During the 1970’s if you visited the right north Italian village in the vicinity of the Campagnolo factory, you could sit yourself down at the local barber shop, get a hair cut and shave then purchase unauthorised, home made Campagnolo components. Campagnolo parts with the words Campagnolo, Super Record, Nuovo Record, or BREV.INT. cast into their silver coloured lightweight alloys. Yet the home made components, almost as rare as defective postage stamps stand out as the discordant cousins to their factory worked counterparts.
This barber was not your run of the mill scissor wielding village hair cutter, he’d raced bicycles in the pro ranks before swapping sweat for unending conversations. Installed inside his village barber shop was a special glass cabinet, filled with home finished Campagnolo components, the product of the surreptitious activities of workers from the Campagnolo factory itself.
These Campagnolo parts served two purposes, the wages of Campagnolo workers were supplemented with ‘extra’ income. Up and coming cyclists who couldn’t afford to pay full freight for the real deal could get started racing with a little help from Campagnolo. Even if management were blind to it, Campagnolo were ‘sponsoring’ more bike riders than they ever knew.
Normally you’d expect to receive authentic production Campagnolo components in consistent batches for each new model number, supplied in official Campagnolo factory boxes, all representative of the catalogue published parts. Not these frankensteined Campagnolo variants. Mostly Campagnolo Nuovo Record, Super Record 1st and 2nd generation. Rear derailleurs were a favourite to build up at home on the kitchen table, their small size compared to a crankset or seat post made their many small parts easy to conceal.
The secret method used by these Campagnolo sneak thieves was simple and effective. Over time smuggle tiny items out of the factory inside pockets to avoid detection. Once enough random parts were accumulated at home they were assembled into fully functioning components, without any great emphasis on combining the correct parts to match the factory versions.
A while back a box load of these pocket collected parts that were never used, arrived at Greg Softley’s antipodean bike cave. Greg’s set comes complete with hand held Campagnolo drift punches used for inserting derailleur pins, the ideal tools for the home assembly line. The box filled with a multitude of 1970’s Campagnolo parts arrived together with this story about their origins. An authentic story from a child cycling enthusiast who’d grown up in the 1970’s listening to other Vicenza locals talking about the covert workers at the Campagnolo factory. Eventually as an adult stumbling across a thirty year old stash of mismatched parts, he couldn’t believe his eyes. These are the parts which are now in Greg’s hands. Back in the 1970’s it was common knowledge in and around Vicenza that these unofficial Campagnolo parts were available for sale at the barber shop and how they were fabricated in the homes of many workers.
Other variants on the theme of frankensteined Campagnolo rear derailleurs include those that were modified by many mechanics with the addition of longer cages. Sure there were factory built Gran Turismo and Rally rear derailleurs but these customised derailleurs fulfilled the need to build variations to suit the requirements of individuals. These parts were remade in countries outside of Italy and should not be confused for the Vicenza made versions.
Over the years some of these home assembled parts have come into the market, some fetching high prices because of their perceived rarity and potential prototype provenance. The idea that these parts could have been official factory variants between new versions now a myth.
In the end you might have more luck bobbing for apples than trying to figure out exactly who made your hybrid Campagnolo component. It's a fair bet though that your original home finished part, once sat proudly on display in the village barber shop near Vicenza.
Thanks to Greg Softley for once again sharing his bicycle collection with us. All images by Greg Softley.