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In 1933, Ernesto Pettazzoni, an engineer from Bologna, Italy, applied for a British patent for his ultra-short-wheelbase semi-recumbent machine, the Velocino. It represented a wheelchair chopped in half, with the seat over the normal-sized rear wheel. The tiny front wheel was about 10 inches in diameter. The handlebar was reversible, giving the option of under-seat steering. Mussolini is said to have commissioned the Velocino as a compact, easily stored urban vehicle. The project attracted a lot of attention but was canceled after Italy entered Word War II.
– Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History, by Tony Hadland, Hans-Erhard Lessing, Nick Clayton, Gary W. Sanderson
Since Ernesto Pettazzoni’s original Velocino was launched and, unfortunately, canceled soon after, several other companies launched bicycles inspired by his design. Union of Holland introduced the ‘Strano’ in the 1960s – designed by Bernard Overing of Deventer – followed by inventor Emil Friedman of Germany who exhibited a similar machine he called the ‘Donkey.’
A modern version was launched by Italian company Abici recently as a budget bicycle priced around £500, and it has had a favourable reception. After a delay of over 70 years, Pettazzoni’s unique bicycle design is at last being ridden and enjoyed and receiving the acclaim it deserves.
1960s Union Strano
Rear Wheel: 26″
Front Wheel: 10″
Frame No 782794
Recently purchased from a Dutch museum, Union Strano #782794 is in excellent unrestored original condition. The front tyre is worn but holds air. It retains its original ‘Union’ saddle and is ready to ride.
1935 PATENT ERNESTO PETTAZZONI
1936 VELOCINO CATALOGUE
1939 JOHN PLAYER CIGARETTE CARDS: No 30 VELOCINO
The way many of my friends and I learned about bicycles as youngsters was through cigarette cards. No 30 of Players ‘Cycling’ series introduced us to the ‘Italian Velocino Bicycle.’