The October 6th Bonhams Motorcycle Auction at Barber Motorsports Park will provide an opportunity for bidders to own four extremely unique and valuable Ducati 750 Twins. Among dozens of other fantastic classic motorcycles for sale, the four Ducati 750’s shown below represent milestone motorcycle designs, a turn toward the age of the “Superbike,” as well as a representation of the incredible people that made Ducati the passionate manufacturer it is today.
1. EX-SYD TURNSTALL,1973 DUCATI 750 SPORT 885CC RACING MOTORCYCLE ‘OLD YELLO’
From the Bonhams Catalogue:
“The most famous and successful bevel Ducati twin in America not owned by a magazine editor.’ If the 1977 Daytona-winning, Phil Schilling/Cook Neilson/Cycle magazine ‘Old Blue’, is America’s best-loved and most famous Ducati 750SS, the Tunstall/Tunstall/Cathcart ‘Old Yello’ is America’s best-loved, most famous 750 Sport. No. Better than that – most famous 750 Sport on the planet – for it was raced first in the USA and then in the UK.
One of the most famous and successful privateer/non-factory-built Ducati racers ever, this 750 Sport was acquired new by expatriate Englishman Syd Tunstall of Syd’s Cycles, St. Petersburg, Florida and raced by him in production road racing events in the USA. In 1975, the Ducati – known then as ‘Old Yellow’, more recently as ‘Old Yello’ – was handed over to Syd’s son Malcolme, who stepped up to the emerging ‘Superbike’ class, winning several races and finishing 5th in the national series despite the fact that the bike was virtually stock. In 1976, Malcolme and Old Yello won the very last Open Superbike race at the Sebring circuit before it closed, beating Robert Pendleton’s fully faired 997cc Yoshimura Kawasaki.
The following year the bevel-drive engine was rebuilt, tuned and enlarged to 885cc to maintain competitiveness in Open Superbike events, as recounted by Mick Walker in his book, Ducati Twins: ‘Two seasons of hard racing had left the machine still in very good condition, but despite being very little worn, the standard con-rod assembly was replaced, since the plan was to increase the engine’s capacity. This was done by boring out to 86 mm and fitting 860GT pistons, which had been machined for a higher compression ratio. The 32mm Dell’Ortos were bored out to 36mm and factory Imola exhaust pipes were fitted, together with gutted Conti silencers to conform to AMA rules. The running gear now consisted of Lockheed brakes, a WM3 front and WM6 rear rim,’ both in an 18-inch diameter. These upgrades certainly worked, as Malcolme – now qualified as an AMA Expert – finished the 1977 season as Florida Superbike and Grand Prix Champion. Old Yello benefited from further tuning, receiving bigger valves, Imola-profile cams, factory-specification high-level megaphones and other modifications in 1978, but the following season was temporarily retired from racing while the Tunstalls concentrated on Syd’s new 900SS-based Superbike racers.
Alan Cathcart acquired the bike and went on flying the flag in the UK with some considerable success. Malcolme Tunstall and Alan Cathcart agree that the bike ran over 300 races between them without ever suffering a mechanical failure or going down. The bike was acquired by a Steven Higham then of Wigan in the mid-to-late 1990s who planned to continue racing it. With the help of Steve Wynn (of Mike Hailwood TT fame) it was rebuilt with the last set of Getrag close ratio gears made for the Hailwood bike. Plans changed and it was never raced and was then eventually sold at the 2007 Bonhams Collectors’ Motorcycles auction in San Francisco. Offered with some invoices and a substantial file of history and photographs, Old Yello represents the chance to acquire an historic privateer Ducati racing motorcycle possessing impeccable provenance and a unique and unrivalled competition record.
The bike was last run in 2014 at the Barber Motorsports Park track in a demo ridden by Alan Cathcart. It has been carefully stored in a climate-controlled facility ever since.”
2. 1974 DUCATI 750 SS
From the Bonhams Catalogue:
“Even more than the MV Agusta, the 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport epitomizes the Italian sporting motorcycle of the 1970s. Whereas the production MV four-cylinder bike was intentionally designed to be as far removed from the genuine Grand Prix racers as possible…the Ducati was as close a replica to the Imola 200 winning racer of 1972 that could be built and still be street legal.’ The Ducati Story (2018) by Ian Falloon (Veloce).
It was, without question, Paul Smart’s famous victory at Imola, Ducati’s ‘local’ race track just south-east of Bologna, in April 1972 that really put Ducati’s new v-twin on the map. It was a particularly sweet occasion for hitherto un-fancied Ducati, as the Bologna factory defeated not only the race-proven Triumph Tridents of scratchers Percy Tait, John Cooper and Ray Pickrell, but also the works 750 MV Agusta of Giacomo Agostini and several more quasi works teams. With such an outstanding pedigree, the 750 Super Sport was a natural choice for racing’s Superbike category, and later on proved highly competitive in ‘Battle of the Twins’ (BoTT) and club racing events around the world.
Ironically, winning rider Englishman Paul Smart had only reluctantly agreed to race the new Ducati 750 at the inaugural Imola 200 road race, goaded into taking the job by his wife. He was not overly impressed by his converted roadster as it sat in the paddock, nor during his first practice laps. All that changed when he arrived back in the pits to much fanfare to learn that he had just smashed Imola’s lap record! The handling and torque were so smooth that the feedback through the bike belied its actual performance. Smart and fellow rider Bruno Spaggiari went on to a 1-2 finish, and just like that Ducati had begun a new chapter in its history.
Smart’s bike was based on the 750 Sport roadster introduced that same year. The racer’s cycle parts remained close to stock – even the center-stand lugs were retained – merely being up-rated with triple Lockheed disc brakes while the engine gained desmodromic cylinder heads, high-compression pistons and stronger con-rods. When the definitive production version – the 750 SS – appeared in 1974 it differed little in overall conception from the Imola ’72 bikes, among the most obvious external differences being the adoption of a center-axle fork and Brembo front brakes. The big ‘Imola’ fuel tank and humped racing seat both featured on the road bike, which wore a cockpit faring rather than the racer’s full streamlined affair.
The 750 SS received rave reviews in the motorcycling press, being hailed by Cycle magazine as ‘a bike that stands at the farthest reaches of the sporting world – the definitive factory-built café racer.’ Only 401 examples of the original ’round case’ version were built and today is regarded as the true landmark model and is arguably the most widely sought-after of all Ducatis of all time.
Just over 400 of the resulting 750 SS ‘green frame’ street versions were produced in model-year 1974 – although the color of the frame is closer to blue than green, it has always, somehow, been described as green – though how many have survived the ensuing 40 years is unclear. It didn’t take long for attrition to thin the numbers as racers utilized the lusty horsepower delivered by the unique desmodromic valvetrain and massive 40 mm carburetors. In the United States, the exploits of Cyclemagazine’s 750 SS road racer, tuned by the late Phil Schilling and ridden by then editor Cook Neilson, were detailed in the pages of the magazine, helping spread the word. Similarly, importer Berliner regularly publicized the exploits of Neilson, Jon White and others as they gained numerous successes at club level events. This culminated in 1977 when Neilson smashed all comers in the hotly contested Daytona Superbike race on the 750 SS, now highly modified (and painted a dark blue), displacing 883 cc and nicknamed ‘Ol’ Blue.’
Subsequently, Ducati dealers were urged to put these units in the hands of people who would profile them on racetracks. Race kits and cams were available over the counter to heighten performance. Consequently, racing took its toll as all quests for speed do, and it soon became difficult to find a stock example. Crankcases were destroyed or altered, frames got updated to gain a handling edge, fiberglass fuel tanks deteriorated under the stress of racing and were replaced. And don’t think this process of ‘green frame elimination and metamorphosis’ was confined just to the USA, it was prevalent around the world.
‘If James Bond had owned a Super Sport, it would have been this one.’ Engine number 007 was delivered new to Australia in 1974 as recorded in Phil Shilling’s 750 SS Registry (started in 1989). Its first owner is not known but its second was a Richard Walsh, with the vendor the third, buying it in 1980. It has not been ridden on road or track apart for post maintenance checks during the vendor’s ownership. For the past few years it has, instead, been on display at the Powerhouse Museum in Tamworth, Australia. The engine was overhauled 20 odd years ago, electronic ignition installed (it’s reversible) – thus its odometer mileage was under its belt before overhaul – and has been appropriately maintained ever since with periodic starting and running up; it was serviced just before setting off for this sale and thus should be a ‘first kick’ starter after the usual recommended safety checks. 007 was well restored by Sydney-based Ducati guru Ian Gowanlock without diverting from its original specification some years ago and thus, today, has a ‘very nice early patina’ and thus represents a truly rare opportunity to acquire a great example of Ducati’s most iconic bevel-drive model.”
3. 1987 DUCATI 750CC F1 LAGUNA SECA
From the Bonhams Catalogue:
“Considered by many enthusiasts to be the last of the ‘real’ (pre-Cagiva take-over) Ducatis, the race-styled F1 first appeared in 1985. First seen in prototype form in endurance races in 1983, the F1’s 750cc engine was the latest in a long line of stretches applied to the original 500c ‘belt drive’ desmodromic unit that had first appeared in the Pantah in 1979. A markedly over-square unit of 88×61.5mm bore/stroke, the F1’s engine produced around 60bhp and functioned as a stressed element within the frame, the swinging arm pivoting in the rear of the gearbox cases. Clearly visible above the deliberately cut away fairing sides, the aforementioned frame attracted almost as much attention as the engine: a trellis of short, straight tubes, it has formed the basis of every Ducati since, including the Desmosedici Moto GP racer, until the Panigale era. In the fashion of the day, the F1 came with a 16-inch front wheel, while braking power was provided by state-of-the-art triple Brembos. The stock F1 was complemented by a series of hand-built limited-edition race replicas – Montjuich, spelled Montjuic by the Spanish (launched in 1986), Santamonica and Laguna Seca (both launched in 1987) – the last being named in honor of Marco ‘Lucky’ Lucchinelli’s famous Battle of the Twins victory at Laguna Seca in 1986.
Based on the works racers, the Laguna Seca (much like the Montjuich) came with bigger Dell’Orto carburetors, higher compression ratio, bigger valves, and straight-cut primary drive gears. And talk of as much as 95bhp at 10,000rpm. But unlike the Montjuich, it came with a larger, quieter muffler. There were some small changes between the two bikes, namely in the Laguna’s adoption of parts from the new ‘all enclosed’ Paso roadster. The delta-spoked one-piece 16-inch Oscam wheels and the brake discs, but not the front calipers which were four-piston ‘racing’ Brembos, came from the 750 Paso, as did the wider front fender. Other changes included a steel gas tank (but with a ‘Lucky’ signature decal), revised foot peg bracketry and a plastic rear sub-fender attached to the swing arm. Most Laguna Secas came with a solo seat but some had a dual seat installed instead.
Built in limited numbers (believed to be as few as 296) and priced at around 25 percent above the stock F1, the Laguna Seca was one of the most exclusive motorcycles of its time and today is highly prized by Ducati collectors. This pristine example was originally exported to Australia where it was well cared for and enjoyed for 11,000 miles. A rare opportunity to acquire a limited-edition F1.”
4. THE EX-PETE JOHNSON, DALE QUARTERLEY 1987 & 1988 AMA PRO TWINS GP2 WINNING,C.1985 DUCATI-NCR 850 2-VALVE PRO TWINS/BEARS ROAD RACING MOTORCYCLE
From the Bonhams Catalogue:
“Researching and documenting the history of a Ducati road racing motorcycle which began over thirty years ago is typically both a frustrating and rewarding task. Not so this one for the bike’s story is well documented in spite of it spanning two continents. It was in 1985 the American road racer Pete Johnson bought a Ducati 750TT F1 from Steve Wynn’s Sports Motorcycles in Manchester, UK. (Steve Wynn was the UK’s go-to Ducati specialist who engineered Mike Hailwood’s return – as in win – to the Isle of Man TT on the big bevel Ducati). Already this bike was ‘special’ because it came with a ‘factory’ NCR 750 air-cooled, 2-valve desmodromic motor built around un-stamped NCR crankcases but NCR stamped cylinder heads. Within came an NCR close ratio gearbox and clutch.
This two-valve motor was installed in a top quality custom bronze welded Harris Performance (brothers Lester and Steve’s Hertford, north of London, shop) Reynolds steel tube frame including aluminum foot pegs, levers, etc. and a Verlicchi aluminum swing arm. The forks were Marzocchi M1R, the rear shock from Dutch specialists White Power (its name changing to WP somewhat later). The latest Brembo brakes were front and back, 280mm discs and 4-pot racing calipers, and 260mm disc and 4-pot fully floating rear caliper, respectively. Veglia supplied a ‘race’ tachometer. On paper it was just right; on the track it proved itself to be right ‘on the docket’. Late in 1985 it was taken to the Fast by Ferracci’s shop in (Roslyn, Pennsylvania) where it was bored out to 850cc to take Eraldo Ferracci-designed 92mm Arias pistons. The heads were ported, the valves enlarged to 44mm inlet and 39mm exhaust, and added was a long stroke (64mm) NCR crankshaft (reputedly one of only ten) and titanium rods. 41.5mm flat-slide Mikunis replaced the Dell’Ortos. Seventeen inch Mavic wheels replaced the ‘stock’ 18-inch.
Pete Johnson won the 1987 AMA Pro-Twins GP2 championship, on this bike – this being the first of many podium results for Ferracci upon his return to motorcycle road racing. Ferracci bought the bike from Johnson the following year and used it as a test mule alongside the new water cooled, four-valve 851 as it was being sorted as race bike. Ferracci’s rider was one Dale Quarterley, a road racing ‘hard man’, who won the AMA Pro Twins GP2 series that year on this bike, too.
By 1989 Jeff Nash (prominent Ducati dealer in Dallas, Texas) had bought the bike and raced it successfully in his native New Zealand. Two years later it was bought by another Jeff, Jeff Knewstubb, who had connections with John Britten and his crew, and campaigned it for the next four years, still in New Zealand, with the best result being at the F1 round of the Bears ‘Sound of Thunder’ in 1994 ridden by Loren Poole. The bike then sat idle until 2012 when it was purchased by Jeff’s father and a sympathetic restoration started. The whole bike was carefully dismantled and rebuilt – as much patina as could be saved was saved – and it was brought back to its ‘as raced’ by Scuderia Nostalgica’s Pete Johnson livery. Auto Restorations of Christchurch – a shop with a huge portfolio of award winning cars – did the painting, Mike Brosnan undertook the final check through and first start up – Brosnan had built the John Britten dynamometer – and perhaps it was no surprise that this Ducati ran 115bhp at the rear wheel!
Motorcycle road racing was in its heyday in the late 1980s with the likes of tuner Ferracci and riders Johnson and Qurterley always battling hard all year from Daytona to Laguna Seca, often on non-factory ‘production’ racers. To be able to offer today a genuine, no-holds-barred, Ducati home brewed racer – a winner to boot – is indeed a rare privilege.”