1961 Gran Premio – EX3632

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Of the two road bikes that Legnano exported to North America, the ‘Gran Premio’ was the most popular and most affordable. The ‘Gran Premio’ lacked the Campagnolo Record Crankset and a bit of the finishing of their top-of-the-line ‘Roma Olimpiade’ but otherwise the two bikes were very much the same. This particular ‘Gran Premio’ was a west coast eBay find several years ago and it is now in the skillful hands of Noah Rosen of Vélocolour for a complete restoration. Most importantly it was a complete bike with only minor modifications over the years that can be easily corrected.

I am dating this ‘Gran Premio” to 1961.  The date stamps on the inside arms of the Magistroni cranks are marked ’60’ and the serial number on the frame (EX3632) supports a 60/61 production date along with the original Universal 61 brakes that first showed in that same year. What is most interesting is the decal on the downtube from the Hidden Valley Bicycle Store of Escondido, California that is still in business today. The Hidden Valley shop opened their doors in 1961 and so this ‘Gran Premio’ was most likely one of the first Legnano bikes on the floor. As new businesses go, it was probably one the more expensive bikes on the floor in that first year of business.

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Here is a blueprint of the bike as originally acquired:

Model:  Gran Premio
Year:  1961
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)
Tubing:  Falck
Dropouts:  Campagnolo
Crankset:  Magistroni 50/47 (stamped 60 on inside of the arms)
Bottom Bracket:  Magistroni
Pedals:  na
Front Derailleur:  Campagnolo Gran Sport
Rear Derailleur:  Campagnolo Gran Sport
Shifters:  Campagnolo Record
Freewheel:  Regina Corsa (14-17-20-23-26)
Chain:  Regina
Hubs:  Simplex HF 36H
Rims:  Fiamme Yellow Label 36 hole clincher 27in x 1 1/8in Schrader
Handlebars:
Handlebar Stem:
Headset:  Magistroni
Brakeset:  Universal Mod.61 Centerpull
Seatpost: na
Seat: na

 

1961 Gran Sport Restored

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here is a blueprint of the bike as restored:

Model:  Gran Premio
Year:  1961
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)
Tubing:  Falck
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)
Chain: Regina
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)
Headset:  Magistroni
Brakeset:  Universal Mod.61 Centerpull
Seatpost:  Campagnolo Record Narrow Rail (26.4mm OD)
Seat:  Brooks B17 Campagnolo Model (cantle stamped ’61)

 

• • •

10 thoughts on “1961 Gran Premio – EX3632

  1. So nice to see a similar model. I have inherited my father’s Legnano Roma Olypiade that he purchased new in 1959/60. It has been garaged for a long period of time, but appears to have minimal (if any) changes to it. Simply because of the rarity I am having trouble determining its value. What would you estimate a ballpark figure for the model in average but complete/nearly complete condition? I would certainly appreciate any input.

    • Well, that’s a big question without a few pics to assess the condition. Having said that, it could range from $800 to $1800 and potentionally more in top, original condition. Send me a few pics and the serial number and I can give you a better idea. May also be interested if you are going to part with it. If your dad still remembers where he first bought the bike, that is good history to keep with it.

      • I knew that was a loaded question. The serial number is EO1935. The bicycle has a Jones Bike Shop sticker from Long Beach, CA on it (I believe I remember him saying he bought it from there). I’m not sure how to send a few pics to you. All I can do is leave a reply. Any suggestions?

  2. I would be interested in the SIZE of the seat post. I assume the post and the saddle are not orig to this bike? I have a 1962 that takes a 25-1 or 25-4? post. John Crump

  3. This 1961 Gran Premio takes a 26.4mm diameter seatpost like almost all Legnano bikes that were produced from Falck tubing, their prime supplier over many years. Sometimes you may find that someone has used a 26.2mm post as the unique Legnano binder bolt will still retain the slightly small diameter.

    Having said that, both the 1959 Roma Olimpiade Campagnolo and the 1966 Roma Olimpiade Campagnolo on this site are produced with Falck tubing and take a 27.0mm seatpost. An early Bozzi parts catalog that I have shows a Falck ‘Extra Legeri’ tubing set that could account for the difference of a thinner walled tubing on these competition models.

    Another exception are some of the Legnano Roma Olimpiade and Roma Specialissima frames produced in the late 60’s through to the late 70’s from Reynolds 531 tubing. These 531 frames take a 27.2mm diameter seat post, including the 1969 Roma shown on this site.

    I have also ‘seen’ a picture of a Roma Olimpiade bike with a Columbus tubing sticker however I have not been able to verify if Legnano ever used Columbus tubing and this may have just been a case of a Columbus tubing decal having been applied to the frame by the owner.

    Hope this help, Mark.

  4. Thanks for the great website, it’s been motivating for me on a couple Roma Olimpiade projects! Is the blue cable the original color or was it gray on the blue Roma and Grand Premio bicycles?

  5. Yes it was blue, in fact Legnano colour matched the cable housing to the frame colour on pretty much all of the city and road bikes from the mid 50s through to the late 60’s and early 70’s.

  6. My first ‘ten speed’ was a Legnano Gran Premio purchased in 1961 from Ace Bike Shop in Long Beach, Ca. I paid $110.00 for it. The top tier Roma sold for $180.00 and was completely out of my reach.

  7. Looks like I have a 1961 or 62 Legnano. Dad traded for it back in 1963 and later resold it. A year later I found it in a shed resting next to rattle snake. Killed the snake and bought it for $75. Its been my bike from primary school through college and on up until 1984 when I retired it. The original color was red and serial number EX8217. With exception of seat and wheels, it’s still about 90% complete. Now retired, I curious of its value and steps to take to find a new home.

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for writing and sharing the history of your dad’s bike. Yes, it has been said for some time now that bikes and rattlesnakes don’t mix well. If you have time to send also some photos of the bike I will do my best to give you an idea of its value and how best to move it down the road if that is your intention. You can send the photos info@condorino.com
      regards,
      Mark

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