1955 La San Marco Lollobrigida

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#1: Post by TomC »

I picked her up a few weeks ago, about 10 minutes away in San Bruno. A vague estate sale listing in San Francisco listed on Craigslist mentioned only "1950's espresso machine" and "espresso machine" hit on my search results. No photo of the machine at all, just pictures of the fine furniture, sculptures and works of art that were in the sale. I could tell from the quality of the other items that it was worth actually asking about, even though I had missed the weekend estate sale having to be at work all weekend. Long story short, this is what I brought home. She's sat in various states of undress until today when I figured out how to remove the top for further cleaning and examining, so I waited till now to put a thread together on her.

I spent some time getting acquainted with its design and features. Some early cleaning with just a damp microfiber cloth showed promise that her overall condition is quite good, just with a bit of TLC and time, I could potentially have a clean, potentially running showpiece on my hands.

Half cleaned

Looking at some of the internals, I see "55" stamped pretty much everywhere on nearly every single panel and part, with the exception of parts of the boiler mount that is stamped "37" The end cap of the boiler opposite of the boiler flange has 1954 stamped into it, with a serial number that matches that of the badge on the baristas side of the machine.

The boiler mount and a few other spots have 37 stamped into it.

The boiler flange shows at least two stainless fasteners and washers, it appears to have been well looked after. The boiler is insulated everywhere other than right above the burner.

Looking at the group itself, I decided to pause rather than proceed. I don't have a C spanner wrench to remove the side caps and I didn't want to unbolt the group from the boiler just to have a look, so it sits intact until I decide how I want to proceed. Group to boiler gaskets and boiler to element or flange gaskets are easy to make from scratch, but without having the proper piston seals in hand, I likely won't proceed any further.

I haven't torn it down to bare bones, just body panels for gentle cleaning, photographs of the internals to satisfy our collective inquisitiveness. I've checked out a few resources for parts like portafilter gaskets, group to boiler gaskets, piston seals, etc but haven't had anything pan out yet. All the valves turn smoothly and the only thing that is missing is the plexi trim on top, but it has all original valve knobs, pressure gauge, portafilter etc. It is setup for either gas or electric (220V) and seems pretty intact. The seller said he plugged it in and it warmed up, then he unplugged it. I haven't tested it. From my brief tear down today, I couldn't find any source of an on/off switch, so from what I can tell, plugging in the cord is the way to turn it on :shock:, but I'm still in the discovery phase of learning what I can about it, so my information might not be correct.

The base of the machine shows a boiler inlet on the left, along with a boiler drain on the right.

The center valve was first thought to be a gas inlet, then I started thinking it might have something to do with a drain for the drip tray, but no, it's not connected to the drain, which has its own valve/line. I'm pretty certain this is a secondary valve that regulates the flow of gas up to the burner, it lines up right inline down the center line of the machine, under the other component that is the gas line and adjustable air mix intake.

The chrome is extremely thick on all sections other than the top cup tray. And the two side panels aren't plated the same as the rest of the machine, and almost appear to be painted a long time ago. Whereas gentle cleaning everywhere else in test spots reveals clean shiny new looking chrome, a small hidden test spot on these "gills" on the side just showed the coating rubbing off and going down to the thick underlying brass. Looking underneath the badge on the front of her and testing in other discrete areas allowed me to see how well the chrome would polish in light of the diamond pattern that is acid etched into the surface.

The fear was, with the way the side panels were possibly not holding on to their top surface finish well, I didn't want to be in the same boat with the intricate diamond pattern and risk having anything rub off since there'd be no way to correct that if I were to plow ahead stupidly. Fortunately that wasn't the case and after testing out a few spots, I was able to clean it up to a near new looking shine. From 4 feet away she almost looks new now.

Her "back" is so gorgeous I'm almost tempted to call it her front, in keeping with her namesake the famous curvy Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. But front, back whatever, this is the side the barista sees, all cleaned up.

A very surprising discover that I've chosen to hold on to for now, rather than remove; while cleaning and polishing the curved chrome face of Gina, I noticed that there was a price tag (or remnants thereof) on the panel. Unfortunately, much of it had already been removed previously, but I got a good laugh at the thought that this machine at some point in her life sat for sale on a shelf somewhere. Maybe she was a bargain for someone else too at some point :) I cleaned around it and left it intact for now. I think it's a cute bit of the history of the machine.

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#2: Post by wouter »

Man, that's a beauty. Extremely rare.
I think Enrico Maltoni knows about 8/9 still existing worldwide..
That's +1 now
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#3: Post by JustinBrown1 »

Congratulations, what a beauty! It is incredible that the condition is so good. A find for life!


#4: Post by OzarkTroutBum »

Work of ART! Great score and sounds like it found the right home too.

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#5: Post by dmccallum »

You must be the luckiest man alive!

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#6: Post by CoruscatingCoffee »

Tom, You've outdone all your previous discoveries with the Lollobrigida. I have a suggestion about the numbers 55 and 37. In the 1920s through 40s my grandfather and father worked at the Crawford stove factory in Boston. The cast iron stoves were art deco wood and coal burning heaters. For quality control, each part was stamped by the number indicating the craftsman who made the item. My father's number was 37.

Congratulations and I am looking forward to seeing posts about your restoration process.
"Make me one with everything" said the Zen Master to the hot dog vendor.

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#7: Post by Marshall »

I think the best reaction to this Lollobrigida is "va-va-voom!"
Los Angeles


#8: Post by Sansibar99 »

First of all:
W O W !
Congratulations, Tom.

As for the number:
I have an old Zenith Express, and from those machines I' ve learned, that they had serial numbers in every machine, cut into brew group and all other large pieces...

LMWDP #422

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#9: Post by drgary »

Oh. Wow.

Until now I'd thought Leicaism's Faema Marte was the most beautiful espresso machine I'd seen. This Lolo is at least its equal.

Nice start with the cleanup, Tom, so we can see her in all her glory.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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TomC (original poster)
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#10: Post by TomC (original poster) »

I meant to include these. Nothing too exciting. But here's the stamp on the boiler itself with 1954 and a matching serial number that corresponds with the serial number stamped on the tag.

It appears to read "Udine 1954 N 714 PKG 15

The tag also shows a serial number 714, but from the limited history I can gather, LSM made only a few hundred of these machines, definitely under 2-300, of which, some reports have suggested that only as few as six are known to exist. One is in Australia in a museum, one is in Italy in a museum, perhaps two. One is in Israel, freshly acquired by the owner of Coffee Tech (Roasters) via a private sale and the others, sorta here and there, parts unknown. It would appear that LSM didn't apply separate serial numbers for different lines. Collaudo in Italian is "Test" or "Trial" in English.

From what I gather, this machine didn't even leave the factory with a proper name and was given her curvy namesake's monicker for obvious reasons by fans of the machine. I need to get on the phone with more folks from LSM who know some of the lines history and this thread will serve as a starting point for that discussion.

The lack of wear is astonishing. The grip on the lever arm isn't even worn. The hot water tap showed no evidence of scale. The group appears easy to remove, the four nuts holding the group and flange onto the boiler mount are easily accessible. I'll have to show restraint in not moving forward and taking it off just to see inside.

Its interesting, the side panels with the horizontal parallel ribs are apparently made up of close to a dozen parts in each side. They weight 4x more than one would expect when holding them.

Hopefully this thread will serve as a Bat-signal calling out for help from folks who know more about the machine and or where one might locate usable parts. I have a call into Cafe Parts.com that lists Old Group Style LSM parts and seals, etc but haven't confirmed if they are compatible or not. The parts are so cheap, I may just buy them anyway.
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