Post-war life in Italy was extremely tough. The industries once
producing transportation for the Italian people were gutted by the
war, and the economy was horrible. The people needed something
cheap and reliable to get them around. The bicycle became the main
mode of transportation.  But, in 1946 that all changed. At the Milan
Fair the Ducati brothers, ever the capitalists, introduced the Cucciolo,
or 'little pup' (so named for its barking exhaust)- an auxiliary engine
that could be retrofitted to the frame of a bicycle. The Cucciolo was a
smash, and soon Ducati was contracting out frames to be built
specifically for the little engine. By 1950, Ducati had produced over
200,000 Cucciolos, and by the end of its run the motor had been
increased to a capacity of 65cc and was producing a whopping 2 hp.
During this time, Ducati attempted to capture a share of the touring
market with its 860 GT and (gasp!) parallel twin GTL's.  Neither were
wildly popular bikes. By 1977 customers demanded higher capacity,
higher horsepower sports motorcycles, and the Super Sport 900 was
introduced.  A legend for good reason, the 900SS was the pinnacle of
sports bikes in 1977.  Don't underestimate its performance even by
today's standards, though, as it was and is still a very competent
racer.  Official horsepower ratings were never available, but a 9.5:1
compression ratio, desmodromic valve gear and a weight of only
196kg were enough to propel the 900SS to over 225kph. 1978 was the
year the world witnessed one of the most triumphant comebacks of all
time, the kind of story legends are made of. Mike Hailwood, a former
Ducati racer turned F1 driver, returned for one last hurrah and won
the 1978 Isle of Man endurance race.  Mike was a long shot to win but
his NCR (initials of specialized tuners Nepoti, Carachi, and Rizzi)
prepared 900 beat up the competition, and even went on to win a
week later at Mallory Park to really embarrass the Japanese.1978 also
marked the introduction of perhaps Taglioni's finest design and most
lasting legacy- the belt drive Pantah (or 'panther') engine, a variation
of which still powers two valve Ducatis today.  These are also known
as the "rubberband" Ducs, due to the rubber timing belts).  Introduced
in 500cc form, it later increased to 600 cc and was very successful in
the TT2 600, the first Pantah-engined racer.     

The 1980's:  Dark Times
The TT2 continued its success into the early 80's, when Ducati took
the big leap and punched out the Pantah engine to 750cc to compete
in the TT1 class. The bike used, of course, was the TT1 750 F1 and
today street and race variants both are highly coveted by collectors.  
Although built in the early 80's, the F1 combined world-class
performance with modern amenities, including a rising rate linkage
rear suspension, into a beautiful body that is regarded as one of the
best looking sports bikes of all time. Just when Ducati enthusiasts
were getting used to consistent factory support and distribution,
Ducati made known its financial troubles.  In 1984, control of Ducati
was transferred to the Cagiva group, and luckily for enthusiasts
Cagiva was interested in motorcycle production. Ducati would
dedicate a large portion of its production to making engines that
would power Cagiva motorcycles, and Ducati would continue its
racing ventures. So, while Ducati was focusing on the F1, they were
also spread thin making parts for Cagiva Elefants and Alazurras.  And
let us not also forget the Ducati Indiana, a large cruiser aimed at the
American market.  Nonetheless, mired in a sea of bikes that seemed to
have gone off track, Ducati continued to devote its time to developing
cutting edge sports bikes. 1986 saw the introduction of the Paso, a
truly revolutionary and unique bike. Never before had a Ducati come
with a completely enclosed fairing or a box section bolted-cradle
frame. It was an extremely competent sports bike, and the Paso line
eventually included a 2-valve per cylinder, liquid cooled 907cc engine,
essentially a distant cousin of the 851. While only putting out 72hp, it
was still capable of 218kph.The late 80's saw the introduction of two
other Ducati milestones- the first desmodromic four-valve-per-cylinder
(desmoquattro) engine that would power the superbike, and the
all-new 750 Sport, whose style would later lead to the fantastic
Supersport of the 1990's.The 851 was actually introduced in 1986 at
Bol D'Or, and won at Daytona in 1987.  However, it first raced in the
new World Superbike Championship in 1988, where it placed fifth.  
Soon after, privateers got their hands on the amazing bike.  It
displaced 851cc, was liquid cooled, sported a new Weber Marelli fuel
injection system and sported four valves per cylinder and pumped out
a whopping 90hp in street trim.  It was no wonder the bike was a
huge success.
At Phillip Island in 1990, Ducati brought home its first of many world
superbike titles after Raymond Roche raced an incredible season. As
they say, the rest is history.   
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The 1920's-1940's: Humble Beginnings Ducati, a name long
synonymous with motorcycle racing, actually started out
manufacturing electronic components. Founded in 1926 by the Ducati
family, and officially named "The Societa Radio Brevetti Ducati", they
soon became a world leader in the manufacture of radios, electronic
components, and even cameras! The company grew by leaps and
bounds, employing over 11,000 workers before allied bombing
campaign during the Second World War destroyed the Borgo Panigale
factory in 1944.
The 1950's: Burgeoning Success
The production of the Cucciolo continued into the early 50's, and by
1953, Ducati's racing success had mane a name for the company.  
Ducati was split into two separate operations- Ducati Elettronica
S.p.A. and Ducati Meccanica S.p.A., which took over the Borgo
Panigale plant.  1954 saw the introduction of a legend, a young
engineer from Lugo di Romagna named Fabio Taglioni.  Taglioni was
the man responsible for the most famous of Ducati innovations,
including the now famous Desmodromic valve gear.
Prior to Taglioni's arrival, Ducati had ventured into the realm of higher
capacity engines, introducing the '98'.  Powered by a pushrod
overhead valve engine displacing 98cc, it was somewhat successful
in racing but still indicated Ducati's commitment to producing
'budget' machinery not specifically designed with racing in mind.  
The Gran Sport changed that.  Taglioni's single cylinder racer (later
referred to as the Marianna) incorporated Dell'Orto racing carbs, high
compression pistons, and a single overhead camshaft with helical
valve gear.  Power output was 9bhp, and it showed on the track,
devastating the competition.The 1950's saw motorcycle racing take
Italy by storm, with thousands of privateers competing for victory.  
Ducati soon became synonymous with victory.In 1956, Ducati
significantly revised the 125 Gran Sport's engine to include dual
overhead camshafts with helical valve gear, and in 1957 the triple
camshaft desmo debuted.  It featured three camshafts and
desmodromic valve control for precise, positive action and no valve
float.The desmo valve gear made for an extremely powerful race bike,
but it rarely made its way into the hands of privateers, who were still
racing helical gear bikes with great success.

The 1960's:  The Sound of Singles
In the 60's, Ducati became known for its successful singles, usually
purebred racing machines available to the general public.  Many other
designs emerged, but the singles still dominated.  It wouldn't be until
the 1970's that Ducati would develop a successful twin and stick with
it.Ducati pumped out numerous models of single cylinder sporting
bikes, including the Diana, the Sport, the Mach 1, the Monza, and the
Cadet all in varying capacities and power output.  1968, however, saw
the arrival of the first production desmodromic head bike, the Mark 3
D.  1968 saw a change from the old narrow engine case to the new
wide case.  The wide casings became the most successful and
powerful of all the Ducati singles, eventually reaching a capacity of
450cc and a power output of 50hp.1968 also saw the introduction of
the Scrambler, a wide-bar sort of dual-sport bike not considered by
purists to be a 'true' Ducati (much like the Monster).  They feared it
was too Americanized and detached from Ducati's racing philosophy,
but nonetheless it went on to become one of the best selling Ducatis
of all time (also like the Monster).

The 1970's:  Quiet Progress
The 1960's were a somewhat successful time for Ducati in the racing
field, but the Japanese bikes were soon dominating the finish line.  
Singles were still showing moderate success in racing, but Ducati
needed a larger capacity bike, preferably a twin, if it was going to
compete.  The 500GP of 1971 showed promise, and although it never
won any races it was still valuable engineering wise.  1971 also saw
the introduction of the GT 750, Ducati's first l-twin street bike.  It
produced 60hp and was driven by desmodromic valve gear. 1972
saw great triumph for Ducati when its 750 twin (closely resembling
the production version) piloted by legendary racer Paul Smart won
the 200-mile race at Imola. Things were looking up for Ducati and they
established themselves permanently with that win.1972 saw the
introduction of the Sport 750, a sporting twin with a somewhat
questioned helical valve gear rather than desmodromic. It still proved
to be very popular with boy racers.The birth of one of the most
legendary Ducati nameplates was seen in the Super Sport 750 in
1974. It was immediately praised by critics not only for its immense
power, but also for its superb handling and docile road manners.
Triple disc brakes, beautiful fairing and bodywork, 10:1 compression,
dual 40mm Dell'Orto carbs, and a desmo driven 750cc L-twin engine
all indicated that this was a pure-bred racing motorcycle, no doubt
about it.
The 1990's and Beyond:  Rebirth
A triumphant World Superbike victory meant that the 888 was now a
1991, and 9 times in 1992, bringing home the championship for the
third time.  But, by now the 851/888 had reached its capacity- the
motor was stretched to the limit and the chassis was no longer able to
contain the power.  1993 saw the title head back home to Japan with
the Kawasaki team, causing Ducati to make perhaps one of the best
decisions ever- 1994 saw the debut of the all-new 916 superbike.  
Completely redesigned by Massimo Tamburini (who also penned the
Paso and Cagiva
Mito), it was instantly recognized as one of the best designs in all of
motorcycling's history.  Powered by a new and improved 955cc race
motor putting out 150hp, the 916 Superbike won its debut race much
to the amazement of team Kawasaki, and went on take home the title
in the capable hands of Carl "Foggy" Fogarty.  1995 saw Fogarty on
the 916 win for the second straight time.  1996 saw Troy Corser bump
Foggy from the top ranks and take the title home for Ducati, for the
sixth time in seven years!  1998 was another unforgettable year, with
Carl Fogarty (back again from Honda) winning by a nose, during the
last round against the Honda on its own turf.  1999 also saw Fogarty
keep the title in Italy.  The 916 was replaced by the 996 in 1999, and
featured numerous improvements.  By 2001, the new testastretta
(narrow head) motor made its debut.  Displacing 998cc, the new
engine had a larger bore and shorter stroke combined with less
included valve angle and redesigned rockers for
less stress at high RPM's.  It developed 174hp at 12,000 RPM, more
than enough to bring the title back home under the belt of Troy
Bayliss.  Unfortunately, even after a great start by the Italian camp,
2002 saw Colin Edwards aboard the Honda steal the title back.  The
998 was replaced by the 999 in 2003, and the championship was again
brought back to Italy by Neil Hodgson.  Ten World Superbike titles in
13 years is quite a feat, considering the basic layout for the bikes
(tubular space frame, v-twin engine) remained unchanged. These
Italians must be on to something with their V-twins? Sales 2% in 2014.
Sales were up 1.2% in 2016. Audi now owns Ducati...
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2017 Ducati XDiavel 1198cc