The legendary velo-retro.com timeline claims that it was named after the date the first version was originally launched - September 1980.
In geometry, it is a clearly derivative of the classic (but, by 1980, obselete) Campagnolo Nuovo Record, with the exception that the adjustment screws were moved to a more rational position.
In style, the Campagnolo 980 broke new ground for the brand, introducing the signature-logo-on-the-outer-parallelogram-plate, but also introducing an edgy, angular, rectilinear, form. For a short period between the slightly baroque curvaceous Campagnolo Nuovo Record and the very curvaceous aero look of the Campagnolo C-Record, Campagnolo allowed itself to be modern and angular.
In quality, the Campagnolo 980 was a disappointmnet. There were numerous cosmetic marks and defects on the castings, the polished finish soon lost its sheen and the threads on the cable clamp nut and bolt had a tendency to strip. However it was not completely without virtue, it had the bomb-proof Campagnolo Nuovo Record pivot layout and it had proper Campagnolo pulley wheels with two part metal bearing surfaces.
I believe that this is an early example of a Campagnolo 980, dating from 1980 or shortly thereafter. Some of its distinguishing features are:
One of the the laws of nature is that there is always someone out there who knows more about Campagnolo than you do. If you are that person, please feel free to let me know about any errors or omissions!
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