This 1954 Tipo Roma is just a few days away from arriving in Toronto with my special thanks to Courtney Manchester of West Hartford, Connecticut. This well maintained Legnano belonged to her late father, it was a enjoyed by him for many, many years and it is a privilege to include it in the collection. Thank you Courtney.
Most readers will now know that the Tipo Roma was Legnano’s top road bike, formerly the Campione Del Mondo and renamed after Alfredo Binda won the 1932 World Championship in Rome. In 1956 Ercole Baldini won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Melbourne and the Tipo Roma was again renamed as the Roma Olimpiade.
For the most part, this Tipo Roma is original with a few exceptions that should be an easy correction checking the part bins. This includes the toe clips and straps and the brake cables. I also suspect that the saddle was replaced at some point in time as it appears to be from a more recent period and the ‘Special’ designation on the side flaps of the saddle is not familiar to me as a Legnano specification.
The more interesting exception on this Roma are the Dunlop Special Lightweight 27 x 1 1/4in clincher style rims. It is my understanding that these chrome-plated steel rims were produced between 1945 and 1965. While the time period supports the age of this Legnano, I have no reference for a Roma coming out of the factory with anything other than Fiamme or Nisi 700C tubular rims.
I suspect that the wheels were rebuilt either when the bike was first purchased or shortly thereafter given the limited popularity of tubular tires in America. Many non-competitive cyclists on this side of the Atlantic found tubular tires to be expensive, challenging to repair and generally not well suited to the mix of road conditions. I am a little on the fence as to whether to correct the wheels, leaning toward leaving things as they are at least for the time being.
Speaking of where the bike was first purchased, there is no shop decal on the bike however I suspect this Roma was purchased from Tommy Avenia in NYC who was the first importer of Legnano road bikes to America based on my research to date.
Here are some more photos of the bike as I wait for it to arrive in the next few days.
Campagnolo Gruppo Gran Sport front derailleur (part no. 1005/2)
Campagnolo Gruppo Gran Sport rear derailleur (part no. 1012/4)
Campagnolo Gruppo Gran Sport front and rear dropouts (part no.1010)
Campagnolo Gruppo Gran Sport three-piece hubs branded for Legnano. (part no. 1006) laced up with Stella double-butted spokes.
The chrome plated barrels on the Gran Sport hubs are often corroded and it is great to see that these have been well maintained over the years.
The early Tipo Roma decal on the down tube just below the lower head lug.
Campagnolo Gruppo Gran Sport down tube shifters (part no. 1014)
Campagnolo umbrella pump holder (part no. 632)
Cinelli steel stem and bars branded for Legnano (Bozzi SpA part no. 3343)
F.O.M. road pedals in aluminium branded for Legnano (Bozzi SpA part no. 3465)
Update: April 26, 2020
The ‘Gentle’ Restoration of the 1954 Legnano Tipo Roma
It has been the better part of two years since this lovely Tipo Roma came into the collection from Courtney Manchester of West Hartford, Connecticut. The bike was a cherished treasure of her late father and it is a privilege to respect his memory. The current climate is providing a lot of indoor time compared to most years when we are starting to hit the road after the long winter months in the northeast. But there is nothing like passing the time working on old bikes and this project has been waiting for such a quiet time.
The bike was photographed from wheel to wheel and carefully disassembled down to the last ball bearing (although I do tend to leave the top and bottom headset cups in the frame unless their is damage and they require replacement). And despite my familiarity with Legnano bikes, I still take extensive photos before I start any project just to make sure I don’t miss anything or actually mix up any parts in the shop when it comes time to put it all back together. And while I remain healthy after my 60+ years on the planet, I must admit that my memory does have the odd ‘fade’ from time to time.
The first routine is to carefully clean the frame starting with soap and water to remove the easy stuff. Then on to some delicate work with citrus cleaner and/or a very mild polishing compound on the stubborn stuff. I have gone into the detail of this process on a couple of other projects posts so I won’t go on about it again. Just to say the the old Legnano paint and decals are very fragile and you do not want to go near them with anything that is abrasive or solvent based or you will end up with what is left of the bike’s finish on your rag.
The early Legnano chrome is lovely stuff by today’s standards unless it has been neglected to the elements and pitting/rush as set in. Otherwise the light surface pitting and bits of road tar, etc. can easily be removed with a ScotchBrite pade or some VERY fine steel wool (but don’t get to aggressive). With the frame all cleaned after as many hours of careful work as your patience can manage, I then apply a couple of coats of best quality, non-abrasive Carnauba auto and polish with a soft cloth.
Then it is on to the components. There is a sequence to the reassembly in most cases however you can pretty much choose what you want to clean up first. I tend to start with the primary drive train.
These early cottered bottom bracket axles were strong and durable if maintained. They were first forged out of high-quality tool steel, ends drilled (sometimes through to the other side to create a hollow axle) and then chamfered, then put up between centres on a lathe and machined, then the cottered faces milled, then oil-hardened and annealed, and then put back up between centres on a cylindrical grinder to finish the ball bearing faces and OD for the crank arms, and then the previously machined cottered faces where also flat ground. Familiar work that brings me back to where I began my career as a tool and die maker.
You can see the tool marks from the lathe turning on the center of this axle. As there is no functional contact in this area there was no need to grind it to the same tolerances or finish as the outer ends. The ’52’ stamped on the center of the axle was the year this part was made. Date stamping or engraving of components was common place through to the 1960’s but gradually faded away completely by the early 70’s. Familiar exceptions being Campagnolo cranks and hub locknuts that continued on a while longe. I particularly enjoying finding these date stamps on some of the early Regina freewheels.
You might be thinking that 1952 doesn’t align with the 1954 production date that I have referenced for this Tipo Roma. The older members of the audience like myself will recall that road bikes and components didn’t change up every 5 minutes as it seems they do today. And many components from Campagnolo, F.B. Magistroni, Way-Assauto, etc. didn’t change at all for upwards of a decade or more. So inventory of parts at the Legnano factory (and others) would be carried over from one year to the next, perhaps even two years, before they were assembled on a new bike. The frame however received a serial number at the time it was produced and roll over frame inventory was not as common.
As you can see, this bike was ‘well loved’ over the years and the chrome crankset has cleaned up extremely well with no pitting or rusting. A few nicks here and there but very little for the 65 years that have passed. As with most cranks on the Roma and Gran Premio, they were produced by Way-Assauto (W.A.) and engraved for Legnano. This particular W.A. design that secured one of the main chainring prongs to the inside face of the crank arm was specific to Legnano to the best of my knowledge. Sometime referred to as the ‘Y’ design it was around in the 50’s but seems to have stopped production by 1960-61.
I did fully disassemble this crank including the inner and outer rings. I would strongly recommend that when you do this to make record of some type as to where each bolt, nut and chainring spacer was positioned and reassemble it accordingly. Usually I just lay them out on a flat cloth in the correct position with the crank arm at 6 o’clock until all of the individual parts have been cleaned up. I would also recommend a good set of socket or flat box wrenches to loosen the bolts that are often very tight (and need to be retightened well on assembly) to ensure that you do not damage the bolts as replacements are not easy to come by.
To my previous note about the date stamping of components and the rollover of component inventory at Legnano from one year to the next, these cranks are date stamped ’53 on the inside face of both arms. Again this crank design and production was around for about a decade or more without any changes other than the production date stamp. In this Emilio Bozzi parts catalog of 1950, this crankset is specified for the Roma as part no. 3328. and also fitted to the Gran Premio in 1958-1959 when this second-tier road model from Legnano first appeared.
Regrettably the adjustable BB cup on the non-drive or left side was damaged. The bearing surfaces were fine but it looked on removal that the lock ring had been cross threaded and it was so tight it all came out as one piece and the lock ring could not be removed and reset. So a replacement had to be found. Diving into the part bins I found this left side cup and lock ring from another Legnano project that was in excellent condition, most likely from a Sportivo Condorino model rather than a Roma, but so be it for the time being. Most importantly, the offset dimensions were correct.
Bottom bracket installed and cranks remounted.
A word on cottered cranks for those that don’t know them well or
Setting the BB bearings on an older bike