Italy’s Answer to the Virago – 1987 Ducati Indiana 650

In Cruiser, Italy by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

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Post Listing Update: This Indiana was pulled off of eBay, final sale price unknown.

11-13-18 Update: Contributor Mat G notes that this bike is back up for sale – now it’s got a $2,000+ discount. Find it in Carnation, Washington for $4,200


In the early ’80s, Yamaha introduced the Virago, prompting the rest of the big four on the island to follow suit with their own American cruiser-style offerings, (Honda with the Shadow, Kawa with the Vulcan, Suzuki with the Intruder). Cagiva — which acquired Ducati from the Italian government in ’85 — took notice of this and, wanting to nab a lucrative piece of the market, introduced the Ducati 650 Indiana. Based on the popularity of the Virago (as well as the rest of the import cruisers), the Indiana should have been an outright success for the Italians, but that’s not how history played out.

Though “Ducati” adorned the bike’s fuel-cell, the Indiana was in fact a Cagiva. At the heart of the Indie was Ducati’s air-cooled, SOHC Pantah 650 mill, the same engine Cagiva used in its Alazzurra and Elefant models. Instead of designing a new cruiser from the ground up around the proven 650 twin, Cagiva instead opted to, at least partially, build the new cruiser around the existing Elefant dual-sport platform.

The Indiana’s L-Twin — which was housed in a pressed-steel backbone chassis that boasted a removable frame rail, allowing easier access to the engine — received smaller valves and new cams to bolster mid-range power, and a set of 36mm Bing CV carbs were squeezed between the bike’s cylinders. The Italian cruiser put down a claimed 53hp at 7,000rpm and 33.2ft-lbs of torque at 6,000rpm, though Motorcycle Classics — who has a fantastic, more thorough writeup on the 650 Indiana — says the Duck actually produces a figure closer to 43hp.

Power figures aside, with a dry weight of less than 400lbs, (453lbs wet), the Indiana was markedly faster off the line than the rest of the cruiser-style competition of the era. As a point of reference, Yamaha’s Virago XV700 weighed in at 496lbs dry and Honda’s Shadow VT700C came in at 507lbs dry. The Indie reportedly handled quite a bit better too, thanks to a 40mm Marzocchi fork up front (with a 33-degree rake) and a (chrome-plated) set of the brand’s A84 shocks in back, replacing the Elefant’s progressive monoshock. Brakes were Brembo units comprised of single 280mm discs fore and aft, bit by a four-piston floating caliper in front and a dual-piston fixed unit in back.

Produced for only one year, Indianas have become pretty rare finds. Even though the model seriously resembled the other cruiser offerings of the era, the Indiana struggled to find buyers. It reportedly took Ducati another couple years to sell off the remaining inventory built during the model’s only year of production. This particular example is said to be completely stock, only “shows” 5,145 miles on the odo, and its Pantah mill is said to be in solid mechanical shape. Cosmetically the bike looks pretty good too. The seller’s asking price seems a tad steep, but maybe the bike’s unmolested state can account for the ambitious price tag.

You can find this 1987 Ducati 650 Indiana for sale here on Craigslist in Redmond, Washington with a price of $6,500.

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