If there is one frame detail that can always be trusted to identify an early Legnano, regardless of the condition, it is the unique design of the seat lug and the corresponding placement of the seat binder bolt below the top tube and in front of the seat tube (image at top of page). And without question, there is no other maker that I am aware of that used this particular configuration. However given the long-standing rivalry between Legnano and Bianchi in competition, it may not be surprising that Bianchi had a somewhat similar seat lug through to the 1940’s that was above the top tube and in front of the seat tube. Now there’s a ‘tit for tat’ if every I saw one. However by 1950 Bianchi abandoned this configuration for the more conventional arrangement that we still use today. The image below is a 1940 Bianchi Claudio.
Returning to Legnano, their ubiquitous seat lug design was used almost exclusively through to the end of the 1960’s and continued on with ‘some’ models and production through the early 70’s. The reason for the use of the word ‘some’ in defining the dates is that there are always exceptions that may have pertained to production for a specific customer/distributer in one part of the world or another, or possible custom orders around this early 70’s timing.
The exception to this practice was a seat post ‘collar’ on some lower-priced models and junior bikes that is not dissimilar to the collar clamp on today’s carbon frames. The image below of an early Olmo collar clamp is similar to that used by Legnano on the aforementioned models.
Legnano began to switch production to the conventional seat lug with the binder bolt at the rear of the seat post (1976 Gran Premio below) at the start of the 70’s on lesser models and by the mid 70’s it had migrated to the Competizione and Specialissima road bikes at the top of the order.
I have come across a report or two suggesting that the unique Legnano seat bolt design originated with Frejus and migrated to Legnano with the purchase of Frejus by Emilio Bozzi SpA in 1946 following the second world war. However I do not believe this to be true as Legnano was using the unique seat lug well before that time as can be seen in the photo below on the 1929 Tipo Roma ridden by Alfredo Binda.
And below is a photo of the seat cluster on a 1933 Frejus owned by Dave Beck as presented on the Classic Rendezvous website, which is actually very much the same as the Bianchi cluster of the time (very top photo).
Below is another Frejus seat cluster from the late 1940’s that is very typical of their production format in those years making use of a seat collar to secure the seat post. (reference CR website, link above). As they say, what’s old is often new again and the seat collar has returned as the ‘de facto’ method of retaining the seat post on today’s modern road bike.
And here again from the Classic Rendezvous website is Dale Brown’s own 1968 Frejus showing the more common seat cluster that we are familiar with on Frejus road bikes. Worth noting the the transition of the seat stays to the seat lug which is essentially common to all of these Frejus bikes from the 1930’s to the early 1970’s.
Lastly, and perhaps were the confusion has arisen with respect to the Legnano seat cluster on Frejus bikes, is shown here on this 1972-1973 Frejus that was formerly owned by Dale Brown of Classic Rendezvous and recently for sale on eBay by it’s current owner. Note the third picture below which is the seat cluster on a 1970 Roma Olimpiade that is virtually identical to the Frejus. Both bikes by the way are Reynolds 531 construction.
As mentioned, the Frejus brand was acquired by Emilio Bozzi SpA in 1946 and production was moved to the same facility that was producing the Legnano and Wolsit brands. As I have also mentioned on this site, there were a lot of changes happening at Legnano come the early 70’s that may have also been the case with the Frejus production. This may have impacted on the use of the Legnano seat cluster on some Frejus road bikes at this time, however I have not seen the Legnano seat cluster on a Frejus bike prior to 1970 or later than 1973-74.
You can find more on the Frejus use of the Legnano seat lug on this recent post: 1972 Frejus Campione del Mondo joins the collection