> A while ago, I suggested that Campagnolo may have bought FB (the
> hub maker).
> Recently, I asked Ernest Csuka, of Cycles Alex Singer, who had
> mentioned this initially. He believes that sometime around the
> 1940s, after the three-piece Campagnolo hubs came out, FB was
> by Campagnolo outright. However, the details are sketchy. Ernest
> believes that the hubs labeled Campagnolo were made in the FB
> factory, but after Campagnolo bought them. When I pointed out that
> also appears to have made hubs for other companies with their
> he was not surprised.
> Clearly, for Singer, what counted was that they bought the hubs,
> that they remained relatively unchanged. The check went to FB (in
> France - their factory there, which, according to Ernest, later
> became the French distribution center for Campagnolo), but whether
> they were owned by Campagnolo or not didn't really matter.
> Having raised the issue initially, I just wanted to provide this
> update. Does anybody else have more/precise information?
I can categorically state that the your previous claim as to the French nationality of FB and the newest response given by Ernest Csuka are not correct. FB is not French, nor has it ever been French. Like Lygie and Campagnolo, they simply saw the benefits of producing the products for the French market in France to avoid the protective tariffs then in effect. Simplex did the same for the Italian market, producing their gears in Italy. This obviously does not make Simplex an Italian company. These foreign production realities continued as long as punitive tariffs remained in effect. It would obviously be mutually beneficial for two small companies like FB and Campagnolo to produce for the French market in the same factory where possible, especially as they had already collaborated in Italy beforehand. Once the tariffs were removed, it is also logical that the bigger of the two companies would be more likely interested in maintaining the existing premises. By the mid-50's this was clearly Campagnolo, notwithstanding the fact that FB produced many products beyond their hubs (They were also major producers of cranks.)
Csuka's belief that Campagnolo bought FB outright could therefore perhaps have been partially correct, were he refering to the French factory/premises only. FB and Campagnolo production continued in a parallel manner for many years. While production was parallel, FB was however also fully independant of Campagnolo as can be proven by the fact that in the early 50's Emilio Bozzi catalog that Chuck is selling, you can see FB hubs being supplied with SIMPLEX quick release levers (see page 121).
I believe a more interesting point would be to verify whether the FB and Campagnolo hubs are indeed identical. While the parts seem to be interchangeable, there were so many variations in the 3-piece hubs that I am unsure that the two companies ever sold identical hubs at the same time. Some oldtimers in Italy have told me that FB provided Campagnolo the flanges only. Clearly I can't prove this, so this statement will need to remain 'fiction'. I can however state that FB-branded hubs locknuts did not carry the same date codes as Campagnolo-branded hubs. I can also state that most Campagnolo-branded hubs had FB-marked flanges that clearly stated their Italian provenance. The same 'made in Italy' mark can also be seen on the FB hubs.
Another topic that has been brought up is the 'hub patent' that Campagnolo held. Campagnolo did not own a patent for a hub, but originally only the cam-operated quick release. They then added the serrated cambio corsa axle, but to the best of my knowledge, that is it with regards to pre-1955 hub-related patents. It is also interesting to point out a bit of Campagnolo trivia. Campagnolo's official corporate name for many years was (and maybe still is) Campagnolo Brevetti Internazionali SpA which translates into: Campagnolo International Patents Inc. No mention of cycling whatsoever. I think that Tullio earned much of his start-up capital for the launch of the Gran Sport derailleur and such from his patents and always recognized the importance of his patents. It is also often said in Italian cycling circles that Tullio's initial Q/R invention was perhaps just as much the merit of foresight in patenting an idea as it was of actually being the first to think of and produce said idea. It was mentioned that Gnutti and FB were licensed to use the Campagnolo patent. This does not concur with what I have always been told. Gnutti definitely did pay licensing rights to Campagnolo for their skewer patent. This can be proven by a skewer I recently supplied to another listmember with an Arbos frame. It clearly states Gnutti Lic. Campagnolo on the lever. FB on the other hand never made any skewers with their own brand name.