The Bianchi X4 Diaries Part FIVE Now we’re up to Part Five of the Bianchi X4 diaries, back in Part One I promised only three editions. It soon became evident that there was more to digging up this old dog than we ever imagined. I'd even thought at one time of painting the X4 frame to represent a version of an Argentin Bianchi X4. If only I knew what I’d got myself into, but then again it depends on how you view it. For eighteen months, about one day out of every two weeks was spent at Joe Cosgrove’s house of bicycle paint, shrine to Campagnolo and cycling deities. The fun begins at Joe’s studio of colour where hours unwittingly blend into eons as you’re drawn deeper into his netherworld of bike talk and somewhere inside you find space to get the job done, to produce a re-made Bianchi X4. In the depths of our conversations, Joe and myself concluded that the essence of the project was to honour the original Bianchi X4 I’d raced on in 1987, the team bike that was lost to time. So I brought to Joe’s, a photograph that I’d shot on the day of the team launch at the Swiss Bianchi importers, Rollag AG in Switzerland, on the 31st of January 1987. I wasn’t to know back in 1987 that decades later I’d spend months meticulously researching and restoring a version of that Bianchi Specialissima X4.
Joe and myself had a dark blue 1988 Bianchi X4 which I'd found in The Netherlands, the frame had been previously grit blasted and some of it’s fine details removed. Not the most perfect frame to begin with but that didn’t deter us. Next we found out in no uncertain terms that digging up this old dog came with plain bad luck, if anything could go wrong from day one, it did! That didn’t deter us either. Under Joe's ever watchful eye, we collaborated. My end of the bargain, complete the days of work on polishing for chrome plating, create the paint scheme, find and / or create decals, collaborate on the paint colour and photograph every action taken. Joe brought his vast skills into play to complete everything else, painting, clear coating, masking, de-masking, decal application, and gold paint application. It's with great thanks that Joe allowed me to work alongside him and share his workshop for the duration of the project.
First there was the chrome plating disaster, where the plating firm left the frame in a pickling solution for too long, which resulted in pitting along the chain stays. Some brass brazing and hours more of filing and polishing rectified the electroplater’s oversight. Next up was the day of colour matching, on that day it seemed as though I’d never make an escape from Joe’s labyrinth of paint, the debate about colour went on for hours, lunch was eaten and we were no nearer to a colour match than when we began. Once the sun looked like setting, Joe finally put the umpteenth drop of black into the mix and when our patience had just about run out, we were finally satisfied that our Bianchi celeste paint was dark enough and green enough ….. the spray gun was put into action and it took all of four and a half minutes to finish job.
Next up was the sticker debacle, that lasted only ten months. I wasn’t satisfied with the commercially available “costruita nel reparto corse decals” all too small, out of registration etc. I set about designing my own version, the problem was every time Joe tested his clear coat my carefully created custom decals just “melted”. Finally we came up with a melt proof printing process that would withstand the most ferocious of Joe's two pac clear coats. Then Bianchi decal disaster number two occurred. We’d applied the decals which I had stored away since 1987. In principle the potential for the re-construction of my old Bianchi team bike had existed for twenty seven years. At the end of the 1987 racing season, I took a pedal down to Altstätten where our team mechanic Hans Untersaunder had his workshop, I asked Hans if he had any decals in case my X4 ever needed a re-spray and he handed over a set of factory originals. After I sold the bike in 1988, I could never let go of those decals, there was a connection there which remained all those years. In an instant Joe’s two pac clear coat turned that dream into bubbling Bianchi blue vinyl. Take two. We ordered a set of decals from SSSINC, ones that Joe guaranteed would not melt under the spray of his gun, fingers crossed. I decided not to go with the all dark blue decal like the team bike, these were new decals, so they have the gold wing at the bottom like all other X4’s. Once Joe had scraped away the twenty seven year old decals, that I’d carefully stored like a good wine and replaced them with the SSSINC version ….. we were done. Some gold paint and de-masking and here you have it.
While Joe and myself were working on the Bianchi X4 frame, I'd been wearing out the internet searching for Campagnolo Corsa record components, 3ttt bars and stem, Alpina spokes and those rare Weinmann Carrera parts, the rims and brakes. It will take another few months to complete the job, in the meantime here's the before and after pictures of the finished Bianchi X4 frame.
All photographs by Robert Cobcroft