Starting an Italian Motorcycle Collection?

Collecting classic cars can get extremely expensive, and even if they do not consume your budget they will eat up garage space. Classic motorcycles are a nice alternative as they cost less to buy and maintain, and several will fit within the parking footprint of a single car.

And if you are going to collect, why not show your commitment by concentrating on Italian bikes?

Tubes and gear covers for the bevel-drive valve system stand out on this
Tubes and gear covers enclosing the bevel-drive valve system stand out on this “round case” 750 engine.

My personal two-wheel fantasy (one of them) involves a small group of Ducatis that represent high points in the company’s technological development. So I am always window shopping for bikes from the early “bevel-drive” period when Ducati engines used drive shafts and bevel gears to operate their overhead valves.

I already own an example of the classic belt-driven two-valve bikes that followed the bevel era, in the form of a 1993 907 i.e. – the very last of the love-them-or-hate-them Paso series. These so-called “desmodue” machines are generally the least expensive and most reliable of the Ducati range. They are also the most numerous, and come in a variety wide enough to suit most riders – from race replicas to sport tourers.

No Ducati collection would be complete without a high-performance “desmoquattro” with four valves per cylinder. These bikes, including the classic 851 and 916 models, are demanding to ride and expensive to maintain. But when you ride one they leave no doubt that they were the state of the art when new. Unlike many other aged hot bikes, old Ducatis still feel sharp, fast and exotic today.

Here are a few bikes on the market now that could help get your collection started:

An asking price of $65,000 for this 1974 Ducati 750 Sport on Cycle Trader seems like wishful thinking — and it is. However, prices for these early bevels are going up fast. An 860 GT or 900 Darmah would be relative bargains.
The 900 Super Sport was the definitive Ducati sport bike of the 1990s. Early versions had bugs that were worked out by 1993. It’s worth a look for $5,995.
I love the 851 — developed in the late 1980s as the first of the production desmoquattros. By 1992 they had stronger engines and modern upside-down front forks. At $7,495 it seems like a bargain, but plan on another thousand or two for cam belts and other services to make it truly roadworthy.


This 2000 996 is a later and arguably better development of the beloved mid-1990s 916. The 916 has a cult following and would probably cost at least twice as much as the $4500 asking price here. Yellow bikes also tend to be discounted compared with red. But if you like yellow…

Ducati’s former design director Pierre Terblanche is seriously underrated. His controversial 999 superbike has a unique shape (I like it) and is bound to become collectible in another decade or so. Right now they aren’t old enough to be “cheap” and probably never will be. But a 2004 S model for $9,499 seems reasonable.

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