I have always wanted to own a Masi bicycle built by Faliero Masi. A few years ago, I had the good fortune of acquiring a 1961 Masi Special in original condition. This is the story of how I came to own the Masi Special, and how I then became involved in producing a replica. The gallery of photographs assembled here chronicles the start-to-finish construction process of my modern replica of the 1961 Masi Special. The replica Masi was recently featured in the "Mania" section of the July 2007 issue of Bicycling Magazine.
The Original 1961 Masi Special
The Masi Special Replica 2006
Faliero Masi built bicycles are some of the most revered and sought after of all vintage racing bicycle marques. The late Faliero Masi, nicknamed "The Tailor" for his personal attention to detail, is considered one of the greatest bicycle builders of his era, creating bicycles in Milan for some of the most renowned champions in the history of bicycle racing. These champions include Fausto Coppi, Fiorenzo Magni, Alfredo Martini, Luison Bobet , Jacques Anquetil, Roger Rivière, Antonio Maspes, Ferdinand Bracke, Eddy Merckx, Rick van Looy, Felice Gimondi and Vittorio Adorni, to name a few.
The original 1961 Masi Special was discovered by my brother, Stephen Bryne, at a rummage sale. When he asked, "How much is the bike?" the seller replied, "We’re done for the weekend, everything here is free." Knowing a good deal when he sees one, Stephen took immediate possession of the bike. Also remembering that I once raced for the Masi-sponsored Auto Fast Freight club in the 70's and that I was a big Masi fan, Stephen boxed up the bike and sent it to me. Hats off to Stephen for being an exceptionally generous brother!
Wishing to restore the Masi to its original glory, I showed it to three of my cycling friends, Brian Baylis, Joe Bell, and Rob Roberson, who are also vintage Masi experts. Brian Baylis was a former builder at Masi California during the 1970’s and is now a renowned master frame builder. Joe Bell is the owner of JB Painting and is regarded as one of the finest bicycle painters in the refinishing business. Rob Roberson was a frame builder at Masi California during the late 70's and early 80's and is today an extraordinary frame builder. These guys were thrilled to see the bicycle and were able to tell me that it was, in fact, one of the oldest Masi road bicycles in the US. They also told me that it would be an act considered "sacrilege" to alter the finish of the bicycle from its original condition and refused to take part in its restoration. Subsequently, the decision was made to leave the Masi “as is” to preserve the craftsmanship and artistry of a master builder like Faliero Masi. Roberson and Bell, who currently build and paint bicycle "works of art" in adjoining facilities in Spring Valley, California, suggested that instead of a restoration, they could combine their talents to create an exact replica of the 1961 Masi frame. I immediately agreed and commissioned them to make the frame, which left the task to me of building the frame into a complete bicycle.
The discovery of the 1961 Masi in virtually untouched condition was like opening a vintage time capsule, and it made the job of matching the original component selection both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because the old Masi was like having the original bill of materials as a guide for determining exactly what parts were needed to ensure the replica was authentic. It was a curse because I knew in order to accurately recreate the 1961 bicycle, I could not choose alternative and possibly easier-to-locate components than the 46 year-old original parts.
The job of finding identical, "period-correct" parts from 1961 for the replica in either new or almost-new condition proved to be a considerable undertaking. The component hunt for the Masi replica required several years of diligent searching, a worldwide search range, and a "flexible" budget.
On the other hand, the replica frame-building process, including painting, took one year from start to finish. Roberson and Bell chronicled the process with step-by-step photographs at each stage of construction. During this time, the vintage components were individually cleaned and prepared. Many hours were spent removing any "shop-wear" nicks from the aluminum parts using 1500 grit wet emery paper, followed by hours of hand polishing. By the time the parts were ready to assemble onto the frame, they had all been shined to a mirror polish.
Once the replica frame was delivered, it was carefully assembled and studio photographs were shot of both bicycles by seasoned commercial photographer, Ian Cummings, of Ian Cummings Photography in San Diego. Ian’s photographs capture the meticulous attention to detail of the work of Roberson and Bell. The following gallery of photographs showcases the passion and artistry of these talented individuals. It is my hope that Faliero Masi would be honored. Many thanks to Rob (Rob Roberson Frame Building), Joe (JB Painting) and Ian (Ian Cummings Photography) for their outstanding contributions to the Masi replica project.