1968 Ducati 500 parallel-twin concept
With Phil Aynsley
In the last column (link) I made brief reference to the two 500cc parallel twin designs that Ducati had briefly flirted with in the ‘60s. I was lucky enough to be able to photograph one in the bowels of the factory, pretty much literally in fact as I was set up in a disused part of one of the 1940s era buildings at the Bologna HQ.
Before we get to the 1968 bike I shot I should make brief mention of its 1965 predecessor that debuted at that year’s Daytona Show – which gives you an idea of the market it was aimed at. It was a 360º OHV design which employed such advanced features as an electric starter and a five-speed gearbox. However it only produced 36 hp at 6,000 rpm, which together with a weight of 190kg resulted in very modest performance. It quickly disappeared from view.
Three years later this almost completely revised version was shown. While the motor was still a pushrod design the totally new crankcases were more compact and power was up to 38 hp. More importantly weight was down to 173 kg resulting in a more acceptable top speed of 165 km/h.
The exhausts were tucked in much closer to the motor providing a big improvement in ground clearance. The mufflers were originally Silentiums but as they had disappeared at some point, much later Lafranconis are now fitted.
Despite these improvements the design did not progress past this prototype which vanished into the factory store rooms for many decades until it was displayed at a show around 2013.
I happened to see photos of it online and after some asking around, discovered that it had come from the factory rather than some private collection. The Ducati Museum’s curator, Livio Lodi, graciously made it (and another rarity, more on which in a later column) available when I visited in 2015.