I remember being cynical looking at Ducati’s, with the SS and the Sport versions quite in your face, the singles being fragile and the 750 GT even more so. The 750 GT was the opposition brand to the 750 T140 Triumph Bonneville and at a $50 extra cost the Ducati seemed an attractive alternative, mind you we always brought up that the Triumph were sold in much larger numbers and more reliable it’s easy to say when spruking a bike your trying to sell to a new punter. At the time the odd Ducati was back traded in on a Triumph triple so with one of these I used it for errands around Melbourne it made no memorable impact on me particularly at the time and I preferred a T140V.
One of the mechanics at Mussett’s Garry O’Connell went down to Ron Angel’s and bought Ken Blake’s green frame 860 SS this was a factory works bike and had many victories against the Z900 Kawasaki’s it looked the goods and I wanted one. Wanting and actually affording are two entirely different words and the new 1975 SS with the race kit for $2,800 was well out of my reach so it was unfortunately put on my wish list. Another mate bought a 1979 SS with alloy wheels, which I considered it emasculated compared to the earlier variants, and two others bought a 900 Darmah SS and a 900 Darmah SD, neither rang any bells with me and I forgot about Ducati”s for another ten years by that stage bevel motors were gone and belt engines were in, clip-ons and rear sets were across virtually the Ducati range.
Mind you I went to Isle of Man in 1979 the year after Mike Hailwood won on the Ducati on his comeback ride, unfortunately the Duke failed so it was a great disappointment for me.
Time passed and a customer came into work and offered me a 1975 900SS that hadn’t ran for some years and a $10k I decided to grab it, what a bike, it went like buggary and it immediately bewitched me, at last after 15 years I had my SS and the rarest model a right hand gearchange with less than 144 made, the earlier green frame 750 SS was common compared to it. Like all beauties it had flaws limited steering lock, a pig in traffic, uncomfortable and cantankerous to boot. I used to own a Velocette Thruxton at the same time and although it was only a 500cc the traits of both were identical but the Ducati had a magnificent exhaust note beside effortless power delivery with bags of torque. I owned this 900ss over 10 years.
Around 1981 I bought a 750 GT with gearbox issues and I persisted with the first gear jumping out of mesh annoyingly and fitted a windscreen to ride it during winter with another ride to Tassie two up and everybody I went with were on BMW’s I decided that I would get rid of the Ducati for a new R100RS
In 1991 I had ridden a friends 750 GT around Yosemite National Park and lusted for that Ducati 750GT when I got back to Aussie this, it was the reason I wanted one while I had the 900, a 750 GT that was advertised in Just Bikes at $1,800 with lugs cut off the frame for the side covers and broken dashboard, jumping out of first gear (common on these models) etc it was soon repaired and made a good bookend for the 900ss, Meanwhile at that same time I had been constantly asked by another fellow Classic Club member over 3 years if I wanted to sell it, eventually he ground me down with a staggering figure of $8k and I immediately regretted selling it (you’d think I would have learned).
Years later (2004) a rough 750 GT (with 860 barrels & pistons) was traded into Unionjack motorcycles and with some small amount of work I got it running well and took it home for an evening ride to Warrandyte, I was stunned how smooth a fast it was i I fell in love and bought it. I got it painted and tidied up the wiring, bought new mufflers and rode it around Tassie quite pleased as it cost $2500 and a great value buy. The engine was taken to Cafe Racer in Preston and the gearbox repaired by Leigh Farrell, the frame and tank painted and the external oil line conversion removed, it had a upgraded German oil pump fitted and the electrics were renewed including a new S2 alternator it had a steel fuel tank and push on sidecovers already, and I had the wheels rebuilt and Smiths instruments as well, it was a nice model and went like stink, the performance was excellent.
I still had the 900SS and decided that it wasn’t a practical machine and sold it, that 1975 SS is still regretted to this day I sold it for $32k and they pull a $100k now a double lament for that bike, never mind a GT was not a bad model and I had owned it up till just before Covid-19 (15 years ownership ) hit I advertised it in Just Bikes and It immediately sold to a bloke in QLD and at $30k Ducati’s we’re out of my life I thought but I had a Vincati so it still had a GT rolling chassis and Vincent powered, it is similar to the Ducati of course and it was the main reason I sold the 750/860GT, a lesson never learned.
Recently I have done it again and now bought a 1979 Ducati 900SD Darmah (Drama) I had to have it and have known this bike over the last two owners in 20 years so I’m off onto Ducatis again and this one’s electric start and I’m not going to sell it!
Phil Pilgrim 2022