Something that I haven’t written about are freewheels, and specifically Regina freewheels that were the factory fitting on the Gran Premio, Roma Olimpiade and most other Legnano models with multiple gearing. And unlike the history of many other components, Mr. Google hasn’t been able to come up with much in the way of a definitive timeline on Regina freewheels. So I have decided to dive in to this topic with what I have been able to discover from my own experience and hope that readers will add to the survey.
I am going to begin with the Legnano bikes in the collection that came to me from their original owner and unaltered in their factory fittings. To start, the Regina Gran Sport Corse freewheel (14-16-18-20-22T) in the above photo is fitted to the 1959 Gran Premio in the collection. Most of you will recognize the Gran Sport designation as something that was also used by Campagnolo to designate their first gruppo that began with the Gran Sport parallelogram rear derailleur of 1950/1951.
The inner front face of the freewheel is also engraved ” SOC.ITAL.CAT.CAL.MERATE.”. Again, Mr. Google wasn’t much of a help here however I am making a somewhat education guess that the first two abbreviations mean ‘Societe Italia’ and Merate is a municipality in the northern Italian region of Lombardy near Milano where Regina was founded in 1919. As for the “CAT.CAL.”, perhaps an Italian enthusiast can help us out with that one.
On the reverse side of the freewheel you can see the numbers ‘559’ stamped into the face of the mechanism. My assumption here is that the first ‘5’ refers to the number of cogs that can be fitted to the freewheel body and the following ’59’ refers to the year of production that is aligned to the production year of this Legnano Gran Premio. Date stamping on components was quite commonplace at the time on crank arms, bottom bracket cups, wheel locknuts, etc. However the practice seemed to come to an end for most Italian component makers in the late 1960’s, the prominent exception being Campagnolo who began date marking their cranksets and derailleurs in the early 70’s.
The next two photos are a Regina Gran Sport Corse freewheel (14-16-18-20-22T) that is fitted to the original 1966 Roma Olimpiade that is in the collection.
The only visible difference to the front of this Gran Sport Corse freewheel, compared to the previous 1959 model year, is that the engraving on the body is more pronounced or deeper set. This may just have been the nature of the production stamping or perhaps a newer stamping die (although I can not discern any difference in the typography). The rear side of the freewheel body appears to only have the year stamp ’62’ however the preceding ‘5’ that we saw in the 1959 model may have been lost due to misalignment of the stamping die as the ‘6’ is also partial.
Update: May 1, 2021
The two images above of a 4-speed Regina Gran Sport freewheel were provided by Thomas White. The stamping 554 would suggest this freewheel was manufactured in 1954. 5-speed freewheels did not appear until the 1950s and 4-speed freewheels may well have shared the same body in those years, accounting for the ‘5’ in the prefix of this production number. That’s if we have correctly deciphered this production number sequence. A few more examples would help add clarity if any readers have photos of examples they wish to share.
more to come . . .