I am also a fan of motorsport, particularly the racing cars of the 60’s and 70’s. The Ferrari 330P4 and the Ferrari 250GTO always come to mind with a passion and I never tire of looking at these masterpieces. I have heard tell of well-healed collectors bringing former Ferrari employees out of retirement to build replacement parts for cars such as these. The thinking being that while there is no longer a parts bin to draw from, they can have the replacement part made by the same hands that first made it, and in doing so maintain the overall originality of the vehicle.
There are many that would shake their head at such a thing however it always made perfect sense to me. So when I acquired the 1959 Roma Olimpiade it came with a mixed blessing of sorts. Removing the handmade denim covering on the saddle I was overjoyed to find a Brooks B17 Campagnolo Model and the corresponding narrow rail fittings on the Campagnolo Gran Sport seat post. Regrettably the leather top of the saddle was split in two and it was only the denim cover that was holding it all together.
Brooks only produced the B17 Campagnolo Model for a few years between 1958and 1962. As you can see in the picture directly above, this B17 Campagnolo was produced in December of 1958, designated by the D58 stamped on the cantle. The saddle differed from a standard B17 having narrower rails, providing greater fore and aft adjustment (photo below with a 1961 Brooks Campagnolo saddle with a chrome plated frame). In turn, Campagnolo produced a set of narrow holders and top clamps that fitted the standard two-bolt seatpin to bring it all together. While the B17 Campagnolo did provide a greater range of adjustment (approx. 38mm or 1.5in.), the narrower rail design provided less lateral strength and also the potential for developing stress fractures/failures where the seat rails meet the cantle.
In going through my files and notes I came across the name ‘Tony Colgrave, UK‘ written next to the word ‘saddles‘, and this is where the real story begins. After several conversations, including one where Tony kindly dismissed my treasured Brooks Campagnolo saddle as being somewhat commonplace, and another where he suggested shipping costs and export taxation may be prohibitive, and a final attempt to hand me off to someone doing saddle work in North America, Tony accepted the project.
In my mind, Tony’s acceptance to make a new top for this broken Brooks Campagnolo was the same as the Ferrari employee coming out of retirement for a few days to make the part ‘original’ once again. However Tony asked that I check for cracks or stress fractures around the cantle to make sure it was worth the effort. Everything structurally looked just fine, so into the mail I put what was left of the Brooks Campagnolo and about a week later Tony confirmed he had received the package.
The pictures below provide a glimpse into what experience and skilled hands can produce.
It was tempting to leave the saddle in the natural brown colour however the original was black and so “black it shall be” as Tony put it. I am sure you will agree that it is a stunning bit of work.
The gentle restoration of the 1959 Legnano Roma Campagnolo will soon be completed. It is a special part of the ‘Legnano Collection’ in many ways, the generosity of Eric Hoyer in passing along his late father’s bike to me, the rare originality of the bike that is becoming increasingly difficult to come by, and lastly this wonderful contribution by Tony Colegrave, master saddle maker.