Ghost in the Machine: The Ducati Utah Prototype

The Ducati museum digs out a forgotten Ducati Utah prototype, unseen for some 40 years, just for these photos.

| March/April 2016

Quick. Name a few rare Ducatis: The 1993 Supermono? OK, sure, many of us have heard of that one. The original 1973 Green Frame 750SS? Yeah, that one, too. OK, how about the Utah? Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

Somebody should script a movie about the labyrinthine politics of the Ducati factory in the 1970s, because it would be almost as riveting as the 1972 film The Godfather. The trouble is, like The Godfather, the plotline is so all-consuming you’d have to make it into a series.

One subplot to the amazing 1970s transformation of the Ducati factory is this soft off-roader. Dubbed the Utah, it was aimed squarely at the U.S. market, yet it was only ever shown in Europe, and then quietly tucked away into a corner of Ducati’s Bologna factory.

Now, nearly 40 years later, we persuaded the Ducati museum to pull it out of the storeroom, dust it down and allow it to be photographed. Amazed at our luck? Amazed that the factory would hold such an icon out of view? So are we. But to delve into the reality of all this we need to go back in time to the mid-1970s.

History lesson

In late 1974, some corporate bright spark decided Ducati should abandon all its established models and replace them with untested, clean-sheet designs that would cover all market segments.

Forget the steadily selling overhead-camshaft singles and V-twins aimed primarily at a niche of devoted road riders. Let’s build enduro 2-strokes, a futuristic-looking square-case V-twin grand tourer, and then some chain-driven, overhead cam parallel twins and singles. Yeah? Oh, yeah.

bike on highway

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