Rays of sunshine

“Superlight, high resistance steel pipes, Campagnolo gears, leather racing saddle, frame with patented threaded Wilier galvanic treatment”.
In the period immediately after the War, the catalogue, in four languages, listed the main features of the bikes manufactured at the foot of Monte Grappa.
The “speciale corsa – tipo Giro d’Italia” model was top of the range, identical to the one used by Magni, Cottur, Martini, Bevilacqua, Maggini and all the racers of the Bassano team.
The advert clearly stated “100% copper bikes”. A unique characteristic, unrepeatable and immediately eye catching. The copper plating proved successful test after test, in the painting department headed by Bruno Villari, class of 1908, who had been kept away from home by the War for many years. A stroke of genius, driven by the desire to create something different for a team which believed in an Italian Trieste. There were many attempts, worthy of a medieval alchemist lab.
Bruno Villari, who had an eye for colours, insisted. For Wilier he did not want those common and overused colours, but something different and special that would impress people. He mixed dozens of colours, poured and removed diluent, nitrate and white spirit to find a paint which looked like the red of the jersey.
He thought loading carmine with traces of black was too dull. He was about to give up and use an industrial paint when he had an idea which radically changed Wilier bikes, giving them a jewel like quality.
The idea came to him while observing the galvanic procedure originating from the passage of electrical current in the tub containing the electrolytic bath.
Anode, cathode, ions, mineral salts and infinitesimal deposits on the surfaces to be treated.
Chemistry, electrochemistry and mechanics.
After experiments and attempts – he went as far as taking home some pieces of zinc-coated pipes to continue experimenting in the oven of his inexpensive kitchen – Villari realised the potential of electrolysis and managed to entirely copper a frame.

Inside the factory in Bassano. Wilier Triestina’s victories help to rise the sales of common bicycles.

When Dal Molin saw it, he could hardly believe his eyes. He immediately ordered the factory manager, Battistello, to complete it by assembling all the accessories: Brooks saddle, handlebar, pedals, gears, brakes, Regina extra chain, rims, tyres. The bicycle was exhibited in the corridor of the entrance to the factory, opposite the chief’s office. Long lines of employees, warehouse operators, workers, customers and suppliers started to form straight away, in adoration of that sunshine radiating jewel. However, Bruno Villari was not entirely pleased.
Something bothered him. “The copper domes of the bell towers in the mountains, the onion-shaped one – he would brood while remembering the villages he had crossed when wearing his uniform – in the space of a few weeks after being replaced, they lose their original shine and turn green due to oxidation”.
His prediction came true. As the days went by, the bike became matt and the copper plating lost its shine.
The first few stains started to appear. Oxidation continued relentlessly and the colour of the sun quickly turned to green.
What could they do? Villari did not despair. He went back to the laboratory and resumed work.
“Air – he said to himself, although he did not know the laws of chemistry – causes the oxidation. If I can prevent it coming into direct contact with the copper plating, it will be okay”.
He ran to the workshop and inquired about all the transparent paints available.
He talked to Bortolo Guazzo, who had learnt the ropes at the prestigious garage, specialised in creating

luxurious bodywork for high-powered cars. His search was over when he found a transparent holding paint.
Applied over the copper plating as soon as the electrolytic process was completed, it would create a water-proof film that prevented air from attacking the copper, thus retaining the original shine.
To make the bikes even smarter and original, Villari thought of enhancing them with a series of golden threads outlining the frame. A sort of lace to make the bike stand out, like in exclusive high fashion garments. How could he make them? In the painting department he found an ally in Remo Sessi, an attentive and keen apprentice that would never complain about working outside normal office hours. He lived in Angarano, just beyond the bridge.
Villari called him as he knew about his skills and precise and steady hand: “Would you be up to marking the golden threads?” Remo looked at him sternly. He gazed at the copper plated frame and thought for a moment before saying “yes” with determination.

He picked the thinnest paintbrush and removed what he thought was excess bristle. He left five very long hairs and dipped them in the small bottle of golden polish. He dried the excess colour and started painting.
With his thumb he would keep the right distance between the bristle and the frame. His hand would run steadily and fast along the entire frame. There and back again.
A perfect line, free of smudges, that looked like it had been drawn with a ruler. He completed the work on the other two pipes and the forks. The end result was excellent. He managed to combine the lines to form a kind of arabesque. From that day onwards Remo Sessi become the official threader at Wilier Triestina.
His work was not confined to the very special racing bikes. It was also required for the “ultra luxurious” models for men, women and sports, copper plated, grey and black, depending on the many orders that were being received at via Colomba. Remo Sessi’s skills did not go unnoticed.
He went as far as creating his own ultra-thin paintbrushes, which he was very jealous about, by selecting and binding together four to five pig hairs he would find at one of his friend’s house, at the end of a long and small stick. His lines would always prove perfect, straight, determined and with no smudges.
He grew famous. Representatives from other companies approached him.
Also Bianchi showed an interest in him and tried to secure his valuable collaboration.
When work started to be scarce and the crisis developed near the bank of the river Brenta, Remo Sessi took his leave.
He moved to Milan at the age of 25. He found a job at Innocenti as head of the painting department.
His former boss, Bruno Villari, on the other hand, continued to show off his talent at Faacme, one of the first few companies to manufacture metal stove-enamelled cabinets along the lines of “American kitchens”.

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28th May 2013