1990 MERCKX CORSA
Columbus SL, 57 cm. center-to-center
In 1989 the Merckx factory produced a limited run of Corsa frames finished in Team Molteni livery. Although not an exact replica, the finish is a fairly accurate reproduction of the frames ridden by the Great One during his days with the Molteni team, from 1971 though 1976.
I bought this frame new in 1990, and initially built it up with a mix of Nuovo and Super Record components, including some Merckx pantographed parts. Click here to see how I had it set up before.
Earlier this year I decided to give the bike a makeover and rebuild it as a more faithful (read obsessive) replica of Eddy's Molteni bikes. In particular I wanted to build it with milled and drilled parts, just like Eddy's super lightened bikes. So I started looking for the necessary parts on eBay, but it soon became apparent that I was going to have to do a lot of drilling myself if I wanted to have parts like the drilled chain ring, shifters, rear derailleur, brake levers and calipers that Eddy had on some of his bikes. I may still do that some day, but for now I have settled on a mix of stock and modified Nuovo Record components.
Fortunately I was able to find (on eBay of course) a milled Nuovo Record seat post, a milled pair of Nuovo shifters, and a milled Cinelli 1A stem. I decided to drill my own chain ring and brake levers (my first foray into component drilling) otherwise I would probably still be waiting to find those parts. And at least for now, the calipers and rear derailleur I decided to leave stock. After all, Eddy's configurations varied greatly - some of his bikes had the milled seat post and stem but no drilling, while some had drilling but no milling, and some a bit of both. So my mix of components may not be an accurate representation of any one particular bike he rode, but it is representative of his various configurations.
Based on my research (i.e., me with a large magnifying glass going over all the pics I could find), I believe this seat post is exactly like what Eddy had on some of his bikes. It may even be from one of his bikes that was "parted out." (Just kidding!) Click here to see the pics I found of Eddy riding a seat post like this one.
This seat post is strictly business when it comes to reducing weight. The front flute goes right through the Campagnolo logo, and it is not easy to see because of the paint, but the milling is very deep on all the flutes.
The seat post was pretty scratched up and pitted when I got it, so I had to polish it. Click here for some before and after pics of the seat post.
The saddle naturally had to be an unpadded Unicanitor. I bought this saddle at the '06 Cirque Charity Auction. The seller was Mike Kone, and the auctioneer was John Pergolizzi, so the saddle has plenty of its own provenance!
Ah, the stem...during his early Molteni years (at least until the Cinelli 1R stem came out around 1974), Eddy appears to have ridden exclusively with Cinelli 1A stems. The milling style on this particular stem is identical to some of the stems seen on some of Eddy's bikes of the time. Click here to see the photos I found of Eddy riding this stem.
The eBay seller I bought this stem from advertised it as "ugly but in working condition." He was right - the stem looked very scruffy in his photos. But I knew what it was, and I knew I needed it, so I was prepared to pay dearly for it. Fortunately for me, the seller's description and his photos didn't make for much competition, and I was able to win the auction for a very reasonable price. Of course I had to polish it and paint-fill the milling to get it to look the way it is now, but I'm just happy I found it, because it is fairly rare.
I paint-filled the side millings with my own mix of Molteni Orange paint, using Testor's oil-based enamel (the same paint used for model toys): 10 parts of Yellow to 2 parts of Red, add a dash of White to suit your taste, mix thoroughly, put on your reading glasses and paint away!
By the way, I used Super Glue Gel to finish the bar tape, which gives it a much nicer look than electrical tape. This Super Glue trick also works great with Benotto Celo tape.
UPDATE: According to Ken Denny, the reason why Eddy's bars didn't use any type of tape to finish them, is that Eddy wrapped his bars from the center of the bar outward. That makes sense. Look at the different wrapping styles between Eddy and Patrick Sercu here.
The oval logo on the stem (and the patent stamp under the extension, which unfortunately I did not photograph) confirms that this is a very early 70's stem. The bar is a Giro d'Italia model which I'm not really sure is from the early 70's, but it's what I had on hand and it looks the part.
UPDATE: According to Kurt Sperry, the bar is period-correct - Yeah! This is also confirmed by Rick Shaw's excellent reference source, The Cinelli Handlebar and Stem Timeline.
Eddy always used white cotton bar tape, and this is what I ordered, but the old glue was dry and yellowed, and it made the cloth so stiff that it wouldn't lay right. My solution was to launder it a couple of times (three times actually, with a little bleach added) to remove the old glue, and this pretty much did the trick. It didn't come out snowy-white, but I think the off-white color actually looks better, more "vintagey."
By the way, I wrapped the bar while the cotton was still moist (straight out of the spin-dry cycle!), and it behaved better than dry. The moisture made it perfectly pliable, easy to pull, and it dried super-tight over the bar. From now on I think I'll wet my cotton tapes before using them.
I have to thank Chuck Schmidt for an excellent wrapping tip which made the tape "longer" - without his wrapping tip the bar tape would have been too short. It also would not have looked as nice - notice that there is no "cross-wrapping" behind the hood. Click here to see Chuck's excellent wrapping tip.
I got these period-correct bar plugs from John Barron at VeloStuf. I'm sure glad he had them because I could not have completed this project without them. Sadly, I am not exaggerating - I tend to be a little OC when it comes to my projects. :)
Eddy's drilled brake levers, at least early on, were custom-drilled Nuovo Record levers. Click here to see what Eddy's drilled levers looked like. Eventually he rode levers with drilling that looked just like standard Super Record levers.
Ideally the brake hoods should be World-Logo, not Shield-Logo. I suppose I could get a pair of replica World-Logo hoods for my replica bike!
I drilled and countersunk these levers myself, and I'm happy with the way they came out. But I have to admit I cheated. Since basically the only difference between Nuovo and Super Record levers is the holes (the Campagnolo logo being the same on both levers), I took a pair of Super Record levers and I drilled into the existing holes (which are stamped, not drilled). That part was easy. I also added a few holes along the top of the sides to make them look like Eddy's custom drilled levers. Doing that without a drill press was not supposed to be easy, but thanks to a trick I learned during my countersinking apprenticeship, drilling the new holes freehand turned out to be very easy - click here for my drilling tip.
Just like Eddy, I kept the brake cable loops short and low. (Hey Otis, are they low enough?)
One thing I noticed a while back was that the photo of Eddy used for this replica decal is not the same as the one used in the original decals. Somewhere, I don't know where, I saw a pretty good close-up of an original decal, and the photo was clearly different from this one - Eddie looked a little younger and he was looking more to his right. I have a photo where you can see the difference, although not too clearly. Click here if you want to see the earlier photo decal.
These decals are also different in that the originals often had a foil edge. (Above the yellow TdF decal there's a standard Columbus SL decal which I could not fit into the photo).
These shifters also have a story and "provenance" of their own. I bought them for my Masi, from buddy Karen Rawls, who in turn got them from the inimitable Matteo Brandi. Unbeknownst to all of us, they were not a pair - they were both left sided. I had to fill-and-drill one of them to make a left and a right, and fortunately it worked out fine. I also paint-filled the inside of the milled section.
I didn't think this style of milling was correct for this project until I saw a photo of Eddy using the exact same kind of shifters. This was most fortuitous because my attempt at drilling shifters like his was less than spectacular - who would have thought that drilling shifters turned out to be harder (at least for me) thank drilling a chain ring and brake levers? Click here to see the pic of Eddy with these milled-not-drilled shifters.
I remember I had a chance to buy a "De Rosa Replica" around the same time as this frame came out. It was made of Columbus SL like this one, it had the same modern braze-ons and fittings, and it was the same color scheme as this one. But the decals were all De Rosa, so as far as Molteni replicas go, this frame was a hands-down winner over the De Rosa.
Here is my first ever attempt at drilling a bicycle component. It is not perfect but I think it looks pretty good, especially from about 6 feet away.
Drill press? We don't need no stinkin' drill press. I did the drilling and countersinking by hand. My thanks to Jay Sexton for the countersinking bits, and to Jon "Otis" Williams and Greg Softley for valuable advice. Click here for more about my drilling and countersinking adventures.
I chose this drilling pattern based on a pic I saw of Eddy. Click here to see the photo of Eddy riding this ring. My thanks to Tam Pham for his help in researching the various drill patterns Eddy used. (My thanks also to Tam for the idea for title graphics at the top of this page and all the linked pages as well.)
These crank arms are polished and Eddy's weren't, but I think Eddy's people dropped the ball on this one because anodization definitely adds weight. ;)
And of course, just like Eddy (and just about all the pros of the time), the crank will stay sans dust caps.
I left the Nuovo rear derailleur stock, but I may drill it later. Then again, I probably won't. Eddy's drilled rear derailleur had three plain large holes along the top plate, which really does not look that good. (The same goes for Eddy's drilled calipers, which is one of the reasons I also left mine stock.)
The brake calipers are Super Record with Nuovo Record brake shoes. I borrowed the brake shoes from my Masi for the photo shoot, so I need to buy a set to replace them. If anybody has a set, please contact me. Or if you have a pair of Nuovo Record calipers for sale or trade, I can use those too - so I can take out the quick-release levers and put them on these calipers (I'm just trying to complete the illusion).
A Molteni water bottle would complete the look quite nicely. Anybody have one they can spare?
I tried to make the bike look more "legit" with straight hub quick-release levers. And of course the wheels have small-flange hubs. I can't recall seeing any photo of Eddy riding large-flange road hubs, at least not during his Molteni days.
Unfortunately there are several "incorrect" details on the frame that keep it from being a true replica.
The split-cable braze-ons may be the most obvious incorrect modern characteristic of the frame. The recessed brake mounting bolts and the front derailleur braze-on tab are also obviously incorrect, but at least they aren't hanging uselessly like the split-cable braze-ons. On the other hand, I'm glad that the bike doesn't have top tube cable guides, because if it did, I wouldn't be able to use traditional cable clamps, which are essential for a proper 70's vintage look.
Another incorrect detail is the modern Merckx logo engraving on the stays and brake bridge, as well as the fork crown and bottom bracket shell. I thought about filling them in with the same paint I used for the stem, to make them inconspicuous, but I decided not to modify the frame at all. Filling them in would have been too "poseur" even for me :)
Bridge-less chain stays and bottom bracket shell with long tangs on the inside of the chain stays.
The serial number is L7C C8275 (I wish I knew how to interpret that).
I always route the gear cables around the bottom bracket shell through two pieces of cable liner to make shifting smoother and protect the finish as well.
UPDATE: There is an online database for Merckx serial numbers, which is located here. According to my reading of the info, and consistent with my recollection, my frame is a 90 or 91. The database, however, has it listed as a 92. In any event, my thanks to Christian Klein of Saarbrucken, Germany, for pointing out the database to me. And my thanks to Jeremy Rausch for researching and creating the database.
If I ever find an original Molteni frame from the early to mid 70's, be it a Colnago, De Rosa or Masi (any one of those will do, I'm not picky), I'll be ready. All I have to do is swap parts! I could also buy an early 70's Colnago Super and have it refinished in Molteni orange with totally original, period correct decals (are those even available?). Or I could stop thinking about the next project and just enjoy this bike for a while.
NAH! Impossible! As soon as a project is finished, it's time to get into another one - and even though there are always one or more projects patiently waiting for our attention, we can't help thinking of a new one. Can I get an Amen?
I hope you enjoyed my totally poseur project - I sure did! But now it's on to the next one.
My final thanks to Tom Sanders and Bob Hovey who provided me with moral and technical support, respectively :) - Thanks guys!
UPDATE: Ken Denny wrote to point out that during his Molteni years, Eddy did not ride a Masi. His Molteni frames were made by Kessels, then Colnago, and lastly by De Rosa. Of course there may have been some mixing and overlapping at times, but these were Eddy's primary builders while he was with Molteni. Masi made some (but probably not all) of Eddy's frames during his days with Superia, Peugeot and Faema. De Rosa may also have continued providing frames for him during his days with Fiat.
So I guess I won't be finding any Molteni Masi's, at least not legitimate ones. My thanks to Ken for sharing his knowledge.
October 6, 2006