Ducati Apollo

Alan Cathcart road tests the Ducati Apollo - a failed Italian attempt at a Harley-style cruiser for the American market
By Alan Cathcart
May/June 2009
Add to My MSN

Alan Cathcart road tests the Ducati Apollo.
Photo by Kyoichi Nakamura


Content Tools

Related Content

The Norton 961 Commando in America

"Patience" best describes the demeanor U.S. buyers for the new Norton 961 Commando have had to assum...

Found on eBay: 1973 Ducati 450 Mark 3

Unrestored and in nice usable shape, this 1973 Ducati 450 looks like good clean fun to us.

Racers ready for Bonneville Vintage GP - Norton 961 sets new record

Racers in the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Assoc. (AHRMA) series are on their way to Utah for...

Fritz Doernberger's Ducati Silver Shotgun

Fritz Doernberger discusses owning and riding his Ducati Silver Shotgun.

Ducati Apollo

Claimed power: 100hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 120mph (approx.)
Engine: 1,256cc, air-cooled OHV V4
Weight (dry): 271kg (596lbs)
Fuel capacity / MPG: 16ltr (4.23gal) / NA

Few motorcycles ever built have enjoyed as mythical a reputation as the Ducati Apollo, a failed Italian attempt at a Harley-style cruiser for the American market.

Back in the late 1950s, Ducati was one of dozens of small Italian manufacturers struggling to overcome the success of the Fiat 500 minicar, which stopped the postwar boom in Italian biking. This collapse in sales forced Ducati to focus even more on their export markets, particularly the U.S. This meant even greater dependence on its U.S. importer, New Jersey-based Berliner Motor Corporation, which was selling roughly 85 percent of Ducati’s total production; brothers Joe and Mike Berliner effectively called the shots at recession-hit Ducati.

Joe Berliner was convinced of the potential of the U.S. police market, especially since U.S. anti-trust legislation required police departments consider bikes other than Harley-Davidsons. Official police department specifications were increasingly standardized across the U.S., favoring the large-capacity Harleys. Requirements included an engine capacity of at least 1,200cc, a minimum 60-inch wheelbase, and the use of 5 x 16-inch tires. In 1959, Berliner contacted Ducati chief Giuseppe Montano to see if the firm was interested in producing a machine for this market. Montano and Ducati engineer Fabio Taglioni agreed, certain they could produce a more efficient and modern design that Berliner could sell at a reasonable cost.

But Montano encountered skepticism from the government bureaucrats in Rome who controlled Ducati’s finances, and negotiations dragged on. A deal was finally struck in 1961, resulting in a joint
venture with Berliner underwriting the development costs of the new model. In return, Berliner would dictate its specifications. Apart from meeting the standardized U.S. police regulations, the brothers’ only stipulation was that the bike have an engine bigger than anything in Harley’s range, then topped by the 74ci/1,215cc FL-series Duo Glide models. MC 

Order the May/June 2009 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the Ducati Apollo, including a road test by Alan Cathcart. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email. 

Ducati Museum

www.ducati.com/heritage/museo/introduzione.jhtml 








Post a comment below.

 








The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
 

Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!