Seventies Child Born in the Eighties: Ducati 750 F1

It may have been built in the Eighties, but Ducati’s great 750 F1 was a child of the Seventies and one of the best sport bikes ever made.

| July/August 2018

1985 Ducati F1
Engine: 748cc air-cooled SOHC desmodromic 90-degree V-twin, 2 valves per cylinder, 88mm x 61.5mm bore and stroke, 9.3:1 compression ratio, 75hp @ 9,000rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 137mph (period test)
Carburetion: Two 36mm Dell'Orto PHF
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, Kokusan electronic ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Chrome moly trellis frame w/engine as a stressed member/55.1in (1,400mm)
Suspension: 38mm Marzocchi telescopic fork front, single Marzocchi cantilever shock w/adjustable pre-load and damping rear
Brakes: Dual 11in (280mm) full-floating Brembo discs front, single 10.2in (260mm) full-floating Brembo disc rear
Tires: Michelin MN48/M48 (OE; Avon Roadrider replacement on feature bike), 120/80 x 16in front, 130/80 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 386lb (175kg)
Seat height: 29.5in (750mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.8gal (18ltr)/47-49mpg (period tests)
Price then/now: $6,995 (1985)/$15,000-$25,000

In reality, the Ducati 750 F1 is a 1980s motorcycle, the first examples rolling out of the Borgo Panigale factory in Northern Italy in 1985. But in truth, the F1 is a child of the 1970s, its DNA traceable to blueprints originally penned by famed engineer Fabio Taglioni (aka Dr. T) for a 499cc air-cooled L-twin using a belt-drive desmodromic valve train.

That engine eventually powered Ducati's 1980 Pantah 500SL, a bike touted by Cycle magazine in its May 1981 issue as "the first genuinely new European bike in a long time." Of more historical consequence, though, Taglioni's design served, in various displacements, as Ducati's bread-and-butter engine platform during the coming years. As Cycle's editors pointed out in their road test, the Pantah's half-liter engine "has room for further development." Their prophecy would prove to be an understatement, as we shall see.

Soon enough the little engine that could evolved beyond its original half-liter displacement, stretching like Gumby to 583cc, its combustion chambers later ballooning to 649cc of Italian power. Shortly after that, and with an eye on international endurance road racing's 750cc class, Ducati created a 748cc version of Taglioni's 90-degree twin. That engine found a home in essentially the same remarkably taut and lightweight tubular trellis frame used for Ducati's earlier Formula Two racer that dutifully etched its mark in moto history on road race tracks the world over. Before the millennium played out the unassuming Pantah-based engine continued contorting, morphing and growing, much like the Incredible Hulk, ultimately resulting in engines for subsequent Ducati sport bike models displacing more than 900cc.

It was in road racing where Ducati originally established itself as a major player in the approaching modern era of motorcycling that would be dominated by sporty bikes boasting big-bore engines. The saga gained traction in 1972 when a British road racer, the remarkable Paul Smart, raced the stunning Ducati 750 Imola, powered by a twin-cylinder 748cc engine masterfully engineered by Dr. T, to win the Imola 200, Europe's short-lived response to America's long-established Daytona 200. Smart's win elevated Ducati into motorcycle racing's big league of players.

A few years later a couple of motorcycle magazine scribes — Cycle magazine's charismatic editor, Cook Neilson, and his ever-so-capable colleague and the magazine's then-managing editor, the late Phil Schilling — ever so patiently and painstakingly modified their own Ducati 750SS — a bike they humbly christened Old Blue — to win the 1977 Daytona Superbike race. That dynamic duo's performance, with Cook twisting the throttle and Shilling spinning the wrenches, proved that, yes, you too can become a rockin' road racing star if you race a Ducati. Their win is epic lore among Superbike aficionados.

7/4/2018 1:37:47 PM

Nice article, I have one of these wonderful motorcycles

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.


The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265