The Project Frame- A California Masi

The Frame
This Masi frame was in bad cosmetic shape when I first saw it. My good friend Duane Kennard purchased it from a bike shop owner in Burbank for $50 and, since it was not his size, he was a pretty nice guy and traded it to me for a NOS Regina Oro Gold freewheel, knowing full well he could throw it on ebay and made a considerable return on his investment. It was a bare fork and frame, the frame banged up pretty good, bent here and there (including a down tube bend that suspiciously looked like a front end collision) and generally looked like had it been dropped weekly by what must have been one of the most accident prone bike riders that ever lived. I'm fairly certain he is dead now.

The decals looked fine, but the paint was a mess, touched up in dozens of places and the threads on the bottom bracket were a bit sketchy as well (two holes where drilled through to hold the bottom bracket in place!). The fork, being stripped, had started to show signs of rust. The chrome had a medium level of pitting all around. I debated on doing some work myself, as I'm pretty handy with things- I've painted one of my old British cars and I work as an artist, so I can make decals. But I soon realized what was really needed was a pro to bring this frame back to its former glory rather than experimentation. Since my investment was minimal (famous last words) I finally decided a complete refurbish was in order.

On the advice of Duane, I drove down to Vista, California and met Jim & Susan Cunningham at Cyclart, specialists in vintage, lightweight bike restorations. Jim painted for Masi for a while in the early and mid 70's. Jim was helpful and took time to tour me around his shop and show me what goes into a frame restoration. Time is money, and Jim and his employees do good work, so I was expecting a steep estimate, although not as steep as what he told me.

His top level category 1 paint jobs start at $300, less fork. I was thinking around $400 worst case. Since my Masi frame needed new BB threads, frame straightening, extra prep, extra, extra prep since it was being resprayed black again, new chrome on the fork, and of course decals, this suddenly mushroomed into $890! Payable in advance! Ouch! I decided to have it all done figuring I'd never get another, almost free, Masi frame again in my size. Besides a nice, new road bike runs a bundle and what do you get, a frame that's popped out of a machine? Those things don't have any character.

Identifing The Frame
The frame is date stamped the 35th frame built in the second quarter of 1978, although it appeared it was probably made in 1977 a few months before. Brian Baylis told me that many frames from this "limbo" time at Masi were in fact stamped differently than the actual time it was built. This would explain why a serial number B7819 (the 19th built in the second quarter) appeared in a 1977 Masi catalog! The frame is a Gran Criterium, but the flag decals where originally left off. This was not too uncommon to see original Grand Criteriums without flag decals when new. Since it was a little different, I decided it would be worth while to keep everything as original as possible on the frame.

I kept the same rear 120mm spacing for a five speed freewheel and I had Jim paint and decal the bike exactly as it was originally. 14 weeks later, after rechroming, straightening, et al, the frame is finished and looks amazing.

Cyclart Costs

Custom finish frame   300.00
Custom finish rigid fork   50.00
Replace builder decals exact   90.00
Paint in cut outs - yellow   24.00
Chrome fork crown & front dropouts   150.00
Precision align and correct frame   60.00
Frame straightening   80.00
Retap stripped bottom bracket shell   50.00
Fill vent hole   20.00
Reshape and fill downtube ripple   30.00
Removal of stuck dropout adjuster screw   60.00
Additional prep after estimate (this was super annoying, I didn't appreciate this extra charge at the end)   50.00
CA waste disposal fee   5.00
CA sales tax on parts   4.65
Total   $894.65

Yes, it's a bunch of money to sink into a frame, but it is truly incredible to see now. Kudos to Jim and his staff. I'm sure if you could see the bike in person you would agree it is swell. My only complaint was that the paint ended up being a bit thick, some cut outs were missed and needed to be finished by myself as I didn't feel like spending another two hours on the road to return it, and I left Jim's shop with that "just rolled under the bus" feeling for the additional $50 Jim claimed he needed to charge me for extras, grrr.

Here's a letter from Jim Cunningham of Cyclart regarding my comments.

Even my wife was impressed with the results (I didn't happen to mention what all this cost) and agrees that it should be a "house bike"- so that's saying something. Since I spent more than I wanted on the frame redo I needed to cut costs considerably and find parts that looked good but that were not necessarily new, since this was never planned as a show bike anyway.

The Parts
I pretty much needed everything for the Masi and started off by my quest by contacting BC at Renaissance Cycles in Holland. He had helped me on my '81 Gianni Motta and all I can say is hurray for BC! He has a variable selection of vintage Campagnolo components at good prices and he's real treat to deal with, super friendly with plenty of options on used and refurbished parts.

I was planning on getting just about all the parts from BC. After two months of emails, he had a big box of cool stuff ready to go, brakes, cranks, bottom bracket and a ton of other stuff, and was just waiting on a single Super Record headset nut that he would get his hands in a day or two, when... incredibly, his warehouse/home burned to the ground in massive fire started next door by his neighbor who warehoused fireworks! A terrible tragedy for BC and his family. I was secretly hoping that BC had his vintage Campy stuff stashed in a safehouse in the country and the parts that were consumed in the holocaust were Sugino, but no such luck. Needless to say, no parts were to be forthcoming. It looks like BC is building up his business again, he's getting more stuff in all the time, so good for BC!

Time to start anew. My pal Duane, lifelong friend and certifiable vintage bike lunatic, helped with countless items; a NOS Campy SR headset, 3t stem, Campy shifters, SR brake levers, Regina freewheel, brake caliper, cables and probably a bunch I don't even remember (thanks Duane!).

I also turned to Ebay for a few parts I otherwise couldn't find.

By chance, I found a set of Super Record front and rear derailleurs (pat. 78) in excellent shape for about $120 from Chuck Schmidt which I thought was reasonable considering you don't see these everyday. This was for the SR series II rear derailleur (introduced in mid 1978). A '78 series I Super Record derailleur is hopelessly hard to find and tragically expensive, so I was happy my frame had a '78 date stamp on it and the option of picking between the two.

  I finally did come across a late model Super Record first generation derailluer (left), used, but cleaned up nicely. $140, you can still find reasonable deals on Ebay.

Other items included-    
Campy Record crank arms, as new
('78 year date)
Campy Record bottom bracket, used   $37.50
Campy SR seatpost, used   $67.00
Campy SL pedals, used   $48.00
Cinelli Unicanitor seat (NOS)   $68.00
Campy light weight toe clips (NOS)   $11.50
Binda toe straps (NOS)   $9.00
Super Champion arc'en ciel rims (NOS)   $40
Campy Record brake caliper NOS, flat lever   $79

Cyclart sold me a very used 3t handle bar for $20, drop out adjusters at $10 and some NOS Super Champion Medaille D'Or for another bike for a reasonable $45. I also purchased a very nice set of NOS Stella double butted spokes & nipples for $6 from Bicycles Classics on closeout (try finding modern spokes for that!) which I laced up to a good set of high flange hubs I had around. Bicycle Classics are a great source for old bits, I highly recommend them. I purchased all sorts of olds & ends (Tressostar bar tape in yellow- a box of ten for $25) from them and ended up buying three gross of those Stella spokes for next to nothing ($12 each gross- it was just too much to resist). BC at Renaissance supplied some Velox bar plugs, a seatpost bolt and two sets of the Gommitalia Servizio Course tubulars, these are not the hot tip tires, I won't purchase these again.

With the 295mm spokes I purchased from Bicycle Classics I laced up my Super Champion rims to a set of record high flange hubs. I'd never done this before and l taught myself as I went. It took me about 3 hours and I spent a while after that messing around with my spoke wrench to get things as even as possible. They looked pretty close by just eye-balling it on the bike but as I didn't have a proper truing stand or a dishing tool to check it, I dropped them off at my local bike shop for the once over. I live in the south end of Orange County, California and we don't have "old" bike shops around here. Anything from last year is considered "old'. The bike shop employees gathered around and were quite fasinated with my ancient equipment. "Dude this stuff looks like new! Check out these spokes- are they like from the 70's or something?" Well, yes they are NOS and they are from the 70's, I pointed out. Bicycle Shop Manager was very happy he had guessed correctly. "Wow, where did you get this stuff?" "Bicycles Classics in Colorado", but I could have said the planet Pluto and had the same reaction. I picked the wheels up the next day and Mr. Manager Dude said they where very close to true when I brought them in- I was very pleased with myself.

All these parts came to about $780- funny that seems like a lot now that I add all that up.

I now have a nice, classic ride for the cost of a mid-level new road bike. I did spend some time looking for parts, but I was actually surprised how fast I found everything- probably dumb luck! And no, I didn't go to all this trouble to hang it in my living room, although it looks surprisingly "show-like", I do ride it and put plenty of miles on it, but not in the rain.

Greg Fletcher


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