The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
Steve Panofsky with his recently restored 1969 Ducati 450 Jupiter Scrambler.
Steve Panofsky jumped at a second chance to own the bike of his youth, and he’s never going to let this one go.
I bought my 1969 Ducati Jupiter Scrambler in 1971 used, for $600. I was in my junior year at Los Altos High in the Bay Area, and I was ready to upgrade from my Ducati 250 Monza that my brother gave me. It took a lot of work in the apricot orchards and lots of high weed mowing to come up with that kind of money.
We lived in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, a 20-minute ride to the famed Skyline Boulevard heading north to Skylonda. There, I joined the bike nut crowd. Those mountain roads are where I really became proficient in road carving and daring do. Riding has been my love ever since, and that Jupiter did it all for me. It was really an early enduro. I could go on dirt roads, trails, twisties and a few longer adventures. With typical Ducati handling, light weight (325 pounds wet), plenty of midrange torque, and a smooth shifting five-speed, it was really fun to ride.
Here's what Steve started with. All there, just needed a lot of elbow grease to make whole again.
I also learned the mechanical intricacies of a bevel-drive Ducati, for they always need a lot of fettling. Thanks to the abysmal support from Ducati, waiting for parts was always agonizing, for I wasn't riding for months at a time.
The Ducati Scrambler became quickly overshadowed by the Japanese invasion, with more powerful and more reliable bikes, but it did have its day when it won outright in the 1969 Baja race, and I always thought the single wide-case engine was a work of art, with its smooth lines and polished aluminum.
I had to sell my Jupiter after I graduated high school in 1971. I got a good job and was driven to possess a Ducati 750GT. That was really just two Jupiter cylinders stuck together in a 90 degree configuration. What a great bike that was!
The Ducati 450 mid-rebuild and starting to look new again.
Many years and many bikes later, in 2006 I decided I really wanted to find a Jupiter and restore it. There weren't any complete ones out there that I could find, until July 2008, when a friend alerted me to a complete bike for sale on consignment at a Ducati dealership in Santa Rosa, Calif. They said it ran, but on trying to start it, the spark plug popped out, comically suspended on a stretched-out helicoil.
I bought it anyway, and soon had it all apart. Many hours and many dollars later, I have a beautifully restored bike with which I've received a couple of plaques at minor shows. I went through the engine with all new ball bearings (14), new valve springs, new rings, etc. Re-shimming the bevel drive is challenging and I made and bought several special tools to work on that engine. The front forks were shot, with the oil gone and only water inside. New fork tubes, rear shocks, exhaust, rims, tires and many other parts needed to be replaced. It took about a year to complete.
A close up of the gas tank and instruments shows what a nice job Steve did on his 450.
I've been ironing out a few issues since then and now have been riding it quite a bit. I finally got it totally dialed in. The other weekend I took her on a 120-mile ride to the coast, to Point Arena over one of Mendocino County's windiest roads (I live in Ukiah). It was just great. Riding that machine really provides me with a lot of satisfaction and a certain déjà vu. I'll never sell this one!