The most popular question brought to this site by readers is, “What year is this Legnano and what is the model?”. I enjoy receiving these questions as it is an opportunity to share the facts, photos and anecdotes of other Legnano owners, so please keep your queries coming. However I thought it would be interesting to post a ‘quick step’ guide to dating and identifying a Legnano, be it a complete bike or just the frame.
I have been compiling a list of Legnano serial numbers by model and production year that I hope to publish and update on this site very soon. This listing has been put together with photos of each bike including an image of the serial number for authenticity. For any Legnano through to the late 1960’s, the serial number is the best starting point for dating purposes. However beyond 1966-1967 when Legnano suspended the practice of sequential serial numbers, dating the production year can still be achieved albeit with a little less accuracy.
Let’s begin with determining the year of production. As I have mentioned before on this site, the year that someone may have purchased a Legnano may not necessarily be the year it was produced. Today we have superficial graphic changes from one model year to the next and often times minute changes in components as well, however there was little if any noticeable difference between a 1961 Roma and a 1964 Roma and it could well have remained in the shop for that same length of time waiting for a buyer.
One final word before we begin . . . ‘exceptions’. We do not have factory records to consult, just what is left of the past to survey and document. And I have come across exceptions by model and market to the information below. These exceptions, not unlike today, may have arisen out of a business opportunity that Legnano was pursuing or unique requests from an important Legnano distributor or reseller. That is the way of things, particularly as a large manufacturer with broad distribution and many customers.
Step 1: Production numbers versus serial numbers
As mentioned, the six digit alphanumeric serial numbers stamped either vertically or horizontally (Roma models only) on the seat lug came to end in 1966-1967 based on my findings to date. The serial number FR5314 is the last sequence in my personal registry for a 1966 Mod.50TS Sportivo ‘Condorino’. I also have not found any reference of any type to a Legnano serial number starting with the letter ‘G’.
The only exception being the serial numbers stamped on the underside of the BB for some late 60’s production of Roma models made with Reynolds 531 and Columbus tubing. And a couple of Gran Premio models that I have come across (including one in this collection) where there is a 5 digit serial number stamped vertically on the left side of the seat tube just below the set lug. More background on the nuances of Legnano serial numbers over the years can be found on this page.
So if the frame does have a serial number, the dating game is done. If not, read on.
After 1966-67 you will come across 2 digit production numbers (ie. 13, 20, 30, 39 etc.) stamped on the seat lug. Initially I thought these 2 digit production numbers where used to reference the model however I have come across numerous Gran Premio models with different 2 digit numbers so they must have served some other purpose in the manufacturing process.
So if your Legnano frame has a production number, rather than a serial number, stamped on the seat lug it was most likely manufactured sometime between 1968 and 1971, 1972 at the very latest. If the Legnano frame you are trying to date has neither a serial number or a production number, it was most likely produced after 1971-1972.
Step 2: Old logo versus new logo on the down tube
From the 1940’s through to the end of the 1960’s, the Legnano logo on the down tube was an elongated red oval with an outline and the letters Legnano in white. This format was used for all of the better Legnano road models and also the best Sportivo ‘Condorino’ city bike models. This down tube logo was in red with a white border and lettering and was almost always stencil painted rather than applied as a decal.
Compared to the crisp definition of decals, the reproduction quality of the stencil is a little crude and I have no idea why Legnano did it this way for their best models. It is also unusual in that Emilio Bozzi used a decal for their Frejus brand as did Bianchi and other Italian makers at that time. Having said that, if you come across a Legnano frame in very poor condition the stencilled down tube logo is often the last bit of paint that survives.
Something else to consider here. The stencil painted Legnano logo is not easy to reproduce, particularly in the less than refined quality/format of the original. If you are presented with a Legnano road bike that is claiming to be from the 1950’s or 1960’s, or claiming an original finish to that era, and it has a decal type logo on the down tube, you should be very cautious as it is highly unlikely to be true.
On the city bikes, and Legnano produced many different models for men, women and children, this same down tube logo (a little less elongated) usually had a white background with a black border and black lettering, applied as a water slide decal. There was also some use of this same decal design with a red background and a white border and white lettering on the folding bike a couple of other city models that were available in the ‘lizard yellow’ colour.
One last word on possible ‘dodgy’ reproductions or resprays that use the above ‘repro’ decal with the world championship bands between the logos. First word is caution, particularly if it is being presented for sale at a high price. One original Roma that I have come across with this logo is the ‘pista’ model that Fausto Coppi rode in November 1942 when he bettered the existing one hour record of Maurice Archambaud by 31 meters. Another is a 1950 Roma in a private collection that can be seen here. And to my earlier note of caution, not all Romas between 1942 and 1950 have this world champion version of the down tube logo.
Controversy surrounded Coppi’s record at the Vigorelli Velodome in Milan, however it was officially verified by international authorities in 1947. Coppi’s record stood for 14 years, in part because of the war, until bettered by Jacques Anquetil in 1956. You can find additional photos of the Coppi bike with the unique Legnano logo on this blog by charliecycles54.
The new Legnano logo and self-adhesive decals:
While on the topic of decals, on or about 1970 Legnano changed the design of their logo from the elongated oval of the 50’s and 60’s to a parallelogram shape logo that you can see in the photo below.
As you can see in the detail photo above of a 1976 Olimpiade Record Spicialissima, these new decals (post 1970) were self-adhesive type decals than the traditional water-slide decals of the past. This is another hint as to whether a frame has been refinished versus the original factory finish. The self-adhesive type includes the the head badge and the banding on the seat tube that you will often find has started to peel or release over time.
Step 3: Brass head badge, waterslide decal or self-adhesive decals?
Here I am going to reference only the main models (top down) that were imported into North America including the Roma Olimpiade, Gran Premio and to a lesser extent the Mod.54 Corsa and Mod.53 Mezza Corsa. These NA models were fitted with the classic brass head badge of the Lombard warrior Alberto da Guissano from approx. 1950 through to 1968-1969 (with some exceptions).
Please note the Legnano brass head badges were fixed to the head tube with five, solid brass rivets and not screws. Legnano head badges attached with screws could indicate a respray or an attempt to portray a bike from the 70’s as having been produced in the 60’s or earlier. Given the ever-increasing value of early Roma and Gran Premio bikes, would be forgers are also becoming increasingly resourceful in their efforts to deceive.
The beautiful brass head badge then transitioned to a rather mundane waterslide decal on the head tube for a few years post 1968-1969 (photo above of 1969 Roma Olimpiade) and then transitioned again to an even less impressive self-adhesive decal on the head tube starting in 1972-1973 (photo below of 1976 Gran Premio). Actually all of the Legnano decals went to the self adhesive style at the same time, a poor solution that was prone to peeling and poor reproduction quality but quicker to apply in the factory.
Clearly there would have been cost savings in production, both to manufacture the brass badge and also to secure it to the frame, compared to a decal. However I recall the ‘weight weenie’ movement was taking root about this time ( with ‘drillium’ just a few years away) and some may have looked at this brass head badge as superfluous. And after all, doesn’t brass weigh a ton? In truth, although appearing to be solid brass it is actually a very thin, sheet-formed badge that weighs a whopping 10g soaking weight.
If the Legnano bike or frame still has it’s factory finish, these head badge formats along with the items in Step 1 and Step 2 will help you pinpoint Legnano production dates from the late 60’s through to the early 70’s.
Step 4: Brake cable, water bottle and shifter bosses
Another helpful guide to dating post-70’s Legnano bikes includes the introduction of brazed-on fittings for brake cable guides, water bottle mounts and shifter bosses. As with most road bikes, Italian or otherwise, the brazed-on fittings did not fully come on the scene until about 1975-1976. Prior to that date, down tube shifters and water bottle cages were of the ‘clamp-on’ style. Rear brake cables were secured to the top tube with three cable clamps. Also to note, the water bottle bosses were only a single pair on the down tube. For the most part, a second set of bottle cage bosses on the seat tube arrived in the 80’s and by then both Bozzi and Legnano were gone.
It is interesting to note that Legnano used a single brazed-on shifter boss for the rear derailleur on their 3/4/5 speed Sportivo/Condorino city bikes from the very early 1960’s (1962 Mod.02 Sportivo shown below), however it was another 15 years before they added dual bosses to their road bikes even though both the left and right brazed on bosses were available from Campagnolo as of 1958. The same was true of a rear derailleur cable guide brazed to the BB on city bikes, but not until the mid-70’s did you find cable guides brazed on the BB for Legnano road bikes.
Step 5: Fork crowns
Further delineation of production years and models can be ascertained from the fork crowns and lugs that Legnano used over the years.
The photo below is the fork crown that was used from the 1940’s through to the end of the 1960’s on the virtually all Tipo Roma, Roma Olimpiade, Mod.54 Corsa and the Mod.53 Mezza Corsa road bikes. It had a flat top with a nice sweep into the steering tube and a ‘saddle’ profile on both the front and rear face. A simple crown but quite elegant in it’s overall proportions and finish. There were also long spear-shaped tangs or stiffeners on the inside face of each fork blade extending down from crown approx. 8cm in length.
This next photo is the fork crown on a 1962 Mod.45 Sportivo Signora or women’s city bike. As you can see, it is virtually identical to the road bike crown of the same period however there is a little less sweep going into the steering tube and there is a distinctive ‘notch’ on the outside faces where the fork blades enter. This crown was used on pretty much all of the Legnano city bikes for men and women from the 1940’s through to the end of the 1960’s. However the spear-shaped tangs on the inside faces of the fork blades were omitted with the exception of the top-end Sportivo Condorino models for men. This small detail is worth taking note of in the event that someone may have repurposed a city bike frame as a road bike.
To throw a bit of a curve into things, below is a fork crown from a 1952 Mod.38 ‘Gentlemen’s’ sport bike (ser.no. CU5902) fitted with a Simplex rear derailleur similar to the setup on some Legnano road bikes at that time. It is not a common fork crown for a Legnano city style bike however these types of exceptions pop up from time to time and have taught me to not be too definitive in my findings and presentation.
Many things that had been unchanged for decades at Legnano began to change quickly on or about 1970. Below is a photo of the fork crown on a 1971-1972 Gran Premio. A couple of things to note is the shallow spear-point shaping of the outside faces of the crown at the fork blades. Also the front and rear faces have also become flat rather than saddle shaped. At this time I can not be certain if this same crown was also used on the Roma Olimpiade or down the line to the Mod.53 Corsa and Mod.54 Mezza Corsa as of 1971 however my best guess is that it was.
Moving on a few years, the photo below is a fork crown on a 1976 Gran Premio and what was probably the last year for the Gran Premio model as it transitioned to become the Competizione model for the balance of the 1970’s using the same . Most noticeable are the horizontal slots on the outside faces of the crown and the flat faces on the front and rear of the crown.
I will leave this discussion on fork crowns with the image below of a 1976 Olimpiade Specialissima, the model that replaced the Roma Olimpiade as Legnano’s top road bike. The recessed brake calliper bolt is notable and also the elegant spear points and elongated diamond shape cutout on the outside faces of the crown. This crown was also used on the aforementioned Competizione model in late 70’s.
Components and the Dating Game:
While the components on a vintage Legnano can play a role in dating a bike it is important to exercise some caution. Reason being that components were often swapped out due to wear and tear, others may have been upgraded as better components came along, as well as bikes that may only have survived as frames or partially complete.
And as I have commented on several occasions, less than scrupulous resellers often put bikes together with components to present them as something that they are not. And to be fair, some frames or incomplete bikes are put back together by people that may not know how the bike was originally fitted or may just not be interested in a period correct build. And there is nothing wrong with the latter if it is done honestly because first and foremost a bike is to be enjoyed and ridden.
Having said that, their are original components that tend to stay with the bike more than others. Two of the more common components that often stay with a vintage Legnano are cranksets and headsets. These parts require a bit more mechanical know how to replace for the average person as well as requiring the tools to do the job.
The vast majority of Legnano city bikes and road bikes through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s were fitted with Magistroni cottered steel cranksets and bottom brackets. Through these years you will find that the inside face of the crank arms were stamped with two numbers that reflect their year of production. The photo below shows the date stamp ’64’ indicating a 1964 production year for these Magistroni cranks.
If it is believed the cranks are original to the bike, this date stamp can help to verify the serial number dating. However parts produced in 1964 would not have been discarded by the factory if they were still in stock come 1965 when the frame was produced and the bike assembled. On the other hand, if you are undertaking a period correct rebuild/restoration these date stampings can be useful as the cranks below would not have been fitted to a 1962-1963 Legnano.
Also, for the ‘scammers’ these date stamps are not easy to forge as the typographic style is specific and unless the cranks have been re-plated, which is costly, the engravings tend to show the same corrosion and ageing as the cranks themselves. And unless they were trying to forge a date on a later set of steel cranks from the 70’s, the original date stamps would have to be removed. Not something that I have really come across with any frequency.