The 1963 Campagnolo Record was a bit of a disappointment - a stopgap design that merely allowed Campagnolo to catch back up to its competitors. But this derailleur , the 1967 Campagnolo Nuovo Record, was something else - a landmark design that redefined the derailleur market for a generation.
The Campagnolo Nuovo Record totally dominated the road racing scene for 16 years - an astonishing feat given that competitive sports usually spur technical innovation.
The Nuovo Record had powerful virtues - it was light, very strongly constructed and well finished. The way the parallelogram loads its pivots means that they do not wear badly. Spare parts were relatively widely available. The pulley wheels used a proper two part bronze bushing system. Despite its outrageous price, these are all important features if you are training for hundreds of miles a week on a tight budget.
It also had its obvious vices. The parallelogram geometry is not optimised for gear changing - Campagnolo was never overly interested in the idea of ‘chain gap’. The Nuovo Record does not like low gears - and it also does not give a precise change with very small cogs at the high gear end. Many was the road race that was lost due to a missed shift into a 13 tooth top cog.
Frank Berto caustically comments that the Campagnolo Nuovo Record rear derailleur shifted poorly, but was so well constructed that it would keep on shifting exactly as poorly - forever.
At the time none of this counted for anything. In the fine tradition of the Turin Shroud, the ‘Jesus’ oyster shell and the famous ‘Virgin Mary’ piece of toast, the Campagnolo Nuovo Record was accorded miraculous race winning powers and became a totem of the bizarre religious cult that we know as cycle racing.
In terms of the technical history of the derailleur, the Nuovo Record has an important place as the derailleur that established aluminium as the unchallenged material of choice. In terms of the cultural history of the derailleur the Nuovo Record has an even more important place. It invented, and arguably perfected, the idea of bicycle components as jewellery - luxury products that are desirable because they are expensive, items of frivolous beauty to be carressed and fawned over. The legend is that Tullio Campagnolo demanded that the aluminium components of the gear should be tumbled in a drum of small bamboo balls to give them a sensuous, silky, lustre. He was determined to go beyond the proletarian bling of chrome and high polish finishes.
I believe that this example dates from 1969. 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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