In 1926, Adriano and Marcello Ducati founded a

company that specialised not in motorcycles, but the production of

radio components. During the war years, they turned their attention

toward electronic military equipment. This move made their factory a

target for allied bombing, but despite frequent, serious damage, they

managed to remain in production. In 1950, Ducati launched their first

motorcycle, which was based on the already well established Cucciolo

engine. This power unit, designed by Aldo Farinelli, was originally

created as a strap on motor for push bikes. By the time Ducati adopted

it, 200,000 units had been produced. This first creation by Ducati was

capable of 40mph and 200 mpg and weighed in at 98 pounds. These bikes

were badged as 55M or 65TL.

The brothers Bruno, Adriano and Marcello Cavalieri Ducati, founders of the Borgo Panigale company.

Post-war economic growth put more money in Italians' pockets and

with it the need for something more sophisticated, so at the Milan Show

of 1952, the company introduced the 65TS and the cruiser, which was the

first four-stroke scooter in the world. Unfortunately, the public

didn't embrace the idea as Ducati had hoped, and the model was

withdrawn the following year with sales barely reaching the 2,000 mark.

At this time, Ducati were still making electronic equipment, so the

decision was made to split the company and Ducati Elettronica SpA was

created under separate management.

Ducati Meccanica SpA, led by Dr Guiseppe Montano, became the motorcycle

manufacturing company that we know today, and by 1954 were turning out

120 units per day as the factory was modernized with government aid.

Although Montano was appointed by the government, he was a genuine

motorcycle lover and realised the potential of racing to induce

customers to buy his machines. By 1956, the Desmo Ducati 125 won its

first race in Sweden. The Grand Prix at Hedemora saw the Ducati lap

every other motorcycle. Sadly, the man who achieved this feat, Gianni

Degli Antoni, died during practice for the following race. This

unfortunate accident hit Ducati hard, and it wasn't until 1958 that

they could once again challenge MV Agusta.

As the 50's drew to a close, the Berliner Brothers picked up the

American franchise and pushed Ducati to the forefront in the USA. With

no little flair, they began punching above their weight and mounted a

serious challenge to the wave of Japanese machines that were coming

into the country. At this time, the company was also enjoying success

in other export markets as well as at home. In the mid sixties, Ducati

became the Italian outlet of Standard-Triumph cars and Leyland vans and

trucks. It seemed as if they could do no wrong, but the American market

was about to give them a reminder of the fragility of success. Ducati

insisted on pushing their 50cc two-strokes on the American public.

Although these machines had accrued many sales in Italy, the contrary

was true of the USA, as the nation snubbed what were in fact very good

machines. Rather than heed the warning, the company pressed ahead and

created a 100cc two-stroke, when they really should have been

developing their much loved sporting four-strokes. Berliner suffered to

such an extent, that they refused one shipment of bikes because they

didn't have the money to pay them, even if they could have sold them in

the States.

As Ducati struggled to compete with the mass produced Japanese

motorcycles, the future looked gloomy, but once again they turned to

their racing roots, creating 750's which took first and second places

at Imola in 1972. A major coup for the company was the securing of the

services of rider, Paul Smart, who was at that time racing for

Kawasaki. The story goes that he wasn't at home when the call came, but

the financial lure was so strong that his wife accepted the offer on

his behalf. Success at Imola sparked the beginning of the love affair

between big racing bikes and Ducati.

Today, Ducati riders are some of the most loyal when it comes to

brand allegiance. Their reward is to be the owner of one of one most

strikingly beautiful machines available. The company has achieved

success by following its racing roots. At the company's headquarters,

you can visit the museum and re-live over 50 years of racing history.

About The Author

Alan Liptrot is the founder of The Company offers guided motorcycle tours in Spain, Portugal and Morocco.