Each week I enjoy receiving queries from readers around the world as to how old or what model is my Legnano. Please keep these emails coming (firstname.lastname@example.org) as I enjoy the opportunity to share what I know and also to add new knowledge for the benefit of all Legnano aficionados. Many of your requests are fairly straight forward and then there are the challenges and exceptions such as this Legnano from Armando in Italy. Grazie mille Armando for sharing your photos and background to the website.
What began the conversation were questions around the production year and model. Normally quiet simple questions to answer however in this case there was no serial number to be found on the frame and there were no apparent signs of tampering. Clearly this was a Legnano and most of everything pointed to it being a Tipo Roma from sometime in the late 40s to perhaps the early 50s.
The production year started to narrow itself down based on the Campagnolo rear dropouts in the photos above. As you can, the drive side rear dropout has both teeth for the Campagnolo “Cambio Corsa” or “Paris-Roubaix” rod style shifting mechanism as well as an integrated hanger for a rear derailleur. This hybrid rear dropout was introduced by Campagnolo in 1951 according to the Velo-Retro Campagnolo timeline (link).
Based on the Simplex ‘Tour de France’ rear derailleur and front shift lever (Italian production) this was the Simplex model of the Tipo Roma. In the absence of a serial number, the production year also started to firm up in my mind as somewhere around 1950-1951 as Campagnolo phased out the ‘Paris-Roubaix’ single rod shifting system and introduced the new cable activated Gran Sport parallelogram derailleur.
You will also see in the two photos at the top of the page the faint remnants of the white banding on the seat tube that Legnano did not implement until 1950. So what takes us to 1951? The rear calliper brake is the Mod.50 (BREV.5501) however the front brake calliper is the Mod.51 (BREV.453949) both models named after the year they were introduced.
Now it is risky to determine production years based on components that may not be original to the bike, however in this case I do believe the front brake is original to the bike. And it was not unlike Legnano (or others) to carry over inventory from one year to the next, noting here that the Mod.50 and Mod.51 callipers were identical (reference) beyond their markings. So, a 1951 Legnano Tipo Roma Mod. Simplex it is.
However there are some peculiarities to the lugs on this frame that are not typical of a Roma from this period. The seat lug has the seat post bolt in the traditional Legnano position however the shaping of the lug is different.
Similarly the bottom bracket lug is not familiar to a Legnano Roma. Perhaps a reader recognizes the lug type that has been used here?
And the shaping of the head tube lugs at the top tube and down tube are also quite different from anything I have seen on a Roma along with the horizontal slot on the sides of the fork crown . . . similar to Frejus but not quite the same either. Legnano produced many different models from city bikes to road bikes, so I am checking through my references and Legnano catalogs to see what I can find.
That said, I am speculating a little that perhaps this frame was a private build by a factory worker and some liberties were taken in the process for whatever reason. Something else that Armando passed along was the comment that the original owner was a competitor. In the buying and selling of old bikes we often hear that comment however the attachment of the rear stays to the seat lug are characteristic of how the early Legnano team bikes were often built for additional strength. This is not a Roma team bike however IF the private builder in the factory was also a competitor he may have been familiar with this construction style. A lot of “what if” here to be sure and only a loose speculation on my part as I dig in to this interesting Legnano a little more.
And that brings us back to the absence of serial number on this Legnano and perhaps another suggestion that it was a private build?
However in preparing these images for posting, and as I manipulated the image using some Photoshop filters, there appears to be a faint impression of a letter ‘R’ and perhaps a letter ‘C’ preceding it that would align with the 1951 production date. It is probably difficult for the reader to see this in the photo above so I have asked Armando to take a second close look to see if he can see anything under better lighting.
Legnano Tipo Roma Ser.No. CM3231
For some additional background or context to what I have written, here are some photos of another 1951 Tipo Roma (Mod.Campagnolo) that came to me in late October of 2019. This bike is more typical of the Tipo Roma construction and assembly for commercial sales. As you can see it is in very good condition for the near 70 years that have passed and only the saddle appears to have been replaced. Enjoy.
Quite a lovely decal on the down tube referencing the original shop of A. Di Rienzo, Via Palermo 24, Roma where this Legnano was purchased. Always fun to explore Goggle street view to see if these shop still exist. In this case unfortunately not and in fact no.24 no longer exists on Via Palermo, perhaps consumed in some renovation or street changes over the years. Always interested if a reader may remember the shop from those times and can drop me a line.
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