1953 Gaggia Classica 1 Group

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
User avatar
IamOiman
Team HB

#1: Post by IamOiman »

So, coming off of the Internazionale I bought in August, my next find was a 1953 Gaggia Classica 1 group.

I posted about how I found it elsewhere but I will insert it here too in an earlier thread.

What happens when you buy lamps from a guy at the Agnano Market

In the last month Franco (the seller) exchanged telephone numbers we me in 2019, but I lost track of Franco's number when it changed. Therefore it was unknown what he was doing during the 2+ years but I finally figured out his number when I realized the number switches over on WhatsApp automically to his new one, and he responded to me! He still had the Classica and I was able to negotiate a very reasonable price for the machine. It arrived at 11am today while I was on a work call so it was a little frantic juggling the crates into the garage as I was talking to my work colleagues.

The good news: everything arrived at a convenient time since the original arrival date was earlier this week when I was in Arizona and Utah checking out some national parks and monuments + attending a cousin's wedding. A delay in shipment worked in my favor for once!

The bad news: the wood crates did not have the pallet legs on the bottom so it was not easy to tell which way was the top. The Classica arrived upside down :shock: . The plexi and the sight glass broke and thankfully that appears to be the only damage I identified so far. It sucks that this happened but I hope to do something about the plexi, or at least hold onto it for the time being. I was quickly reassured with the body panels as taking off the top cover that holds the cuts and plexi I realized it is HEFTY. It seriously must weigh almost if not more than 5 pounds. A seriously thick gauge of metal.

I do in fact have the wobbler weight + plunger, I just took them off (well, fished the plunger from the bottom of the machine) before taking pics.






Initial first impressions shows chrome that is not in pristine condition but not in terrible shape (mostly). This is going into a realm of deciding if I want to rechrome stuff or keep it original. The grouphead, valves, and portafilter have little speckles from wear, and the drip tray is decently worn too. I was concerned as well with the chrome because tape was used to secure the lever and portafilter but nothing peeled off with the tape thankfully. Since the machine has no asbestos insulation I am bringing it inside for now.




-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

Cerini Coffee & Gifts: official US importer for Olympia Express
Sponsored by Cerini Coffee & Gifts
User avatar
TomC
Team HB

#2: Post by TomC »

That's pretty impressive original condition! Those hot water taps always seem like a challenge to get them bent cleanly and angled the way you'd want.
Join us and support Artisan Roasting Software=https://artisan-scope.org/donate/

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#3: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

Oh man, you would not believe how well the panels cleaned up!

I checked the Classica out more closely today. I cannot understate how tall this machine is. The pavoni is so tiny!




Now the thing I was most curious about is how good condition the chrome actually was. Some pieces like the drip tray and a few valves are really worn, but I suspected other pieces were just covered in grime.

I was proven correct :D . A wash and a quick wipe down in Sidol revealed the shiny chrome underneat, and I am not done yet with the cleaning which I will finish when I have everything apart. Note the blue lamps in the background are the ones that were purchased from the man that introduced me to Franco!





I want to emphasize how heavy duty this machine is. I thought the cup tray weighed 5 pounds. In fact it's closer to 5kg :shock:


And finally here are the other three goodies that arrived undamaged in the other crate, the two grinders and the domestic blender.

-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#4: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

I got tempted and had to take apart the Classica. I wanted to see the innards, so Steve/BaristoStefano should pay attention!

The valves connecting to the boiler were actually not too tight. In fact the glass sight broke because the lower sight turned in place and thus snapped the glass. I will note this is probably the biggest valve assembly I've seen so far! I had to take off the manometer and elbow fitting because the turning arc was fouled with them in place by the lever group. There is a slotted nut on top that I got off with an offset screwdriver. Surprisingly unlike the Internazionale I had wrenches that fit the hex parts of the valves very nicely. It's 28mm for all but the water inlet which is 30mm.






I loosened the four slotted screws on the front to take off a body panel bracket. I was expecting the rear body panel piece to come off but I was surprised to see the bracket assembly not integrated with the former. I thought I was ready to take off the body panel but I realized there are three threaded rods that are welded to the bottom of the body piece and have a nut and washer to secure the body panel to the lower skirt. After taking those nuts off I thought I could finally take off the body piece (again). But in fact the rear threaded rod was dented, probably during shipment, that would not allow me to take off the body piece. I had to manipulate the threaded rod with a screwdriver to fit it through its hole in the skirt. Eventually I could get the piece off. You can see the two bolts securing the foot to the frame now.








At this point I moved the much lighter Classica out to the garage for more aggressive methods of disassembly. The water inlet valve needed a little convincing to loosen but eventually it yielded. I heated the six M8 boiler bolts with a MAP Pro torch, waited for them to cool off, and then worked my way with each bolt. All of them came out, but the lid would not come off. I realized the dipper tube in the group was interfering with the element coils, so I added my spring tool in prep for disassembly of the group and then took off the group from the boiler. Note this grouphead uses the newer dipper design where it can be unscrewed with a 25mm wrench. This allowed me to take out the lid and the crusty heating elements. The group looked a little slanted but I believe that is because of this interference by the heating element. The boiler itself is in fact straight. I am very impressed with how big they are! The boiler gasket will not come off cleanly due to its thinness so I will keep it outside until I descale the boiler since red gasket usually equals asbestos.









The foot popped off with the two M8 bolts coming out and I could also take off the backsplash. The boiler to group studs I heated up, doused in penetrating oil, waited for them to cool down, and loosened them/took them off with vise grips. In the end the only snapped thread was one rusted slotted boiler to frame screw! There is a plug on the bottom of the boiler. It would not yield to my impact driver so I will descale the boiler first before further attempts are made.






And thus the Classica is now mostly in pieces. The lower skirt attaches to the frame directly via two slotted screws. The valve pieces are mostly loosened up, with just a few bits needing descaling to unclog the threads. I am not sure what wattage the elements are but perhaps I could resuse them if they are still working.


-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#5: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

The group came apart with the spring tool. I had a helper hold the group as I tapped out the pinion so I could decompress the spring. I am happy to see the spring holder is made of brass this time! The spring is rusty, presumably from a failed gasket stack.





The gasket stack was nasty, and I immediately bagged the suspect fiber gaskets so no pick of the old gasket stack. I unscrewed the 80mm nut in my vise by hand. The portafilter gasket was still pliable so I could easily take it out with a shim. I noted a small nick in the group sleep but it should not impede the piston. I'll still see if I can somewhat bend it back.



-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#6: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

There are five valve assemblies on the 1 group Classica. I will show them disassembled.


Gas assembly I believe is exactly like the one that I would find on my Internazionale (besides the burner) if it was not missing. It has a long rod with a needle to shutoff the gas/adjust it.




The water inlet fit very nicely in my vise, so I did not have much trouble getting it apart. It is actually pretty simple, with a single gasket for the valve itself necessary. The bakelite handle needed the impact driver to loosen the bolt. There was rubber stuffed in the hose side of the inlet, almost as if to block it off.




The steam valve is also simple and is just like my Internazionale steam valve. The manometer/upper glass sight fitting came apart after.





The lower valve is two-for-one, with the hot water valve and shutoff valve for the lower glass sight. The latter's rod is very stuck so it remains in the valve.




With the valves apart I did a citric acid bath to see how well preserved the chrome was. It was hit or miss, but a lot of the pieces are actually in decent shape. There was a lot of hemp and teflon tape taken off. Unfortunately I discovered two cracks. One is on the lower shutoff valve fitting with the stuck rod. It's not very deep (maybe 3mm) but something grasped that surface violently that caused this crack. The second crack is on the stuck shutoff rod itself where the bakelite handle attaches. I did not notice these cracks until after but in theory they should not impact functionality as the area where the gasket rests goes far deeper than the crack on the fitting. The rod is still stuck, and while I would prefer to have it taken off, something is blocking the threads. I can move the rod maybe a 1/6th of a turn max but it is in the open position.





-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#7: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

For the cracked valve and stuck rod I am currently electing to keep it as is after discussing the situation with some experts. I am doing this because the method to fix the situation would likely ruin the chrome and I do not want to rechrome anything if possible. There is also the possibily the old valve breaks. The crack in the valve is definitely shallow enough to not affect sealing.

I descaled the boiler today with the lid. I took off the heating elements first as I decide what to do with the old ones. One of them states 1300W but I have not measured the resistance yet. After soaking for an hour the gasket softened so that I could scrape most of it off with a hobby knife.





The boiler may need another soaking inside but it's definitely in a better state. Unfortunately a lot of the painted surface was in fact soot from the gas system and thus washed off pretty easily. I wire wheeled the flanges, and I noted the boiler lid states 260, probably for 260 Volts.






Concurrently I finished taking apart the group. I knocked out the remaining bearing, took off the very stuck bakelite handle, and wiped off the old grease. Note what the group looked like before, with its lightning-esque oxidation. Now check it out after cleaning!







My secret? Citric acid actually, no polishing was involved. If the oxidation is mostly superficial I can dunk the piece in a citric acid bath for 20-30 minutes and that oxidation will come off while leaving the good chrome alone during that short soak. It worked out surprisingly well and I did it for a few other pieces too (as long as the base metal was non-ferrous).

Finally, you might have noted the big vise behind one of the pics. I got a neat vintage Parker No 23X vise as an upgrade to my little harbor freight vise. It was $100 and it's pretty hefty.

-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

Baratza: skilled in the art of grinding
Sponsored by Baratza
User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#8: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

2nd descale occured, I have a lot of the scale is removed but I am debating letting it soak more. This second time I just plugged the lower fittings since the majority of scale is below the upper fittings. I also loosened the plug. It is an M8 thread and I do not know why it was installed since it cannot be accessed without taking off the valves + group followed by the backsplash. At that point you could just open one of the lower valves to drain the water! I am thankful though that the plug was brass and not something ferrous that could rust.




A problem that I inspected in more detail is the lower body panel. At some point during shipment the thread that secures the body panel to the lower skirt took a dent. I will need to gently hammer it back with a dolly set, otherwise I cannot fit the panel in without leveraging it, complicating the process. That is also why it appears that part of the machine appeared dented inwards. The GAGGIA lettering is secured by two M2 studs that thread into each letter. The Gaggia emblem on the side of the panel comes off via 4 tiny brass screws.








I did the tumbler action with the dirty bits. I kept a few hex nuts and another piece out of it at the last minute since those just had cupric oxide, which is an inert layer that protects the metal underneath.



The manometer cleaned up nicely! The bezel is actually in really good condition! I am about 90% certain the date written on it says August 11 1953. Unfortunately some of the date was rubbed off as the metal ring separated from the manometer face.


-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#9: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

I forgot to note two additional things from yesterday.

as I was cleaning the piston I noted there was a decent amount of play between the rack piece screwing into the piston and the rack itself. The rack is a three piece assembly involving a pin that secures two pieces together. By design there is a little play where the upper rack can move around, but the Classica's rack has more play than the Internazionale and my spare rack. It is something I will need to pay attention to and see if it will fail/shear off, but it could simply be it's a different/earlier design where it intentionally has more play. Note the thicker teeth on the Classica's rack and a different shaped at the bottom of the upper rack compared to the Internazionale's piston on the left in the pic below.



The shutoff valve was removed as well. It was extremelly stuck not because of stuck threads, but rather by the ancient rubber gasket that was very very brittle and hardened. I had to heat up the area to break up the gasket, and eventually once I removed enough of the gasket the rod simply unscrewed without effort. Note I will recommend a fully enclosed socket or 6 sided wrench as my open faced 7mm wrench slipped around the hex head from too much torque.



-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

User avatar
IamOiman (original poster)
Team HB

#10: Post by IamOiman (original poster) »

Some more cleaning was done today, this time for the big panels. All I did is dunk the pieces in citric acid for about 30 minutes, then rinsed and wiped them off. You can see the wear and scratches on some pieces with the right light but honestly I am super chuffed at how much better the chrome turned out to be than what I was expecting. The big round body panel with the lettering has a speckled patina that does not come off with polishing or cleaning so that will be its final state. I also cleaned up the GAGGIA lettering. Note some of the crooked letters. I bet they reamed the holes for the studs by hand! Of course every piece seems to be rocking the stamped 1734 serial number.















I also found a way to disassembled the tap rods. Using some soft grips on my pliers and a 15mm wrench, I could exert enough force to loosen the threads. This will be good for cleaning as I smelled penetrating oil inside each one. Lastly, I can definitely fit some 3/8" fittings into two of the heating element holes as I plan to use a replica element that only uses two of them. One will be for the p-stat and one for the vacuum valve. I am ordering some extra tall 3/8" fittings to fit the holes.



-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612