Everyone loves a celeste Bianchi, right? Whichever version of celeste that is.
Whilst the colour has undoubtedly evolved and become a bit more vibrant over time, the story goes that back in the day, the paint was mixed from whatever supplies they had knocking around the paintshop at the time, so the question of what is the correct, vintage celeste is moot. More on this below.
Anyway, a little while ago, I bought this part-complete 1950s Bianchi Folgore, complete with the much sought-after Campagnolo Cambio Corsa gearing.
As mentioned above, what’s not to love about a celeste Bianchi, right?
So, back in the UK, I serviced and put the bike back together, happy with the result.
It had clearly had some restoration and a respray somewhere along the way, though that paint too was showing plenty of signs of wear.
Here’s how it looked at the end of summer 2017:
There were a couple of things that were niggling me about the bike at this point. I know, I know, first-world problems n’all that. But, it’s a very special piece of machinery and deserves to be done properly.
Primary amongst those niggles was the paint job. Not only was the colour too bright, but as well as being flaky, the finishing was a bit rough. Inside edges of the lugs had been sprayed (as you can see in the headtube photo above), as had the working faces of the rear dropouts. Remember, with Cambio Corsa, the whole back wheel slides to and fro with each gear change and the original chromed dropouts, having been oversprayed, were slowly being scratched off.
That’s where Dan Bool, of Bool’s Bicycles enters the story.
An exchange of emails, phone calls and a trip to Bristol with the bike in the car boot later, and my beloved Bianchi is in the tender care of Dan and the folks at Argos Cycles.
We had a long chat about colours, chroming etc, with a lot of online research in Dan’s shop. We both kept coming back to late 40s/early 50s Folgores in the older, dirty celeste and with a cream panel on the seat tube and a matching cream head tube.
Argos Cycles sent me three colour samples by post the next day, to confirm the colour I wanted the celeste, and it’s the dirty version. Holding the colour chip up against my Bianchi l’Eroica, it was absolutely spot-on.
Much like the first of the three wonderful examples below.
These three are slightly older than my Folgore, as evidenced by the seat clamp bolt being in front of the seatpost.
They also all have painted seat lugs, where mine is chrome.
What these bikes all show, along with my little example, is that they are living, evolving things. Over their 70-year lifespans, each of these 4 machines has been customised by various owners along the way. The middle example above is the most original, and even that has full-length celeste mudguards and wrapping underneath the cable guides on the top tube. Thinking about it, underneath those 3 cable clamps is the correct, un-faded 1950s paint colour.
So, my 1950 Bianchi Folgore is currently undergoing its latest refurbishment, and will return in early 2018 looking stunning. Whilst I absolutely cannot wait, I also realise that the bike is already 20 years older than me and, if properly looked after, will long outlast me, my kids and beyond.
It’s to be ridden and enjoyed – not treated as a stately home on wheels, but I won’t forget that I’m merely its temporary custodian.