As the saying goes, “a bike can be restored many times but it is only original once”. And many of the Legnano bikes in this collection are in excellent condition but for the gentle wear of good times and happy days on the road. These bikes will never see a paint booth as long as we both “are looking down at the dirt”, another favoured saying. However it has been 40+ years now since the Legnano factory closed its doors and a few of the bikes that have come to me have earned a second life.
Living in Toronto I have the good fortune to be in the same city as Noah Rosen of Velocolour, one of the very best frame refinishers in North America and certainly ‘the best’ in Canada. When it comes to restoration there is the ‘right way’ and then there is everything else. And the ‘right way’ is Noah’s way. The craft is in his heart, the dedication is in his mind and the skill in his hands is a true gift.
Noah has restored the best Italian iron for discerning customers around the world, including several Legnano frames. However in deference to Noah’s earlier efforts as well as Legnano restorations by many talented others, the enigmatic metallic ‘lizard yellow’ paint finish that defined the Legnano brand has escaped everyone. Everyone until now that is, because Noah has finally mastered it to perfection.
And so with the testing done, it is time for the real thing. Patience is a virtue as they say and I held off for a few days before making my way back to Velocolour. When I arrived, Noah had already primed the frame, and then layed down the metallic silver base that in itself has been a major part of the development work (those details by the way will remain with Noah). Noah then painted the soft white colour on the head tube and the seat tube.
Masking off the head tube and the seat tube bands, he then moved on to laying down the first coats of the elusive metallic ‘lizard yellow’ finish that is ‘Legnano’. Although paint compounds have changed completely in the past 50 years for environmental reasons, this is the same finishing sequence that was used in the Legnano factory back in the day.
I have to tell you, monitor screens just can’t do these photos justice. But for what it is worth, compare the colour of the front fork in the image below with the background image of the original 1966 Roma that surrounds this page. Not only is the colour spot on, it has all of the iridescent green characteristics in the highlights and shadows that are true to the original finish.
As a designer myself I have worked the spectrum of colour matching challenges. This challenge has been unique and I really don’t think it could get much better (although I may push Noah the remaining half of 1% on the 1958 Roma Olimpiade that is waiting in the wings). I meant to ask Noah if he could hear Emilio Bozzi’s voice in the glow of the spray booth as he put down the first layer of colour, “Perfetto Noah . . . Perfetto”.
And here we are, the finished product. You will need to click on this image to fully appreciate the workmanship that has gone into this restoration.
Every so carefully starting the assembly (click on any of the images for an enlargement).
Although the frame finish was in very poor condition, the parts were all original and in very good condition with little or no rusting to the chrome bits and pieces. I am thinking this Gran Premio must have been stored indoors for much of its life. A bit of mild polishing compound and ‘elbow grease’ will easily cleanup the oxidation on aluminium parts unless they are very badly corroded. In this case, all is good.
The decal artwork was completely redrawn for this project by a professional graphic designer as most are not 100% accurate to the original. The black and silver bands in the above photo are a good example. The gold bands were much thinner than the black band however most of the Legnano repro decals have them the same thickness and incorrect to the original. I must admit that the Emilio Bozzi decal is still not quite perfect as the stroke of the lettering is a tad heavy, something that we will correct on the next project and another reason to keep waking up in the morning.