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Bonhams 1793 Ltd – Motorcycle dept
101 New Bond Street, London
Tel:  020 8963 2817
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  • £400,000 Auction Estimate
  • 1965
Message the seller
Price £400,000 Auction Estimate
Ad Type For Sale by Auction
Category Motorcycles
Make Ducati
Year 1965
Country UK
Region Oxfordshire
Telephone 020 8963 2817
Status Trade
Date 28-Jul-2020
Ref C1250758
This motorcycle is to be auctioned at our Live and Online Summer Sale, Hanger 113, Bicester Heritage, OX26 5HA.

Friday 14 August Spares & Memorabilia (Lot 1 - 212) 10am
Saturday 15 August Motorcycles (Lot 301 - 462) 10am
Sunday 16 August Motorcycles (Morbidelli Collection) (Lot 501 - 704) 10am

In light of the current government guidelines and relaxed measures we are delighted to welcome viewing, strictly by appointment. All the lots will be on view at Bicester Heritage in our traditional Hangar 113. We will ensure social distancing measures are in place, with gloves and sanitiser available for clients wishing to view motorcycle history files.

Please contact Bonhams Motorcycles with your preferred date, time and vehicle registration number to book an appointment.

Wednesday 12 August 1pm to 5pm
Thursday 13 August 9am to 5pm
Friday 14 August 9am to 5pm
Saturday 15 August 9am to 5pm (Lots 501-704 only)

Please note that whilst public viewing is available by appointment, the auction itself will be conducted from a remote saleroom, behind closed doors without public access, in accordance with the current government guidelines. All bidding will be conducted via Online, Telephone and Absentee Bidding. Please contact our Bids Department to register.

Hangar 113
Bicester Heritage
Buckingham Road
OX26 5HA

FRAME NO. 1400.1.601
• Unique machine
• Original engine and frame
• Rebuilt in the Morbidelli Museum's workshop
• Has been run

One of motorcycle racing's many 'might-have-beens', the unique machine offered here is Ducati's fabled 125cc four-cylinder Grand Prix racer, which took so long to develop that it had been rendered obsolete by the time the project was completed. Its senior management having decided that racing success was the best way to promote the fledgling manufacturer, Ducati recruited engineer Fabio Taglioni, formerly with Ceccato and Mondial, to oversee its racing and development programmes. Commencing work in May 1954, Taglioni designed the first of Ducati's now legendary sporting singles: the 100 Gran Sport, nicknamed 'Marianna', which made its racetrack debut in 1955. The Gran Sport's overhead cam was driven by a vertical shaft and bevel gears, and this method was carried over to Ducati's 125cc twin-cam (bialbero) and triple-cam (trialbero) racers, the latter featuring Taglioni's famous 'desmodromic' method of valve actuation that dispensed with springs.

Having relied hitherto on single-cylinder designs for the 125 class, Ducati introduced a 125 twin at Monza in 1958, the final round of that year's World Championship. Although the Ducati 125s proved capable of winning Grands Prix, they lacked the consistency to challenge the dominant MVs for World Championship honours. And when the Japanese manufacturers arrived en masse in the early 1960s, bringing multi-cylinder technology to the lightweight classes, the writing seemed well and truly on the wall for the European opposition. Hence Taglioni's decision to build a 125 four.

Faced with mounting financial difficulties, Ducati withdrew its works team from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1959, which may explain the project's apparent lack of urgency. It would not be resurrected until 1964, and only then at the behest of Ducati's Spanish subsidiary, Moto Trans. In its 16th June 1965 edition, Motor Cycle News reported that, following extensive bench tests, the machine had been tried recently by Ducati's test rider, former racer Franco Farne.

However, by this time Honda had been running a similar machine for almost two years and in '66 debuted a five-cylinder 125, moving the game out of Ducati's reach. Although the tests were deemed successful, the 125 four was never raced; instead it was reduced to touring motorcycle shows around Europe, including London's Earls Court in 1966 and '67. Nevertheless, this machine is notable in several ways, being Ducati's first four-cylinder motorcycle and its first to use four valves per cylinder, albeit closed by springs rather than desmodromically. Like the two Honda 125s, the Ducati was equipped with an eight-speed gearbox.

How Ducati's 125 four ended up behind the Iron Curtain remains a mystery, for that is where it would be rediscovered decades later. The engine turned up in the Technical Museum in Riga, Latvia while the frame was found in former Yugoslavia. When Giancarlo Morbidelli was managing his factory, he travelled widely throughout Europe, which is how he found the engine. The frame, though, had been purchased towards the end of the 1960 by Gilberto Parlotti, who fitted a different Ducati engine. Among other places, Parlotti raced the machine in Yugoslavia, which is how the frame ended up there. It was discovered by one of Mr Morbidelli's friends, who did not recognise it; Franco Farne confirmed its identity.

Its major components reunited, the Ducati 125 four was rebuilt by Giancarlo Morbidelli and his team. The fuel tank was made by Mr Morbidelli himself, as were other parts (the Museum curator remembers finding Mr Morbidelli in the factory on Christmas Day, working on the tank!) while the brakes, forks, hubs, etc used in the rebuild are of correct type. A wonderful monument to the engineering genius of Fabio Taglioni, the machine has been run since the restoration's completion but most of the time has been kept on display. Accompanying documentation consists of a selection of photographs and copies of marque-related literature (in Italian, German, and English).

£400,000 - 600,000
€450,000 - 670,000

As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.

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