Tom D. wrote:
Was there really a market in Italy for the high level of finish that we ass ociate with Confentes? And wasn't it this level of finish that a huge pa rt of the Confente thing? The crop of US builders from Eisentraut to pre sent did/does take things to a different level than I associate with anything that came out of Italy, at least until their bikes started to be influenced by those from the US (seen the latest Alberto Masis?). Anywa y, I think Mario, while Italian as they come, may have been a founder of
something that is, or was, uniquely American.
probably worth noting that of the Big Five italian marques known to most of us (Cinelli, Masi, Colnago, Pogliaghi, De Rosa), Masi had by far the best workmanship details at a time when that doesn't seem to have been very important to anyone. And I suspect plenty of people appreciated what Masi was doing, in italy, and out of it.
It always seemed to me that Masi took up Sahm on his offer, because Sahm's offer was very, very fat for the time. Not because he didn't have a good business in Italy. And Masi knew he could always go back to Italy if things didn't work out, and have a business with his son, however much they might have quarreled otherwise. The opportunity to be a world-wide name has seduced plenty of people. Faliero was smart enough to keep his powder dry, although from what Baylis has said, Faliero really wanted to stay in America, but couldn't get the necessary resident status...
I've seen a few of the early 60s Masi Specials, with both cinelli-style lugs and nervex lugs and I can tell you that those frames display WAY more attention to detail than any other italian frames I know of, especially if you compare to, say, Bianchi or similar. Early De Rosas from that time are also impressive, but so seldom seen I'm not sure how much influence they might have had... Masi seems to have put some emphasis on the details of finish (clean lugs, artful style) that Colnago eventually seems to have taken seriously...as did Confente, clearly. Pogliaghis of the same period, while great bikes, are crude by comparison, and more than a few Cinellis of that time aren't anywhere near as impressive as a competing Masi Special.
Confente didn't achieve his style supremacy in a vacuum, and I suspect it's no coincidence that he worked for Masi, and ended his career building bikes that are clear descendents of the Masi Gran Criterium.