As the saying goes, “a bike can be restored many times but it is only original once”. And if you are heading down this road the only way to do it, is to do it right. Enter Noah Rosen of Velocolour and a challenge that has taken the master two years to achieve. The challenge to be certain was all about the metallic ‘lizard yellow’ paint finish that defines the Legnano brand. And to my thinking, this is the first time that it has been truly matched since the Legnano factory closed it’s doors 40+ years ago.
The almost insurmountable challenge with reproducing the ‘lizard yellow’ finish has to do with how much paint technology has changed over the past four decades. Much of that change has been for environmental reasons as the older solvent-based lacquers were beautiful but highly carcinogenic and had to go.
If you take a look at the well-worn 1964 Legnano Gran Premio frame above (click on images for enlargement) it will hint at the factory process of the day. Coming off the brazing torch each frame would have received a swim or two in a solvent tank to prep it for finishing. First down was the ubiquitous rust-coloured primer of the day (and most likely lead based). Next out of the gun was the metallic silver finish, and most likely also lead based given how well it adheres to even the most beat up frames that you come across. And finally the ‘lizard yellow’ lacquer (perhaps two light passes of the gun) and a newly minted Legnano was born.
The factory finished Legnano logo on the downtube was not a water slide decal like the others. There have been replacement Legnano decal sheets produced over the years for both amateur and professional restoration however everything that I have seen is “close but no cigar” as they say and typically incorrect in scale, typography or color. In the case of the downtube logo, if you look at any original ‘lizard yellow’ frame you will see that this graphic was ‘stencilled’ and most likely by hand as the paint coverage is typically quite thick and the texture is too uneven to have been sprayed. Spray painting would have also required the balance of the frame to be masked off, a time consuming process and not well suited to factory production.
I engaged a professional graphic designer to create technically correct artwork for the decals. This was done by first photographing all of the original decals before the frame was stripped. The graphic designer also calculated the effect of the round tubing in working with the photographs. The final artwork was then output on transparent film and placed over the existing decals to ensure that the scale was absolute correct to the original. With a few minor adjustments, the artwork was completed and sent off to the decal maker.
We did produce the artwork for the down tube logo however when the decals came back from the maker (a remote and unpublished source somewhere in the U.S.A. that I am told is only available to professional refinishers), the blood red colour was not correctly matched in my opinion. This encouraged Noah to go the next step and use the artwork files to cut a vinyl mask (stencil) and paint it as it was originally done in the factory. And now that I have seen the results, I would not consider doing a Legnano restoration any other way. Much more work but as they say, if you are going to do it then do it right.
Below is the completed restoration. Original Legnano fenders for a Gran Premio or a Roma are all but impossible to find. These are the polished 37mm aluminium fenders from VeloOrange that have been painted and pin striped to match the originals including the correct Legnano decals front and rear.
Here is a blueprint of the bike as restored:
Model: Gran Premio
Serial No: EX3632 (stamped vertically on right side of the seat lug)
Frame Size: 56cm (ctc)
Frame Weight: 3.285kg or 7.24lbs (no headset, seatpost bolt or bb)
Total Weight: 11.72kg or 25.83lbs (without fenders)
Dropouts: Campagnolo 1010
Crankset: Magistroni 50/47 (stamped 60 on inside of the arms)
Bottom Bracket: Magistroni
Pedals: Campagnolo Record 1037
Toe Clips: Christophe Special
Toe Straps: Alfredo Binda w REG pull buttons
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Record 1052/1
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Gran Sport 1012/4
Shifters: Campagnolo Gran Sport 1014
Freewheel: Regina Extra (14-16-18-21-24)
Fenders: VeloOrange 37mm polished (modern)
Hubs: Campagnolo Record High Flange 36h (stamped Legnano)
Rims: Fiamme Green Label 700c x 36h tubular (no eyelets)
Tyres: Continental Giro (modern)
Handlebars: Ambrosio for Legnano (38cm ctc)
Handlebar Stem: Ambrosio for Legnano (100mm)
Handlebar End Plugs: Gaslo for Legnano in aluminium
Handlebar Tape: Brooks Leather (modern)
Brakeset: Universal Mod.61 Centerpull
Seatpost: Campagnolo Record Narrow Rail (26.4mm OD)
Seat: Brooks B17 Campagnolo Model (cantle stamped ’61)