The Ducati motorcycle company
began as Societa Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati founded
in 1926, by brothers Adriano, Bruno Cavalieri, and Marcello Ducati
from Borgo Panigal Bologna, Italy. Ducati began by manufacturing
radio components, diversifying into motor-driven bicycles shortly
A company called Societa
Italiana per Applicazioni Tecniche Auto-Aviatorie (SIATA) began
producing small single-cylinder engines designed to be mounted onto
a bicycle frame. The engines were dubbed "Cucciolo," or "little
puppy" for the unusual exhaust-note emanating from its short exhaust
At the end of WWII, businesses
like Ducati and SIATA fell under the jurisdiction of the IRI (Institute
for Industrial Reconstruction), a governmental agency that co-managed
large industrial companies.
Ducati Singles (1950 to
With the success of the
Cucciolo engine, Ducati decided to partner with SIATA to produce its
first small-displacement motorcycle in 1950. The first Ducati was
called the was 55M (65TL), and featured a 60cc pushrod engine that
produced a top speed of 40 mph.
The Ducati 100 Gran Sport
The limited production
1954 100 Gran Sport was designed by Fabio Taglioni, had a 98cc single-cylinder
engine with a OHC overhead-cam driven by a vertical shaft with conical
gears, and a 10║ forward tilt to the nearly vertical cylinder head.
The Gran Sport's single-cylinder OHC engine design was the precursor
for two decades of engine production at Ducati
1955 Ducati 100 Gran Sport
In 1953, 'Societa Scientifica
Radio Brevetti Ducati' was broken into two separate companies: Ducati
Elettronica SpA, and the motorcycle division of Ducati Meccanica SpA.
Fabio Taglioni was elevated to chief designer of Ducati Meccanica
in 1954, and his Gran Sport was upgraded to a 125cc double overhead
cam (DOHC) engine in 1956.
100cc Gran Sport Engine
As the popularity and performance
of Ducati motorcycles grew with Italian enthusiasts, they set out
to position itself as a race-worthy marque.
The Ducati Desmo (Desmodromic)
To develop higher horsepower
race-capable engines with such small displacement, it was necessary
to significantly increase the rpm range of their motors. The 125cc
Gran Sport engine was capable of safely hitting the 11,500 rpm range
without producing enough valve float to collide piston with valve.
The principle of mechanically
'forcing' the valve to close, and not relying totally on a valve-spring,
was first conceived in the late 1800s, but was not put into practical
use until the 1930s. This mechanical system became known as "desmodromics,"
which is Greek for: desmos 'controlled,' and dromos
1959 Ducati 175cc Formula 3 Production Racer
company M˛ndial toyed with the idea of a desmodromic engine in the
early 1950s, but abandoned the idea. Ducati first developed their
own version of a desmodromic, or "Desmo" system in 1956, using the
design on their 125cc Grand Prix race bike. The 125cc Desmo was now
theoretically capable of a maximum 14,000 to 15,000 rpm range; creating
1959 Ducati 200 Super Sport - Owner: Alan Chalk,
The 125cc Ducati Desmo
proved to be a race-worthy competitor to the MV Agusta which was dominating
the 125cc class.
Intrest in Ducati from
across the Atlantic had prompted two brothers, Joseph and Michael
Berliner to open the Ducati franchise in the United States. The Berliner
corporation had a great deal of influence in design direction ment
for the American consumer.
Ducati 200cc Super Sport Engine
In the late 1950s, Ducati
introduced the 125 Monza and Monza 'Super,' and Ducati was now trying
to squeeze as much horsepower as possible out of their 125cc engine,
with their retail competitors moving to higher displacement engines.
1962 Ducati 125 Sport
Fabio Taglioni steadily
increased the reliability, displacement, and power of Ducati's single-cylinder
engine using faster cams, high-compression pistons, and Dell'Orto
SS racing carburetors, helping Ducati to win several Grand Prix championships
over the next decade.
The Ducati 250cc Mach
Ducati moved into the 250cc
displacement category in the early 1960s, with the introduction of
the 'Ducati 250' and Mark 3 (Mach 3) 'Diana' Super Sport.
1965 Ducati Mark 3 Diana - Owner: Ian Berger,
Moving up the displacement
ladder, Ducati introduced its first 350cc production motorcycle in
the mid 1960s, which was called the '350 Sebring.' By this point,
US Ducati importer Berliner was pushing for the reluctant company
to start producing larger displacement twins that could compete with
Indian and Harley Davidson.
250cc Mark 3 Diana OHC Engine
In 1967, the Italian government
took over the day-to-day operations of Ducati through the holding
company known as EFIM (Ente Partecipazioni e Finanziamento Industria
Manifatturiera), which now controlled over 114 industrial companies
By 1967, Ducati Meccanica
SpA produced its first "production" desmodromic (Desmo) consumer model,
the Mark 3D. The Ducati 450 cc motor was the company's largest displacement
model to date. Unfortunately for Ducati, the non-Italian buying public
was looking for 2-cylinder larger-displacement motorcycles, and Ducati
would need to change with the times to survive.
The Ducati Apollo
By the mid 1960s the Berliner
brothers helped to underwrite the development of Ducati's first multi-cylinder
engine. The bike, having a launch date of late 1965, was to be named
the Ducati 'Apollo,' featuring a 1256cc 90║ V-four engine, with two
valves per cylinder. With over 100 bhp, it would have been one of
the most powerful motorcycles of the time.
Unfortunately for the the
Berliner brothers, the Italian government's EFIM management nixed
the project, however the development of the Apollo's engine did lead
to the development of smaller displacement 90║ V-Twin engines in 1970.
Ducati's unusual positioning of the V-Twin lead to it being referred
to as the "L-Twin."
Ducati Twins (1970 to
Present) - V-Twin 750GT
In 1970, Ducati's first
v-twin engines were designed primarily for use in Grand Prix racing.
Working with Italjet founder Leopoldo Tartarini, Fabio Taglioni designed
and built several 500cc V-Twin racing Ducatis.
The Ducati 750GT & 860GT
The first production v-twin
was the Ducati 750GT, with bevel-gear driven two-valve cylinder heads,
fibreglass gastank, and painted silver frame. The 750GT evolved over
the next decade to be sold as the 750 Sport, 750SS, 860GT & GTS, 900SS
and Mike Hailwood Replica.
1977 Ducati 860GT
Ducati engineers moved
to a belt-driven double overhead camshaft (DOHC) system for their
GP bikes in 1973. The belt-drive engines were distinguished by their
a radial-finned forward cylinder head.
The Ducati 'Pantah 500'
Ducati's first use of the
belt-driven cam in a production motorcycle came in 1980, with the
500cc "Pantah 500SL." The Pantah engine's belt-drive would be the
precursor for all Ducati v-twin engines to come. The Pantah also featured
the first use of the now signature "trellis frame," which incorporated
the engine/transmission as a stress member, and swingarm pivot point.
The Pantah lasted for six
years under the model names: 500SL, 600SL, 600TL, and the 650SL which
was the last of the Pantah line in 1986.
Cagiva's Purchase of Ducati
In 1985, Ducati Meccanica
SpA was purchased by Cagiva, who also purchased MV Agusta in 1987.
The Ducati 851 Desmoquattro
In late 1987, the Ducati
851 went into production with a desmodromic four-valve per cylinder
engine, dubbed as the "Desmoquattro," or Quattrovalvole. The Ducati
851 with its fuel injected, and liquid cooled design was the precursor
to the 888, 916 (designed by Massimo Tamburini), 996S, 996 Biposto,
and 996SPS with Íhlins suspension.
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