Way-Assauto or Magistroni: Who produced the cranksets for Legnano? Part 1

Throughout the various posts and pages of this website, I have taken the position that the cranksets fitted to the Legnano corsa models and some of the top sportivo models were produced by Way-Assauto.  The conclusion thus far has been based primarily on the chainring design and what would appear to have been a well established supplier relationship between Way-Assauto and Bozzi SpA. However this conclusion has never been 100% in my mind and so I wanted to take one more ‘kick at the can’ before closing the door on this question.

It is quite common when you come across an eBay listing for a Legnano Roma or Gran Premio that it references the cranksets (and often the headset also) as being from Magistroni. There is a good reason for this perception as the Magistroni brand is known to the older generation of cyclists as the most popular steel crankset used by pros prior to Campagnolo introducing their forged aluminium crankset in 1958.

Way-Assauto has a long history as a massive supplier of cycling components going back to its founding in 1906 however it does not appear to have a huge presence in competitive cycling in Italy and few in North America have much familiarity with the brand at all.  So if it is a steel crank, the automatic assumption 60 years later is that it was produced by Magistroni.

Another reason for assuming that steel cranks on vintage road bikes were produced by Magistroni is the remarkable similarity in the design of the cranksets that were produced by the other manufacturers including Way-Assauto or W.A., Gnutti, Fratelli Brivio or F.B. and Agrati or A.M. (speculating that the M referenced Monticello where Agrati was based however open to correction should a reader have better information).

So I thought this would be a good place to start the conversation drawing on the crankset offering from each of these manufacturers as presented in the massive 1950 parts catalog of Emilio Bozzi to illustrate the subtle differences in appearance and design.

Magistroni O.M.V.  (S.A. Officine Meccaniche di Vedano)

The top two models on p.84 (above) are for sportivo or city style bikes with the teeth pitch at 1/2 x 1/8 and 42 teeth on the chainring. The bottom two models are for corsa or road models identical in appearance and most likely also in production with the exception of the double chainring on the lower right illustration.  Both corsa models with teeth pitch of 1/2 x 3/32 and several options for the number of teeth on the chainring(s).  The arms are fluted and there is a step in the arm where the pedal attaches to provide sufficient thread engagement. Note the cutouts on the three prongs that run off the arms and secure the chainrings and also the angular shape of the webbing on the chainrings.  The carousel logo that was registered in 1947 is only shown on the double chainring corsa model, perhaps a preference of the illustrator.

 

Agrati A.M.

On p.86 of the 1950 Emilio Bozzi catalog (above) we find the crankset offering from Agrati.  Here again we have the models for the city bikes at the top of the page and the corsa models that support a 1/2 x 3/32 inch chain pitch at the bottom of the page.  There are two different corsa models as you can see, the one on the bottom left is the competitive model and also the one that is the most interesting in that it is almost identical in appearance and design with the Magistroni corsa crankset.  The crank arm is fluted although the flute is not quite so long as the Magistroni design.

The cutouts in the three prongs running off the drive side arm are almost identical. The same step on the arm to secure sufficient threading for the pedal shaft. The webbing of the chainrings is angular as per Magistroni with a slight thickening where the webbing meets the chainring.  The only substantive difference being the inner chainring is secured to the outer chainring (riveted together I believe) rather than both chainrings sharing the attachment to the three main prongs as per Magistroni. So you would really have to know your vintage history to pickup on this subtle difference in the absence of a branding logo to distinguish one from the other.

 

Fratelli Brivio F.B.

Fratelli Brivio S.A. of Brescia, Italy dates to 1931 when they patented the 3-piece hub design that was supplied to Campagnolo for the initial Gran Sport group and prior to the one-piece aluminium Campagnolo hub design of 1958.  The Brivio brothers also collaborated with Campagnolo on the initial prototyping and production of Tulio’s quick-release wheel attachment design that he patented in 1933.

Page 85 of the 1950 Bozzi catalog (above) presents four models from F.B. the two models at the bottom are described as ‘passo Humber’ and available in both track and road chain pitches. I am not sure what the Humber reference is about as I know the name only as an English maker. The model at the top left of the page is for strictly for city bikes with a 1/2 x 1/8 chain pitch and 42 tooth chainring that was the norm for city bike gearing. The star-shaped radiating web design of the chainring was a also a very common design or pattern to most of the crankset manufacturers that continued on well into the late 70s and 80s.

The model at the top right of the page is the most interesting relative to this conversation as it is also pretty much identical to the Magistroni single chainring corsa model that was discussed earlier.  Long flute on the arms. Very similar cutouts on the three main prongs running of the drive side arm and also the angular webbing design of the chainring. A double chainring model is not shown if it was available.  And here again, without the brand engraved at the head of the arm it would be difficult for most to distinguish it from the equivalent Magistroni model.

 

Way-Assauto W.A.

This is where it starts to get interesting with respect to sorting out the question of whether is was Magistroni or Way-Assauto that supplied the cranksets to Legnano. P83 shows the four models listed in the 1950 Bozzi catalog (above) with the two city bike models and 1/8 x 1/2 chain pitch.  At the bottom of the page we see both the single chainring and double chainring corsa models. Very much identical to Magistroni with the long flutes on the arms and the tapered chamfers on each side of the arm along with the raised boss at the pedal to support the thread engagement.

The obvious difference in the design of the Way-Assauto cranks to Magistroni (and F.B and Agrati for that matter) are the curved shaped webbing on the chainrings.  This curvilinear shaping of the chainring webbing is common to all Legnano branded steel cranksets that I have come across on both the Roma and Gran Premio models . . . and not a pattern that I have seen on any Magistroni cranksets.  So the question arises . . . if Magistroni was supplying Legnano, rather than W.A., why would they have changed the shape of their chainrings given the strong brand reputation of the Magistroni brand and the significant cost to retool a chainring to follow the style W.A.?

 

Legnano Branded Cranksets

The back section of the 1950 Bozzi catalog is dedicated to the replacement branded components for Legnano bikes. Page 268 shows three Legnano replacement cranksets, the model in the bottom left being the most relevant to our discussion.  Part no. 3328 is described as a two prong format although there is a third prong that sits behind the the drive side arm and is secured to the inside face of the arm with a bolt.

Part no.3329 on this page is referenced to the Mod.53/54 corsa bikes noting here that the Gran Premio model did not come to market until late 1957 to early 1958. Also noting that the ‘L’ within the chainring webbing is not something I have come across on a Gran Premio . . . simply the curved webbing only.  The ‘L’ in the webbing is also not found on the original 1954 Roma in my collection (photo at the top of this article) leading me to believe that it was short lived after the 1950 publication of the Bozzi catalog.

To conclude Part 1 of this article, the almost identical arm design of the Way-Assauto and Legnano branded cranks along with the curved webbing pattern of the chainrings that has brought me to conclude thus far that Way-Assauto and not Magistroni supplied the cranksets to Emilio Bozzi Spa for the Legnano bikes.  More to come in Part 2 as I dig a little deeper into some of the specific production and branding differences over the years between Way-Assauto and Magistroni.

 

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