The Ducati 200SS
The jelly mold Ducati
All it takes is one look at the oddly-shaped tank on Alan Chalke’s spectacular Ducati 200SS to understand where the “Jelly Mold” moniker came from.
Photo By Gary Phelps
Years produced: 1959-1965
Claimed power: 18hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 87mph (est.)
Engine: 203.783cc OHC, air-cooled single
Weight (dry): 111kg (244.2lbs)
Price then: N/A
Price now: $4,000 - $8,000
A life-long enthusiast, Alan Chalke built his own mini-bike when he was a kid — even getting pulled over by the police for riding it on the road. Years later and working in Southern California, he was hanging out at the Rock Store when he saw his first bevel-drive Ducati twin. “It was a 750 GT with round cases. I fell in love with it and went out and bought one,” Alan recalls.
That purchase sparked an interest in the marque, and Alan started collecting early Ducatis — which, as any Ducati fan will tell you, is not the easiest hobby to pursue. “The biggest drawback is the scarcity of parts, especially for vintage Ducatis,” Alan says. “There is a lack of people who know how to work on them, and parts are expensive when you can find them.” But early Ducatis weren’t always expensive. In fact, in their day, most small Ducatis were bought simply as transportation.
It’s important to appreciate that while today’s Ducati is renowned for producing championship-winning motorcycles with soul and power, there was a time when things didn’t look so promising for the Italian manufacturer. At the end of World War II, the Nazi retreat left Italy a mess. As Italians started putting their country back together, there was a pressing need for cheap transportation.
Many companies jumped into making small motorcycles, and Ducati was one of them. Located in Bologna, Ducati wasn’t originally a bike builder. The company started out in the 1920s making photographic and electrical equipment. During World War II, Ducati produced equipment for the war machine, and when the Allies invaded in 1944, the Ducati factory was destroyed.
Salvation came in 1946, when Ducati partnered with Italian company SIATA to build a small 48cc engine dubbed the Cucciolo (Little Pup). Designed to clip onto a standard bicycle, the engine was a hit with moto-hungry Italians, and by 1951 Ducati had bought out SIATA and was building complete motorcycles. In 1954 the company hired the legendary designer and engineer Fabio Taglioni with a plan to devise machines for the prestigious long distance races then held on Italian roads.
By 1955, Taglioni’s first offspring, the overhead-camshaft 98cc Gran Sport (later known as the Marianna), was embarrassing the competition. A 125cc racing single — the first Ducati with desmodromic valves, a technology that would become a signature of Ducati factory racers — came next. Ducati was on the move.
By the late 1950s, the Italian economy was on the upswing and Italians were ready for more than just transportation. To meet an increasing market for small sport bikes, Taglioni enlarged and detuned the non-Desmo Gran Sport engine for a range of sporty roadsters. The first of these, the 175 Sport, hit European showrooms in early 1957. It produced 14hp at 8,000rpm, could hit 85mph and yet was also capable of excellent gas mileage, an important ingredient in the European market.
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