ask for flash chrome, so the copper layer is just thin enough to stick. Bike parts were never plated thick to begin with. I will give Velocolour a freshly chromed frame to paint. I also have an Ephgrave to be painted at some point and I just bought a Gloria La Garibaldina in Italy, so there are plenty of projects on the go.