When The New Dog Digs Up The Old Dog Part 5

The Bianchi X4 Diaries Part FIVE Now we’re up to Part Five of the Bianchi X4 diaries, back in Part One I promised only three editions. It soon became evident that there was more to digging up this old dog than we ever imagined. I'd even thought at one time of painting the X4 frame to represent a version of an Argentin Bianchi X4. If only I knew what I’d got myself into, but then again it depends on how you view it. For eighteen months, about one day out of every two weeks was spent at Joe Cosgrove’s house of bicycle paint, shrine to Campagnolo and cycling deities. The fun begins at Joe’s studio of colour where hours unwittingly blend into eons as you’re drawn deeper into his netherworld of bike talk and somewhere inside you find space to get the job done, to produce a re-made Bianchi X4. In the depths of our conversations, Joe and myself concluded that the essence of the project was to honour the original Bianchi X4 I’d raced on in 1987, the team bike that was lost to time. So I brought to Joe’s, a photograph that I’d shot on the day of the team launch at the Swiss Bianchi importers, Rollag AG in Switzerland, on the 31st of January 1987. I wasn’t to know back in 1987 that decades later I’d spend months meticulously researching and restoring a version of that Bianchi X4.

The 1987 Bianchi X4 Team Bike which we set out to emulate.
The 1987 Bianchi X4 Team Bike which we set out to emulate.

Joe and myself had a dark blue X4 which I'd found in The Netherlands, the frame had been previously grit blasted and some of it’s fine details removed. Not the most perfect frame to begin with but that didn’t deter us. Next we found out in no uncertain terms that digging up this old dog came with plain bad luck, if anything could go wrong from day one, it did! That didn’t deter us either. Under Joe's ever watchful eye, we collaborated. My end of the bargain, complete the days of work on polishing for chrome plating, create the paint scheme, find and / or create decals, collaborate on the paint colour and photograph every action taken. Joe brought his vast skills into play to complete everything else, painting, clear coating, masking, de-masking, decal application, and gold paint application. It's with great thanks that Joe allowed me to work alongside him and share his workshop for the duration of the project.

First there was the chrome plating disaster, where the plating firm left the frame in a pickling solution for too long, which resulted in pitting along the chain stays. Some brass brazing and hours more of filing and polishing rectified the electroplater’s oversight. Next up was the day of colour matching, on that day it seemed as though I’d never make an escape from Joe’s labyrinth of paint, the debate about colour went on for hours, lunch was eaten and we were no nearer to a colour match than when we began. Once the sun looked like setting, Joe finally put the umpteenth drop of black into the mix and when our patience had just about run out, we were finally satisfied that our Bianchi celeste paint was dark enough and green enough ….. the spray gun was put into action and it took all of four and a half minutes to finish job.

Next up was the sticker debacle, that lasted only ten months. I wasn’t satisfied with the commercially available “costruita nel reparto corse decals” all too small, out of registration etc. I set about designing my own version, the problem was every time Joe tested his clear coat my carefully created custom decals just “melted”. Finally we came up with a melt proof printing process that would withstand the most ferocious of Joe's two pac clear coats. Then Bianchi decal disaster number two occurred. We’d applied the decals which I had stored away since 1987. In principle the potential for the re-construction of my old Bianchi team bike had existed for twenty seven years. At the end of the 1987 racing season, I took a pedal down to Altstätten where our team mechanic Hans Untersaunder had his workshop, I asked Hans if he had any decals in case my X4 ever needed a re-spray and he handed over a set of factory originals. After I sold the bike in 1988, I could never let go of those decals, there was a connection there which remained all those years. In an instant Joe’s two pac clear coat turned that dream into bubbling Bianchi blue vinyl. Take two. We ordered a set of decals from SSSINC, ones that Joe guaranteed would not melt under the spray of his gun, fingers crossed. I decided not to go with the all dark blue decal like the team bike, these were new decals, so they have the gold wing at the bottom like all other X4’s. Once Joe had scraped away the twenty seven year old decals, that I’d carefully stored like a good wine and replaced them with the SSSINC version ….. we were done. Some gold paint and de-masking and here you have it.

While Joe and myself were working on the Bianchi X4 frame, I'd been wearing out the internet searching for Campagnolo Corsa record components, 3ttt bars and stem, Alpina spokes and those rare Weinmann Carrera parts, the rims and brakes.  It will take another few months to complete the job, in the meantime here's the before and after pictures of the finished Bianchi X4 frame.

All photographs by Robert Cobcroft

 

I created the - costruita nel reparto corse - decal in Photoshop. The long way round, but was not satisfied with multiple other options that we tried.
I created the - costruita nel reparto corse - decal in Photoshop. The long way round, but was not satisfied with multiple other options that we tried.
Bianchi gold detailing, we used a Uni Posca gold marker, there are many other paint choices. The paint is applied liberally using the pen, let to dry for half an hour and the residual removed carefully with thinners and cotton wool buds.
Bianchi gold detailing, we used a Uni Posca gold marker, there are many other paint choices. The paint is applied liberally using the pen, let to dry for half an hour and the residual removed carefully with thinners and cotton wool buds.
Our variation on Bianchi X4 bottom bracket detailing.
Our variation on Bianchi X4 bottom bracket detailing.
Left, Bianchi X4 frame in it's intermediate paint scheme, we brought it back to original, with a lot of work getting the chrome finish back in order.
Left, Bianchi X4 frame in it's intermediate paint scheme, we brought it back to original, with a lot of work getting the chrome finish back in order.
The frame had been previously bead blasted, removing some of the fine detailing in the investment cast fork crown and lugs. This made our job much more difficult in re-painting and re-chroming these Bianchi frame parts.
The frame had been previously bead blasted, removing some of the fine detailing in the investment cast fork crown and lugs. This made our job much more difficult in re-painting and re-chroming these Bianchi frame parts.
White on dark blue replaced with gold and celeste. The original paint scheme would have been gold and celeste. The original chrome plating was evident especially on the fork steerer tube, it was completely triple chrome plated.
White on dark blue replaced with gold and celeste. The original paint scheme would have been gold and celeste. The original chrome plating was evident especially on the fork steerer tube, it was completely triple chrome plated.
After eighteen months our TSX Bianchi X4 is finally complete. A collaboration between Joe Cosgrove and myself, I reckon Joe's got the X4 concept mastered now!
After eighteen months our TSX Bianchi X4 is finally complete. A collaboration between Joe Cosgrove and myself, I reckon Joe's got the X4 concept mastered now!
Bianchi X4 1988 or 1989 TSX frame
Bianchi X4 1988 or 1989 TSX frame
Triple chrome chain stays, hours of polishing before triple chrome plating.
Triple chrome chain stays, hours of polishing before triple chrome plating.
Celeste and chrome Bianchi X4
Celeste and chrome Bianchi X4
The dark blue paint scheme, poorly executed did not show off the potential of the factory styled Bianchi celeste and chrome finishes.
The dark blue paint scheme, poorly executed did not show off the potential of the factory styled Bianchi celeste and chrome finishes.
The Bianchi X4 fork crown underwent a dramatic transformation. The previous, beautiful vivid dark blue paint colour was let down by sub standard workmanship.
The Bianchi X4 fork crown underwent a dramatic transformation. The previous, beautiful vivid dark blue paint colour was let down by sub standard workmanship.
1988 - 1989 Bianchi X4
1988 - 1989 Bianchi X4
Bianchi Celeste
Bianchi Celeste
Bianchi X4 1988 - 1989 with internal cable routing for rear brake cable and rear derailleur cable.
Bianchi X4 1988 - 1989 with internal cable routing for rear brake cable and rear derailleur cable.
Columbus TSX Bianchi X4
Columbus TSX Bianchi X4
Bianchi decals and triple chrome plating
Bianchi decals and triple chrome plating
Bianchi X4 celeste solid colour paint.
Bianchi X4 celeste solid colour paint.
Bianchi Columbus TSX
Bianchi Columbus TSX
Bianchi Bicycles X4 1988 or 1989
Bianchi Bicycles X4 1988 or 1989
Bianchi Columbus TSX steel frame
Bianchi Columbus TSX steel frame
Campagnolo dropouts
Campagnolo dropouts
Bianchi decal by SSSinc
Bianchi decal by SSSinc
Campagnolo chrome dropouts
Campagnolo chrome dropouts
Bianchi X4 fork crown detail
Bianchi X4 fork crown detail
Bianchi X4 forks
Bianchi X4 forks
Bianchi X4 celeste and chrome plated front derailleur braze on
Bianchi X4 celeste and chrome plated front derailleur braze on
Bianchi X4 Silva bridge
Bianchi X4 Silva bridge
Bianchi X4 top eyes with gold painted Bianchi cursive script.
Bianchi X4 top eyes with gold painted Bianchi cursive script.
Columbus TSX
Columbus TSX
The beautiful Silva bridge that Bianchi installed in most but not all X4's
The beautiful Silva bridge that Bianchi installed in most but not all X4's
SSSINC bicycle decals. We'd originally installed original factory decals that I'd collected from my team mechanic at the end of the 1987 season. They were "melted" by Joe's modern two pac clear coat, so it was back to the drawing board with some new decals.
SSSINC bicycle decals. We'd originally installed original factory decals that I'd collected from my team mechanic at the end of the 1987 season. They were "melted" by Joe's modern two pac clear coat, so it was back to the drawing board with some new decals.
Bianchi cursive script gold detail
Bianchi cursive script gold detail
Bianchi X4 chrome and celeste chain stays. At one stage pitted and filled with bronze brazing, then filed and polished.
Bianchi X4 chrome and celeste chain stays. At one stage pitted and filled with bronze brazing, then filed and polished.
Costruita nel reparto corse Bianchi.
Costruita nel reparto corse Bianchi.
We applied a bit of creative license with the bottom bracket which is usually painted entirely with celeste then over painted with gold.
We applied a bit of creative license with the bottom bracket which is usually painted entirely with celeste then over painted with gold.
Celeste Bianchi investment cast bottom bracket with chrome and gold detailing.
Celeste Bianchi investment cast bottom bracket with chrome and gold detailing.
Bianchi X4 investment cast bottom bracket and costruita nel reparto corse decal
Bianchi X4 investment cast bottom bracket and costruita nel reparto corse decal
Design of the Bianchi X4 meant a very sleek transition from the bottom bracket to the chain stays, with the traditional bridge being omitted.
Design of the Bianchi X4 meant a very sleek transition from the bottom bracket to the chain stays, with the traditional bridge being omitted.
Triple chrome plating and celeste paint on our Bianchi X4.
Triple chrome plating and celeste paint on our Bianchi X4.
Chrome plated Bianchi X4 chain stays.
Chrome plated Bianchi X4 chain stays.
One of the hallmarks of the Bianchi X4, internally routed rear derailleur cable. Other Bianchi's of that era had externally routed rear derailleur cables.
One of the hallmarks of the Bianchi X4, internally routed rear derailleur cable. Other Bianchi's of that era had externally routed rear derailleur cables.
We managed to salvage some of the detail in the Campagnolo dropouts, shows the history of the frame.
We managed to salvage some of the detail in the Campagnolo dropouts, shows the history of the frame.
Bianchi X4 gold wing decal from SSSINC
Bianchi X4 gold wing decal from SSSINC
Investment cast Bianchi X4 lugs and fork crown. All the small details count, gold paint on chrome with Bianchi celeste.
Investment cast Bianchi X4 lugs and fork crown. All the small details count, gold paint on chrome with Bianchi celeste.
All the small details. Our Bianchi eagle is a bit blurred from it's previous life when the frame was bead blasted.
All the small details. Our Bianchi eagle is a bit blurred from it's previous life when the frame was bead blasted.
Campione del Mondo 1986 - 1987, Moreno Argentin won the UCI Pro world championship at Colorado Springs. By late 1986 Bianchi X4's were sold with this decal.
Campione del Mondo 1986 - 1987, Moreno Argentin won the UCI Pro world championship at Colorado Springs. By late 1986 Bianchi X4's were sold with this decal.
Bianchi coat of arms engraved into the head tube of a Bianchi X4
Bianchi coat of arms engraved into the head tube of a Bianchi X4

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