Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Original Paint - Part Due: 1960s Galmozzi

There's an old urban legend about a guy who buys a cheap painting from a garage sale, then after he gets it home, accidentally bumps or knocks some paint off the canvas. Then he notices that there's another painting underneath the cheap acrylic paint, something done in oils, which is why the newer paint doesn't really adhere to it. Carefully removing more of the acrylic, he discovers that someone has painted over top of a rare and valuable Rembrandt.

OK - like most urban legends, who even knows if that's true - and it probably isn't. But I'm reminded of it when I think about this next story. And this one really is true.

After the recent article about original paint, a friend from the Classic Rendezvous group, Kevin Kruger, shared some pictures of a bike he recently acquired -- a mid 1960s Galmozzi. These are very desirable bikes built by an Italian master - except that this one had been repainted and covered with decals declaring it "Baldi" -- but the original Galmozzi head badge was still there proudly declaring the bike's true identity.

Apparently, Kevin set about trying to remove the overpaint to prepare the bike for a proper repaint, and discovered that the bike's original finish was still largely intact underneath! Using guitar picks, extra-fine steel wool, and acetone, Kevin was able to remove the blue paint and the gray primer to reveal a very cool orange and white paint job, and even some hint of the original decals. It was apparently a time consuming and painstaking process, requiring much patience, but the final results should be wonderful -- talk about restoration.

One thing worth pointing out is that this was a very rare situation. Typically when a bike is repainted (if it's done properly, anyhow) the original finish is completely stripped off before new paint is applied - but in this case, it is obvious someone simply sprayed new primer and paint right overtop of the old finish. It also speaks to the quality of the original paint (and lack thereof in the repaint) that the newer paint could be removed to reveal the original largely intact.

Here's the frame with its blue overpaint and Baldi decals. Scrapings on the down tube reveal some hints of the original orange paint underneath.
One of the "in-progress" shots shows much of the blue paint removed from the top and down tubes. Lots more still to be done. 
This reminds me a little of archaeology. It's like watching a little bit of history being unearthed.

Another "in-progress" shot shows that most of the blue paint is now gone. Only some primer residue around the bottom bracket and hiding in the nooks and crannies remains. There is some paint loss of the original orange -- not from the scraping, but from before the repaint. One can pretty well imagine that this was more or less the condition of the bike before it was repainted.

According to Kevin, the white panel on the down tube was resprayed, and the orange was touched up. He says the uneven edge on the white panel was there originally and will be covered by world champion decal bands, as per the original. 
Proper reproduction decals have been ordered and will be applied soon. I can't wait to see the finished bike.

Will the bike look as perfect as a new paint job? No, of course not - it will have some patina, some history, and there's something very attractive about that in a different way. It will certainly have more value. That much is undeniable.

To be fair - many people would probably have looked at the condition of the original orange paint, as shown above with its many chips and scratches, and might have sent it out for a new paint job. But the last picture shows what can be done with some good color matching and touch ups. With reproduction decals, and built up with period-correct parts, it will be a beautiful piece of rideable history.

I admit, stuff like this isn't for everyone. When it comes to the subject of original paint vs. repaint, there's a whole spectrum of attitudes, and people can get pretty passionate about it. There are some who say you should never repaint an old bike. There are others who wouldn't hesitate to powder coat a 1950s Cinelli -- head badge and all.

I for one am somewhere in the middle. I figure most older bikes out there are not rare or particularly valuable, and a repaint shouldn't be seen as a tragedy. But some bikes are special. A bike like Kevin's Galmozzi, for instance, is a rare thing. Francesco Galmozzi never had the name recognition of contemporaries like Cino Cinelli, Ugo DeRosa, or Faliero Masi - but for people "in the know," or the "cognoscenti," his bicycles are every bit as desirable, and perhaps even more rare. Bikes like that deserve to be preserved.

Kevin has full sets of progress pictures on flickr HERE and HERE. Check them out, and enjoy!


  1. Nice! I placed a few bids for that bike, but it appears that the right person ended up with it.

    1. Sorry you missed out. I'd love to add a Galmozzi of that vintage to my collection, too.

  2. Wow! I am thoroughly impressed by Mr. Kroger's approach. A terrific illustration of the line you sought to clarify. And a bit of redemption for the frame itself, well deserved.

  3. Even though the overpaint looked rather nice, I still don't understand how anyone does that to a bike like a Galmozzi.

    Retrogrouch, I pretty much agree with your attitude about repainting a bike. And I'm happy to see how Kevin Kruger treated his bike.

  4. Next time ask a qualified sandblaster for advise. They can use almost anything as an abrasive; not just limited to sand. Crushed walnut shells are (apparently) good at this sort of paint removal, as is powdered tree bark.