Three beautiful Ducati 750s up for auction

Published: 20 January 2017

Bonhams are auctioning three achingly beautiful Ducati 750s from the early 1970s

In 40 years’ time will we look back at the latest crop of MotoGP bikes with the sort of reverie we do now? Perhaps not, as we’ll all be too busy flying our personal jetpacks, but in the meantime we can enjoy some machinery from yesteryear.

Among many other bikes, including some more Ducatis, Bonhams are auctioning three stunning 750s from the early 1970s. Bonhams describe these bikes the best and should you get so carried away as to wish to bid on one, you’ll need to get yourself to Paris on the 9th of February.

Lot 209 – Ducati Formula 750 SS Course, 1974

It was, without question, Paul Smart's famous victory at Imola on Sunday 23rd 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 Percy Tait, John Cooper and Ray Pickrell, but also the works MV Agusta of Giacomo Agostini. Also ranged against Ducati that day were works entries from Honda, Norton and Moto Guzzi, plus semi-works machines from Suzuki, Kawasaki, BMW and Laverda. There was a lot at stake: the 750cc sportsbike category was vitally important to all the major manufacturers, so Ducati's win in this company was of immense commercial significance for the relatively small Italian firm. It also emphatically demonstrated the potential of the Fabio Taglioni-designed v-twin.

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This Ducati 750SS racer was commissioned from the factory by Oscar La Ferla's father to celebrate his son's 18th birthday, and was delivered in racing specification together with an optional (separate) NCR kit. Oscar La Ferla tested the Ducati at Vallelunga in 1974 (photograph on file) but found it not to his liking and opted to race a Honda instead.

Still the original, the frame has the Verlicchi machine-stamped design number 'DM750SS DGM11871OM', but did not have a serial number originally as the machine was intended only for racing. In 1977, the frame was hand-stamped (with the number '750834') because an individual serial number was required by new regulations for races both inside and outside Italy. In that same year, the 750SS was sold by La Ferla to the Ducati dealership in Rome. It competed in numerous races with various riders up to 1979 and then remained in store at the dealership for many years. When the dealership closed in 2009, the Ducati was acquired by the current vendor.

The machine was in poor condition when acquired, and the vendor asked legendary Ducati tuner, Reno Leoni of Bologna (he was back from the USA) to help him restore it. A photograph of the Ducati (rider unknown) being raced at Monza in 1979 had come with it; at that meeting the machine carried the number '7', so it was decided to use that for the restoration.

The rebuilt machine was tested in 2011 at the Misano circuit where everything was found to be working properly. Since the Misano test, the Ducati has not been used and should require only minimal re-commissioning before returning to the racetrack for racing or parades. Together with a signed photograph of Oscar La Ferla sat on this motorcycle, we are advised by the vendor that the machine is 100% original in every respect apart from the fairing and the seat (the original items, in poor condition, are included in the sale).

Lot 210 – Ducati Formula 750 Imola Replica, Course 1972

Prepared by the semi-official NCR race shop, Smart's bike was based on the original 750 GT tourer. The racer's cycle parts remained close to stock - even the centre 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.

This replica of Smart's 1972 Imola 200 winner was built in 1976 using original Ducati parts. Manufactured in April 1972, the frame is an original 750 GT modified along Imola lines. The cycle parts are the same as those of the factory bike except for the drilled disk brake (of correct Lockheed type and size) which was fitted later to improve the braking performance. The engine was found by the vendor in Greece following several years of research. It is a factory Imola engine, complete with sand-cast crankcases, sent in October 1972 to the Greek Grand Prix on Corfu as a spare. Run only once, the Greek Grand Prix was held on an airforce base and promoted by the Greek importer for Ducati and Kawasaki. There were two works Ducatis entered, the other being for Gianni Perrone, with Smart taking the win. Talking to Bonhams, Paul recalled that the event was run by a local car club that had little comprehension of motorcycle racing – wherever there was a pothole, it was merely covered with a parking cone!

After the race, this engine was displayed in the Ducati agent's showroom in Athens to advertise the Italian brand in that country. Having purchased this ultra-rare works engine, the vendor was able to complete his Imola Replica with very close to 100% accuracy. The Ducati has been restored under the supervision of Reno Leoni, and is now ready for racing or parading.

Lot 211 – Ducati 750 Sport Desmo, Course 1972

Designed by the legendary Fabio Taglioni, Ducati's first road-going v-twin - the 750 GT - arrived in 1971. Lacking the resources of larger rivals from Japan, Ducati made the most of what it already possessed to create one of the all-time great motorcycles of the post-war era. A 90-degree vee, the engine looked like two of the Bologna firm's bevel-drive overhead-cam singles on a common crankcase (which in essence it was) though the coil valve springs represented a departure from Ducati's traditional hairpins. The 90-degree layout made for exceptional smoothness and a lengthy wheelbase, a handicap more apparent than real that failed to stop the fine-handling Ducati vees notching up a succession of wins in Formula 750 events, commencing with Paul Smart's famous victory at Imola in 1972.

Based on the original 750 GT tourer, the 750 Sport was an altogether more exciting looking beast and backed up its stunning looks with improved performance courtesy of a maximum power hike from 50 to 56bhp. Built only until 1974, the Sport underwent minor changes to its front fork and disc brake but otherwise changed little, and was only ever sold in the classic yellow/black livery shared with the Desmo singles.

First of a noble line of sporting Ducati v-twins, the 750 Sport is a true landmark machine; much rarer than, for example, the later Mike Hailwood Replica, it is one of the most sought-after of all Ducatis. Only 1,625 were made – the majority between 1973 and 1974, with a handful built for Australia in 1978.

This early 750 Sport took part in the Italian Production Motorcycle Championship in 1972. In 1974, the machine was upgraded with a narrower frame and rear disk brake, while the cylinder heads were replaced with the 750 SS desmodromic type. Engine performance was further improved in 1975 by fitting 860cc cylinders, lightened con-rods, and high compression pistons, while the fork, brakes, front master cylinder, and various other parts have been replaced with newer versions. In 2012, the Ducati was completely restored under the supervision of Reno Leoni; tested and found to run very well, with a strong engine, it is ready to race or parade.

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