“Want To See His Italian Bike?”
Back in late September, a client I was painting for asked if I wanted to see her Dad’s old bike. Days prior, she had noticed my JDRF cycling T-shirt and shared with me her dad’s passion for cycling. Putting two-and-two together, I assumed the bike I spotted hanging from the basement rafters was his. It was steel, old, filthy, and a mess so I paid it no mind. But on this particular day, when she added that his bike was Italian, I nearly knocked her over to get to the basement stairs.
Campy, Campy, Campy!
Once I had the bike outside and removed the old saddle bags, I saw the bike’s potential especially when I noted that almost all of the components were Campagnolo. I asked her if she wanted anything for it but she declined; she’d rather someone have it who loves to bike as much as her late father had. And with that, I became the second owner of this old relic.
I did a quick search on the internet to learn that ItalVega was started in California by Ben Lawee in the early 70’s. He contracted the Torpado factory in Padua, Italy, run by the Torresini family, to handbuild the bikes for his company. I also found a 1976 catalog that elevated my excitement as I began to wonder which bike I had. Naturally, I hoped mine was the top of the line: the Super Special or the Super Light.
Would The Real ItalVega Stand Up!
Aside from these short blurbs, I couldn’t discover anything else about my bike. I had a hunch it was older than those pictured in the catalog.
I reached out to the ItalVega gurus on BikeForums for help determining my bike’s DNA. As I suspected, because the bike had a mish-mash of parts, like the OFMEGA crankset instead of Campagnolo, they too were baffled and mystified. Some ventured that the OFMEGA crank was proof this was a souped-up Nuovo Record, a lower end ItalVega. Others contended that the frame was it was at least a Super Record.
One guru, mech986, stood out as the resident expert; even the others seemed to bow to his (or her) expertise. He instructed me on how to determine if the fork was Columbus tubing even if there was no emblazed logo (you check within the steerer tube for small ridges.) I did my best to clean out 40-years of road gunk but was unable to see any of the tell-tale markings proving it was Columbus tubing. I was bummed, to say the least, until I gave it one more go and shone a flashlight into the cavern. Voila! There they were! I felt as if I’d discoverd King Tut’s gold!
To Paint or Not To Paint…
It’s been said that if you paint over a relic’s original paint job it losses its value. But since this bike was void of almost all it’s decals, had overspray from someone touching it up, I figured it had already lost most of its value. Besides, I wanted to restore this bike to its original glory or at least as close as possible, if nothing else to say “thanks” to my client. As a professional painter, I know that today’s spray paints adhere really well so I wasn’t going to strip it and then reprime.
Instead, I’d clean it thoroughly and use steel wool to remove grime, loose paint, and rust. Here are the paint products I used.
Another reason I didn’t strip the paint was there was a decal on the top tube hidden beneath the paint. Could this reveal the bike’s name? I labored meticulously, yet with delicacy, to buff off the overspray. My patience paid off as a name slowly appeared…
I reached out to my client and asked if this name meant anything to her. Indeed it did. It was her father’s name. At that moment, this bike became more than just a piece of metal; it had been her dad’s dream machine, something he cherished and rode, according to her accounts, all over the country.
Mr. Chaney had attached a number of bicycle license stickers on the down tube that took a lot of time to remove. In fact, I accidentally ruined some of the chrome finish in getting them off. All were from the state of Hawaii and she confirmed Mr. Chaney had lived in Hawaii. As I imagined Mr. Chaney cycling around Hawaii taking in the Pacific Ocean, my curiosity about him grew. Since this frame was around 56 CM frame and had a 52/42 crankset, I pictured him being tall and large-legged. She informed me he was 5′ 10″ and 140lbs which not only bamboozled me but made me smile: we had similar builds! This was turning into more than just a refurbishing project, much more.
During this time, the Bike Forums debate over whether the bike was a Nuovo Record or a Super Record was going on. I contacted Mr. Chaney’s daughter for insight into which bike she thought he would have purchased.
“In regards to your dad, would he have been the type to buy a high-end model or a middle of the road model?”
That settled it.
Based upon mech986’s beliefs coupled with this news, I was convinced it was a Super Record.
With that matter settled, I ordered the appropriate decals from VeloCals and went to work getting the bike repainted.
More on that later!