Z-stripe: 1972 Ducati 750 Sport

A very early and rare Ducati 750 Sport, restored to an impeccably high level.

| May/June 2018

1972 Ducati 750 Sport
Engine: 748cc air-cooled OHC 90-degree V-twin, 80mm x 74.4mm bore and stroke, 9.3:1 compression ratio, 62hp @ 8,200rpm (est.)
Top speed: 130mph (est.)
Carburetion: Two 32mm Dell'Orto PHF
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube steel, engine as a stressed member/60.2in (1,529mm)
Suspension: 38mm Marzocchi telescopic fork front, dual Marzocchi shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 10.8in (274mm) disc front, 7.9in (200mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3.25 x 19in front, 3.5 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 400lb (182kg)
Seat height: 32in (813mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.5gal (17ltr)/30-35mpg
Price then/now: $2,700/$25,000-$45,000

There is worldwide hype about Ducati's all new V4 Superbike, which comes on the back of the Panigale R Final Edition, combining the Superleggera engine with the chassis of the homologation-special Panigale R. And while all this exotica is simply mind blowing, what is even more remarkable is that Ducati did something similar decades ago.

Way back in 1972 the Italian company broke equally new ground with the world's first production "no-compromise" V-twin café racer. Sure, Harley-Davidson had its tarmac-tearing Sportster and there were various road burners from Triumph, BSA and Norton. But apart from slow-selling models like Moto Guzzi's V7 Sport, Laverda's SFC and MV's 750S, none came standard with clip-on handlebars and rearset footpegs. Certainly none had racing-style megaphones, or were stripped to the bare minimum to achieve a top speed nudging 130mph.

Enter the 750 Sport

The 750 Sport of 1972, precursor to Ducati's popular 750cc-900cc Super Sport range, opened the door to sporting motorcycles in the mid-1970s. Aimed at the weekend canyon carver, these bikes initially came mainly from Italy and included machines like Moto Guzzi's V7 Sport and Laverda's 750SF. These led to Guzzi's ultimate café racer, the 850cc Le Mans. BMW had the R90S, Norton brought out the John Player Replica 850 Commando and even Harley-Davidson was impressed and hit back with its 110mph, 1,000cc XLCR café.

The Japanese manufacturers were upping the ante in the horsepower stakes, but it wasn't until the early 1980s that they sold road versions of race winners, such as the Suzuki GS1000S, styled after Wes Cooley's racer, and the Kawasaki Z1000R, often called the ELR or Eddie Lawson Replica. The closest Japan came to producing anything like Ducati's original 127mph 750 Sport was the Suzuki GSX-R750 of 1985.

Humble beginnings — and a race win

As the Seventies dawned, Ducati needed bigger machines to replace its long-running singles, but for several crucial years factory engineers had been distracted by a range of dead-end prototypes. These included a 500cc Grand Prix V-twin and an outsourced Ricardo water-cooled 350cc inline triple with fuel injection, as well as the stillborn Apollo V4 police motorcycle of the mid-1960s.

4/26/2018 8:33:45 PM

Remarkable attention to detail. No mention of tires -- I don't remember, myself. Dunlop 91s? I wish I had had this article in 1972 -- I might have been able to persuade my dad to loan me some of the money!

z stripe
4/15/2018 12:55:41 PM

Hi Achim, just great her report, the bike and the restauration. I also have a Z-Stripe, but only a replica. I am looking for a frame from the z-stripe, if you know one or if you would sell yours, please let me know. Best regards from Germany, Dietmar

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