We all love a good ‘barn find’ story. Ryan Thompson is a Santa Cruz local who, apart from a couple of tiny details, has just finished a thorough restoration of a Colnago Super acquired by a chance meeting. Like most barn finds, it’s got a great story behind it.
“I live in Santa Cruz California, a bicycle Mecca. It’s home to companies like Bontrager, Calfee, Giro, Easton, and Fox Shox. It was once home to Bicycling magazine and Kestrel. It’s a fertile area to find cool bikes. While at a local bike shop I met a gentlemen in his 70s who had been collecting bikes for years. He is really into early mountain bikes. He was really interested in seeing a first year Stumpjumper I had, so he invited me out to his farm. He had a barn filled with great old stuff, I spent hours there. He doesn’t ride much anymore, just collects—it’s an obsession or passion for him.
“Needless to say he talked me out of my Stumpjumper. It had been a few years since I had a road bike, I had been riding my steel Rock Lobster cyclocross bike or a Caletti hardtail 29er—both locally-built bikes. I have always loved the Colnago Olympic series and when I saw what I thought was an early Mexico or Super in the corner, my interest was piqued. Something about the bike seamed odd. He had painted it brick red with spray paint. Although the stem and post were pantographed, they weren’t anything like I’ve ever seen on a Colnago. When he got it, it had very poor silver or gold paint on it and he didn’t want it to rust.
“He wasn’t sure how long the bike was in his possession. Too many bikes to remember. It wasn’t hanging from the rafters like his two Hetchins and early Fisher MTB by Tom Ritchey. We worked out a deal and I brought it home. I had an Ultegra 8 speed group at home I was thinking of running. With a little work, it would be a cool retro-mod adventure road bike with clearance for 28cm tires.
“Once I got the bike home I realized the rear dropouts had 121mm spacing and wouldn’t work with what I had intended. With a little investigating, I was able to determine the frame had hand-cut Ace of Club lugs from ’71 or ’72.
“Early Colnago’s can be a bit difficult to determine their exact age because they didn’t use serial numbers. At most they would have a size stamped on a drop out and steerer tube. One thing that conﬁrmed my odd feeling was that the top tube was longer that what was described in a review I found from 1971. The derailleur hanger and steerer tube have a matching ‘4’ stamped on them.
“The seat tube measures 54cm and the top tube is 55cm. Traditionally older frames all ran shorter top tubes. The fork uses what is considered a 1973 crown but the inner tanges are not drilled. My thought was that this had to be a custom frame for someone. In ’72 and ’73, Colnago was selling a ton of bikes due to the popularity of Eddie Merckx and the Molteni team.
“I decided to strip the red paint off, thinking I’ll paint it orange and ﬂip it for some cash for my Honda CB450 project. Once stripped of paint, I discovered the the bottom bracket had ‘KDP’ stamped in to the shell. I relayed this information to a friend that worked in a bike shop in southern California in the 80s who sold Italian bikes and he called up his old boss to see if he had any ideas.
“His boss said that frame builders would stamp the team and riders’ initials on the frames during the build process back then because serial numbers were not common. His thought was that it may have been a pro bike or it had come to the States as a promotional item for a shop.
“I decided to comb the internet for teams with riders with the initials KDP. I quickly came across the KAS team. KAS was an all-Spanish team with a rider Domingo Perurena. The KAS team ‘brown bagged’ the bikes they used. I looked at a lot of KAS team pictures and I could not tell if they rode Colnagos. The bikes were covered with KAS and KAScola logos. Pictures taken in the early 70’s don’t have the detail you can get from a modern digital camera.
“This created a dilemma. I couldn’t paint this bike orange, I felt I had an obligation to see if this was Domingo’s bike. I found a phone number which I thought might be his. I then had a friend who speaks Spanish call to see if it really was the retired pro rider. Sure enough, it was. What we were able to glean from the conversation was Domingo rode about 8 years for KAS from 1970-1978. He and two others, Jose Manuel Puente and Miguel Maria Lasa had custom made bikes.
“The frames they used were called Marotias. He said he rode a Colnago for less than a year in 1978. He has no idea what happened to his Colnago. When he started riding for KAS they rode Masi, although he was not sure when they started using Colnago but that they were an official sponsor in 1975. This is the thing that puzzled him: his custom bikes had 54cm seat tubes and 55cm top tubes. He felt that the bike possibly could have been built for him.
“When i got the bike it had an early Nuovo Record seat post and Cinelli stem pantographed with a fleur-de-lis. The flutes on the post were painted red, yellow and blue. I had people telling me it was from a Canadian Marinoni or a Masi, even a Cinelli. A Marinoni owner that I tracked down insisted that this was not a ‘Quebec’ fleur-de-lis… no way was this for a Marinoni. With further research I discovered Masi and Cinelli used ‘Milano’-style fleurs-de-lis.
“The more pictures I looked at, the more I realized the stem and post were similar in style to those used by Eddie Merckx and the Molteni team. Red, blue and yellow are Spanish colors. I think the stem and post are original to the bike. I believe this bike was made for Domingo, but he never rode it.
“With no way to verify the evidence that this bike was built for Domingo or that he ever rode it, I felt very strongly that I needed to continue and honor the bike and Domingo. I was positive that I couldn’t paint the bike Molteni orange, so I chose another Colnago color. A Silca pump was color matched.
“I purchased the decal set from Greg Softley, a Colnago expert in Australia. I sent the fork out to have the crown re-chromed. I then spent hours cleaning the original parts. I replaced the pitted chrome rear derailleur bolts with a set of NOS aluminum Cobra of Italy bolts.
“I tracked down a pair of NOS 36H Nisi rims and laced, tied and soldered them to high ﬂange Record hubs. I know Colnago aﬁcionados will say the Supers were specified with ﬂange hubs. Domingo was a climber and sprint specialist, and this was a common practice in the day for a strong, stiff wheel set.
“Doing a restoration of a 40 year-old bike has been fun. I was, maybe, one year old when this bike was built. I’ve worked mainly from pictures and the recollections of older riders. You just don’t see bikes like this very often. I still need to track down a few last bits to bring it to completion, like correct brake shoe holders for the year. It’s gonna take some time at a few swap meets. I rode the bike the day before we took these pictures, and I’ve got two words to describe it: Super fun!”
Very special thanks to Ryan Thompson for the report. What’s your story?