This is one of my favourite ‘condorinos’, a Legnano Mod.44 Sportivo that I acquired from Richard Golden of Petaluma, California. Richard bought the bike from Grant Peterson of Rivendale Bicycles who acquired it from a service man in the Bay area that brought it home with him from Italy. You rarely come across a Sportivo model in North America as Legnano only imported the Roma Olimpiade and Gran Premio race bikes. This Leganano dates from 1963 based on the serial number (FI 312) and the matching date stamps on the inside arms of the steel Magistroni cranks (63). This ‘condorino’ has its original paint and all its original fittings with the exception of the new Brooks B17 saddle (one of the very few non-Italian parts that Legnano used on their bikes), the new old stock Way-Assauto pedals (original spec) and also the new old stock, cream Pirelli tires.
I think I just picked up one of these today – here in Victoria B.C. It is the classic Legnano green, but I thought I got a wee bit of a score ($100.00). It is relatively unmolested but I would love some input in terms of items that are non stock and what it ‘should’ have. I am thinking the Sturmey Archer 3 speed is not stock, nor are the hubs and rims. Is there a way I can post images for all to see? I have a mid to late 60s Legnano track bike that I picked up back in the late 70s in Seattle (I used to race back then). So this will make a wonderful addition to the fleet. Cheers!
Thanks for the post Scott, your yard sale find is a Legnano Mod.04 Sportivo. They were produced as both single speed bikes and 3 speed models. This is the single speed model as there is no hanger on the rear drop out for a rear derailleur. It is probably the reason why someone retrofitted this bike with a Sturmey Archer 3 speed rear hub. Regrettably it appears that the front wheel was also swapped out, although both the original wheels can be found if you are interested in making the correction. As you suspected, the bell is not original to the bike or period and the handle grips have also been replaced along the way although originals are easy to find.
I would date the bike to 1964 based on the year stamping on the inside of the crank arms. It is highly unlikely that the cranks have been changed out over the years on a bike of this type. The most unusual thing is the lack of serial number on the seat lug for a 1964 Legnano, first time I have seen that. It is also the first time that I have seen an alpha-numerical stamping of this type on the side of the down tube. Having said that, the faded paint below the cable clamp would suggest that it has been there for a long time. And according to all of my research and that of the RSC – Historical Cycles Registry of Italy, Legnano did not use letters and numbers in these sequences and never on the side of the seat tube during these years. There is a possibility that it was a registration number applied by the original retailer and or possibly a city bicycle license number in your area? In any event, I will send a photo along to my contact at the RSC to see what they think.
One of the nice things is that the original fenders are still with the bike and in very good condition. These are a really journey to find if they are missing. All said and done, for $100 it is a great find and thanks again for the post.
Thank you kindly for your feedback and your query to the RSC. I will look carefully again to see if there is another serial number on the bike – I’ll keep you posted (pun intended). As a side note, I just won an auction for a correct Legnano bell from Uruguay. It should be winging its way to me shortly. In reading some of the posts from your truly amazing blog, I am unsure as to whether I want to leave the bike with its current patina or go through a correct restoration. It would be fun to give the bike as much utility as possible, but then the ‘concours’ word rears its dangerous (and expensive) head. I brought an old 1960 MGA coupe up from California years ago and began a full restoration. Many thousands of dollars later I am far from complete and the car sits in a garage, protected but unused. I’m not sure I would wish a bicycle such as this the same fate.
I would agree, a box of parts isn’t a happy bike if it is left that way too long. Here are some thoughts.
Anything but a professional restoration will usually reduce the value of a vintage bike unless it is in extremely poor condition. And a propoer restoration of a city bike can be thousands of dollars given the additional work on the fenders and chain guard. And beyond sentimental value, you would want to make sure that the model of bike you are restoring is worth that level of investment.
If you are planning to dismantle the bike for a light cleaning, repack bearings, etc. you might consider having a light clear coat applied to the frame to stop any further deterioration. It also helps to seal any heavily worn and unpainted areas that could start to corrode.
A note of caution however in cleaning the frame with any solvent or chemical based cleaners as they can be very aggressive on old paint finishes. I prefer the somewhat tedious but safer process of water, a mild detergent and a soft brush . . . and repeat, repeat, repeat.
I have also used an automotive scratch remover such as ‘Mother’s’ to remove some haze but use it these products very carefully and test all cleaning products first on a small area of the frame to avoid nasty surprises . . . no matter what the label says.
A final wash and thorough rinse and the frame is ready for a light polyurethane clear coat. If this doesn’t fit with your historical point of view you can also apply a couple of coats of a high-quality, non detergent based automotive wax to seal up you hard work.
As an alternative to a full restoration, you could consider just refitting the bike with the original wheels. They are not too costly or difficult to find on eBay.it and I would be happy to assist with the spec. Once you locate the rims, hubs and single freewheel, a local shop can build them up for you. Have fun with your new find!
The number on the seat tube is a Danish bicycle VIN number. It indicates that the bicycle was intended for the Danish market and/or distributed through a Danish importer. The lead W indicates an imported frame while AK is the importer identifier, which in this case was Age Kroll.
The last character is a letter, indicating the year. Unfortunately, it looks like a multiple impression. I would have said Y but it was not used for a year code, nor was I, O or W. It may be a partial X over strike. X was 1962. 1964 would have been A. I guess it could be a upside down, partial A, struck over another character.
While it doesn’t happen to often, I have seen cases where a frame has sat for two years prior to being being built up. This can happen with poor stock rotation practices or a frame caught up in a rework cycle.
I realize this doesn’t help much with determining the year but it does solve part of the history, as the bicycle definitely arrived from Italy via Age Kroll in Denmark.
Thanks greatly for that background T-Mar. You have referenced the letter ‘X’ as the import designation for 1962 production and ‘A’ for 1964. Do you know the letter designation that was used for 1963 production? Also, were VIN numbers used by other countries for Italian imports? I ask this because there is a 1972 Legnano Gran Premio in my collection with the number ‘32142’ stamped on the left side of the seat tube below the seat lug in a similar way. I have always considered it a little suspect as an actual serial number. Another Gran Premio of the same vintage that is currently owned by a reader in the UK is stamped ‘32072’ in the same place. Any thoughts on this?
The Danish bicycle VIN year code for 1963 was Z. You can work forwards and backwards from that, omitting I, O, W & Y. (i.e. A = 1964, B= 1965, C = 1966, etc.)
Sorry, I’m not aware of any other countries imposing a similar system for imported bicycles.
You may be interested to know that Age Kroll imported other Italian brands, as Torpado have surfaced with their VIN identifier.
One other fact that may interest you is that Legnano were imported into Sweden, branded as Champion which was the private label of the Stockholm based company ECI (Europeiska Cykel Importen) owned by Thord Lonnquist. There’s a Champion branded Roma and some history here . http://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vintage/1062451-special-legnano-roma-olimpiade.html. You may want to consider it as subject matter for another blog article.