Many moons ago I got an email about a ‘Project’.
It started with seeking as advice with regards to the purchase of frame from Italy. A 1979 Masi Prestige. The price was right and condition was good so I said they could do no wrong. I’d met the seller of the frame when I visited Pelizzoli in Bergamo and I’d assumed the restoration had been done in the same factory so could vouch that it wouldn’t be another case of funds disappearing into the ether.
Months later the frame appeared, and the ecstatic owner wanted me to take the reigns in terms of completing ‘The Project’ with full creative license. I relished the opportunity to build it as I would have chosen, and with a single goal – or recreating the cult classic Masi from Breaking Away’. Maybe not as iconic as the General Lee, but in the cycling world I’d put it up there.
The Masi name has been traded like playing cards since Faliero made his first trip to the USA. The Gran Criterium, once Faliero’s creation became synonymous with the US made frames. It’s a fair assumption to make that the bike used in the movie, a great example of product placement, was a Carlsbad creation, possibly by the hands of frame building legend Brian Bayliss. The fact that it only had MASI on the down tube could only be explained by the hands of whoever painted it.
If you are not familiar with the movie – here’s a snippet.
Scanning the web for close ups to give a reference point came up with this close up from the Cinzano truck scene.
On a side note, the stunt double was a Northcote CC club member.
Rather than use the Nuovo Record, Super Record was opted for because, well, its Super Record!
The search began in earnest for the groupset and components, all in NOS or at least what I’d consider ‘my’ mint condition.
THE PILLAR / REGISELLA
This magnificent specimen came from another Masi Prestige which was sourced from Europe. The bike wasn’t much chop, but what it did have was this MASI Super Record 27.2 post and a 3ttt pantographed stem. Buying a complete bike and shipping it across the waters is a very expensive way of getting the result but this is what you do when you have an addiction to bikes.
I stripped and removed the old paint, gave it a thorough going over on the bench grinder. The upper most portion is generally a coarse sand blasted finish, I went the extra step and sanded it back before polishing it all the way to the end. Laying paint down in the flutes and the MASI lettering is an art form in itself that I have Turbo to thank for passing on the method.
The single bolt version of the Campagnolo Super Record Regisella is period correct for 1979 and involves significantly less faffing about to adjust the saddle pitch.
THE CHAIN / CATENA
Nothing but new will do when it comes to the chain. Oils an’t oils and chains ain’t chains. The Everest Special has milled links for weight reduction, and more critically bling appeal. Unwrapping this and having the goo of 30 year oil grabbing the grease proof pass was special – like opening a Wonka Bar and revealing the Golden Ticket.
The gold and black links wrapping the alloy chainrings and gold freewheel was just the visual statement I had in mind.
THE FREEWHEEL / ruota libera
You can find a Regina Extra or Extra Oro freewheel as easy as pie. Finding a new one with a range greater than 18 is another matter and prices escalate exponentially with each tooth size. Since the bike was going to be ridden regularly only a saddist would try and grind their way around town, the ups more than the down in the 42:18. A 13:22 would certainly make things easier, though Yarra St will remain a struggle. Going up to the maximum cog size of 26t starts to make the bike look more tourer than racer so it was a small compromise.
The final two cogs are milled out for a minor weight reduction.
In a stroke of marketing genius, Campagnolo anodised parts of the derailleur body black to signify the company’s top of the line offering. Today, it’s a red sticker.
I managed to track down a PATENT. 79 derailleur in superb shape, which also has the cool SUPER RECORD engraved in the back of the body and an alloy bolt to attach the derailleur to the frame as opposed to the titanium bolt.
Unlike the 78 version which resembles the Nuovo Record design, this features the Campagnolo script screen on. The PATENT was abbreviated to PAT in following years. The smaller the details, the easier it is to obsess over them.
At some point I made some decisions which were obvious deviations for the movie bike. Nothing as drastic as changing the colour of the General Lee, but black hoods seemed like the way to go over the gum. The hoods are silicon reproduction hoods which are ‘the shit’ for projects that you want to ride and enjoy. Easily sourced and very forgiving to install. If you’ve ever bought NOS original hoods and had them crack on you upon looking at them the wrong way I don’t need to convey the heartache that contains.
The lever blades themselves were immaculate and remind me of fishnet stockings. Don’t ask me why. The brake calipers have the domed quick releases, also in keeping with the period correctness. I never fussed too much over minute details until the 1972 Cinelli SC project which has left me permenantly scarred for life – and for the better.
CHAINSET / GUARNITURA
The most visually defining component of Campagnolo from this era would have to be the crankset. Copied by almost all, its elegant design must have been mind blowing upon its release in 1956 when it ditched the cotterless design.
Nothing like a dab of paint to pimp your ride. Painstakingly I filled the chainrings milled sections with contrasting paint, the spider arm flutes and the length of the crank arm.
The crank bolts also got a dab of paint so when seen through the dust caps they are ‘giallo’.
A hidden detail that only could be discovered by dismantling the bike is a Campagnolo Super Record Titanium bottom bracket. Another trick detail for this project saving some ridiculously small number of grams but increasing the bling quotient significantly.
Bars and Stem / Manubri e Attachi
Another item that came from the ‘other’ Masi was the gorgeous Alberto Masi 3ttt Record stem. After a good going over and repaint it came up superbly. The few marks that were on the stem from prior use were below the insertion points.
The NOS Fiamme MILANO bars were an appropriate fit and allowed me to add subtle bling by filling in the logos with paint to make it really pop. They are a 26.0 clamp diameter for the perfect fit with the 3ttt Record stem.
These are the kinds of touches I go weak at the knees for. Good from far, and amazing up close and with the blessing of Alberto.
The stem, though it didn’t really need it was stripped of the tired old paint and refreshed and made the headache of sourcing another bike just to get it worthwhile.
It was a good thing this bike wasn’t my size as it’d be difficult to wrench it from my hands.
The assembly was left in the hands of Shifter Bikes who as always provide nothing but perfection.
Dream come true.
One thing I proposed when I pitched the Breaking Away concept was a shoot based on the Cutters ‘Little 500′ race and you’ll find that set in the related posts below.
This project was definitely one of the most pleasing to work on in the longest time and I was really excited to see if the new owner was as thrilled by its details as I was. Like a kid on Christmas, wide eyed and ready to through a leg over, he came armed with a bottle of Campari to say Grazie!
If this is the kind of thing that floats your boat then you know where to come.
If you live in Melburn you may even see this machine on the road. If you do, don’t forget to exclaim ‘Ciao! The Italians are coming!’