Saturday, March 7, 2015

SN° 999370 in Ferretti Team livery

Sell me a story..

Between 1952 and 1968 there were 480 bicycles built by Bianchi’s fabled “Reparto Corse”. These frames were numbered consecutively and carry a six digit serial number starting with 999 (ie 999001 to 999480). The long-time head mechanic of Bianchi’s race division - a mister Giuseppe “Pinella” de Grandi - had long been rumoured to be in possession of log books that indicate the specifications of each frame, the name of the frame builder, and the rider it was built for. Back in them days only professional and top-level amateur riders had bicycles built by the race division. The rumour going round is that these log books have recently been found.

Bianchi's race division existed as a formal entity from the end the second world war until the end of 1968. The log books register the bicycles built over this period and also extend back to a time when "special" Bianchi's were simply bicycles built for important riders by a "special department". Between the mid 1940's and the the end of 1952 the serial numbers for the race division were allocated from the production lineup. This means that Reparto Corse frames built from 1945 to 1952 (and "special" frames built before 1945) are difficult to validate without the benefit of a registry. That's become a whole lot easier. On the other hand "999" Bianchi's (1952 - 1968) have long been recognised as being a cut above the rest. Mr Pinella's log books now tell us why. Serial number 999162 was the last frame Bianchi built for “il Campionissimo", Fausto Coppi. 

Gianfranco’s collection here:

This specimen is SN° 999370 built in 1966 for Italian sprint champion and (1968) Mexico Games silver medallist Giordano Turrini. Giordano raced as a professional from 1969-1981 and this frame wears the original paint from 1969 when he raced for the Ferretti Team. Giordano owned this bike from 1966-1971. He sold it when he was racing in Australia to a Sydney track cyclist who purchased it for his son, J R. The pictures below show Giordano on this bike (with the Ferretti decal blocked out) racing against Australian sprint ace, Gordon Johnson, at the Camperdown track in Sydney in 1971. 

Giordano who?
There may be bigger names but how many of them have their career burnished by a youtube biopic?

J R raced the bike as a juvenile for a couple of years before outgrowing the frame and it hung unused at his father’s place for the next 40 years. A lot happened over those forty years: J R grew up and had kids; BMX and mountain bikes made their appearance, evolved and became dominant in the marketplace; “Reparto Corse” became a marketing slogan for top-end racing bicycles with an Italian heritage; and the internet revolutionised how the world went about doing things. This bike was revealed to the cycling cognoscenti on an Australian cycling forum in April 2012 and subsequently sold by J R (for his father) on ebay on the 16 Dec 2012. The third owner, A Z, a well-known collector and expert on all things relating to vintage bicycles identified the frame as a Bianchi and pieced together much of the information outlined above (with the help of Steven Maasland). I purchased the bike on ebay on the 18 Nov 2014. The sale price was USD $11,699 (!). No-nonsense types will recognise that that's enough coin to purchase 14 Moroccan camels. Frame dimensions are ST 52cm ctt, TT 53.5cm ctc.  

1969. The only year Mr Ferretti fielded a track team.

In 1966 this was the winning technology at Le Mans.

Dominating from 1966..

.. until 1969.

Stout but rudimentary. 
These forks were made for J R when his dad purchased the frame or I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Life's contingencies mean that working bicycles rarely emerge from their travels unscathed. Components get swapped out over time, particularly so when there is a change of ownership. Mr Turrini used three different forks with this frame - the Bianchi forks were swapped out in 1969 with the final pair transferred to Turrini’s new frame when he sold this one to J R’s dad. Components that are original to frame when they left J R: Cinelli (brass) badged stem; Cinelli steel chrome plated track bars (old Milano logos); Campagnolo high flange record track hubs 40/32 (front tied & soldered) on Fiamme singles; Headset fittings and BB. Components that were added by A Z: Campagnolo pista cranks 165mm; Campagnolo inch pitch track ring 23 tooth 151 BCD; Wipperman inch pitch block chain; Campagnolo Con Denti pedals with blanking caps; Christophe toe clips; Alfredo Binda straps; Nitor seat post; Cinelli Unicanitor saddle. 

You have to earn these stripes. Mr Turrini earned his in tandem track racing.

USD $11,700 would have bought this at the Copake Antique & Classic Bicycle Auction in April last year. 
At least that guy got an extra wheel. (And a lamp. And a bell.)

Mind you, a motor engine demands even more coin. The same auction house sold this a year earlier (for USD $166,750).

Strap on some armour, a pair of tracks, a big gun with a rotating turret, and call it a Panzerkampfwagen and we reach that rarified stratosphere occupied by internet barons, oil sheiks, (cashed-up) museums, and a small number of children with immense disposable income. This 1944 example (in need of a full restoration) failed to meet reserve at last year’s auction of the Littlefield Collection. If a sale goes through it will cost a cool USD $2.5M plus legal fees.

This doesn’t seem too bad. 

Block chain.. in 1969?

I'll take it.

A storied bicycle manufacturer, an Italian career cyclist, an Australian track junior, and a treasure hunter.

By 1966 Bianchi had been in the business of building bicycles for for over 80 years. Longer than bicyclists (and their motorised brethren) had been rolling on pneumatic tyres. Yet Bianchi track frames from this era are rather uncommon. At least on English-language websites and using English-language search engines. 

This here is a nicely presented and somewhat significant Bianchi track bike with an Australian connection to boot.

Sell me a story indeed. 

Links to some "999" reparto corse frames on the net: 

Some links for Bianchi n’ stuff: 

Bonus clip:

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