Narrow-Case Duck – 1967 Ducati Monza 250

In Italy, Sport by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

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The Monza was one of a myriad of quarter-liter singles from Ducati, but it was an important one in the Italian marque’s history. Supposedly, the ‘narrow-case’ 250cc was originally designed in response to a request from a high-volume Ducati dealership in England. Ducati would produce singles between 1950 and 1974. For a reason unbeknownst to me, some of the Ducatista community doesn’t have a lot of love for the Monza (or the rest of the ‘narrow-case’ bikes for that matter), possibly due to how many there are and the lack of defining and differentiating features they possess, aside from the square headlight design only utilized on the 1967 and 1968 models.

Ducati had a number of problems to overcome to get to where it is today. When it was a small boutique company with limited resources, Ducati looked to racing to establish its name. When the 1940’s came to an end, FB Mondial had a stranglehold on small-displacement two-wheeled completion. However an Italian kid named Fabio from Lugo di Romagna had gone to Bologna University to learn about mechanics and engineering when his studies were interrupted by the second World War. When the war ended, the Italian would return to university in his late-20’s. In 1948 he would write his college thesis paper on the subject of direct springless valve operation.

He graduated, finishing in three years instead of the five it usually takes and jumped into the motorcycle industry working for various manufacturers before he got an offer to create his own designs at Ducati in 1954. Fabio Taglioni would now get to take his non-spring actuated valve system – what we today know as ‘desmodromic’ – and apply it to his machines at Ducati. In 1962 Ducati released the 250 “Diana” but it would be another half-decade until a two-valve 250 Desmo would see production. Desmodromic systems had successfully been utilized by the famous W196 Mercedes-Benz straight-eight early Formula 1 racer, though it never made it onto any Benz production models. The idea of featuring a Desmo system on a motorcycle was pretty wild half-a-century-ago.

The great Fabio Taglioni at work. Photo from http://www.ducati.com/history/personalities/fabio_taglioni/index.do

When they did see production however, the Ducati quarter-liter four-strokes had the distinction of being the fastest 250s of the time. The Bologna factory utilized all-rolling-bearing construction with SOHC (single overhead cam) driven by a towershaft and bevel gears – a la the Norton Manx. Taglioni was a brilliant mechanical mind, but the years he spent at Mondial would very much rub off on the then 32-year-old. Around this time, Mondial had just bagged three consecutive 125cc World Championships using Alfonso Drusiani’s double overhead camshaft eighth-liter racers that would directly influence one of Taglioni’s designs that came to be known as ‘The Gran Sport’.

Drusiani was a talented engineer who had spent his earlier years racing and was well-established and respected in the motorcycle industry. In January of 1948 Drusiani sat down for lunch with Giuseppe Boselli of Mondial who had – up until that point – been racing DKW-derived/inspired two-stroke 125’s. Over lunch Drusiani brought up the idea of developing a four-stroke engine with racing valve operation similar to that of the pre-WW2 Benelli 250 machines. Boselli was on board with the idea and agreed to fund it. Around six months later Drusiani had an OHC four-stroke single prototype. These machines were successful and influential, other marques soon began abandoning two-stroke designs in favor of four-stroke designs. This included MV Agusta, and then eventually Ducati.

But before the Monza, Taglioni would create the Gran Sport, first a 98cc model prior to the 125. The 125cc machine featured his now legendary desmodromic cylinder head, triple overhead camshafts, a pair of outside-opening camshafts (similar to the Bialbero), and a central camshaft closing the valves through forked rockers. The Gran Sport was supposedly capable of safely winding at 14,000rpm. It also reportedly made 17hp at 12,500 when first debuted. Taglioni had previously sold a 75cc racer – to a company called ‘Ceccato’ – he’d designed while teaching at a technical college in Imola, so he already had a decent resume, but his early work at Ducati is undoubtedly what put him on the map. Despite some tempting high-dollar offers to work in the four-wheeled sector, Taglioni remained loyal to Ducati until retiring in 1989, but not before designing the now iconic 90-degree V/L-Twin desmo engines that all Ducatis now use.

Though it was always a small-displacement bike, Ducati’s Gran Sport was reportedly capable of speeds around 120mph thanks to its 176lb dry weight. Photo from http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/ducati/Ducati%20125%20Gran%20Sport.htm.

The current owner found this ’67 Monza example in its stock form in 2004 and purchased it hoping it would be a cafe project. When it first got picked up in 2004 it had pretty low mileage, and since then the odo has only gone up to 4,200. According to the ad, the engine is unmodified – though it has several recently installed NOS parts – and starts, runs, and idles well without any weird sounds or vibrations. This example has a five-speed gearbox and the electrical system and everything it powers all works via a NOS Safa 6V battery. This may sound unimportant, but these Ducati’s are well known for having finicky charging so a working electrical system is a good sign.

The seller says that this bike is particularly loud, though that can be remedied via the addition of a diffuser. The seller also mentions that they have a new original style Silentium stock chrome Ducati cigar muffler that they will swap with the new open Ducati megaphone replica from Germany that’s currently on the bike for an additional $200. The carb on this example is the stock unit and was modified to a larger slide cutout. This Monza also sports a “very rare early Marzocchi fork with early style headlight mounts and smooth upper triple clamp,” and rear-suspenders from a Ducati 200 Elite that have been disassembled and serviced. The handlebars, levers, and pivots are all NOS units and both sets of foot-pegs have new rubber on them. A SuperPractic throttle was also chosen that has been wrapped in early style Ducati grips.

The wiring-loom is unmodified with the original voltage regulator, and the speedometer is a NOS early style Rolle gauge. The hubs on this example are early-style seven-fin laced units with “painted correct” steel spokes to new chrome Radaelli rims, all wrapped in vintage Pirelli rubber. The bike has a steel tank topped with a reproduction Ducati Elite cap, although the seller isn’t 100% sure exactly which Ducati said tank came from. According to the seller, the saddle on this example – which they found in Italy – is an incredibly rare NOS Radelli and not a reproduction. The fender set was also picked up while the seller was in Italy and still has the original paint with the dealer tag from Verona, the seller thinks it likely came off an early 200 TS model.

A little bit of cosmetic attention and this bike could be remarkably clean again. The frame could defiantly use a new coat of paint or powder, and the current owner has already gone through and stripped the extra tabs and lowered the rear fender loop rise. This Monza could be brought back to its stock form, though this may be a better bike for someone who doesn’t care too much about originality and wants to further modify it. The bike has a lot of cool little chrome bits here and there, and even sports some of its original factory patina from the 1960’s. The tank on this example is adorned in the model’s classic silver (I hate the red scheme), adorned with the Mototrans Ducati style decal. A clear lacquer has been slapped on over the silver, and the entire fuel-cell was then sealed with Caswell’s tank coating.

The majority of Monza examples have been adulterated from their stock factory condition, many of which were turned into cafe racers. BikeExif featured a really cool Monza cafe racer built by Union Motorcycle Classics, the owner of which also has a 1969 VW Double Cab Pick-up that he uses to haul bikes around. Clean stock Monza examples are becoming increasingly rare and therefor valuable. In January of 2011 a super mint 1967 Ducati Monza 250 with just over 100-original-miles on it sold for $13,000 at a Las Vegas Mecum auction. I found a short video of someone firing up a ’67 Monza and while the audio quality isn’t the best, you can still get a decent sense of what these vintage Italian machines sound like.

You can find this 1967 Ducati Monza 250 (VIN: 010203) for sale here on Craigslist on Long Island, New York with a price of $5,800.

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