Taglioni’s First Twin: 1973 Ducati 750GT

The Ducati 750GT was created to help its maker survive the Seventies.

| May/June 2015

1973 Ducati 750GT
Claimed power:
49.91hp @ 7,200rpm (period test)
Top speed:
125mph (est.)
Engine: 748cc air-cooled SOHC 90-degree V-twin, 80mm x 74.4mm bore and stroke, 8.5:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 407lb (185kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.5gal (17ltr)/35-45mpg
Price then/now:

By 1970, the global motorcycle market was very different from what it had been a decade earlier. In the early ‘60s, most European riders wanted small commuter bikes or scooters, while the more affluent leaned toward sports machines of a half liter or so. Ten years later, 750cc bikes were the most important class: most commuters had switched to cars, and motorcycles were now classed as “recreational vehicles.”

In the U.S., Japanese imports grew larger in capacity and brisker in performance, challenging the traditional American big-inch V-twin with more features and performance at a fraction of the price. The much heralded Honda CB750 Four was less the instigator of this trend and more the inevitable result of it. Perhaps the most important achievement of the CB750 was to reinforce 750cc as the benchmark capacity for new sporting motorcycles: If motorcycle makers were to survive into the Seventies, they needed a 750. In 1970, Ducati made singles up to just 450cc — even if they were some of the sportiest and best regarded on the road.

Creating a 750

It was a combination of limited resources, inspired engineering, business acumen and a flair for originality that led famed Ducati engineer Fabio Taglioni to pencil out the broad specification of Ducati’s first twin. Limited resources meant working with existing engine components as far as possible, such as the cylinder head and valvetrain from the singles. Taglioni’s formidable engineering talent allowed him to create an engine layout that optimized the use of these components in a relatively untried layout; an inline 90-degree V-twin, often called an L-twin. Taglioni started work on the project in March of 1970, and a prototype was on the road by August. The result was the 750GT.

The advantages of Taglioni’s engine layout were almost perfect primary balance to minimize engine vibration, and a narrow frontal section to reduce drag. The disadvantages of a wide V-angle, however, meant having one cylinder pointing almost horizontally forward, so the wheelbase had to be long enough to provide clearance between the cylinder and the front wheel. Taglioni mitigated this challenge by creating a compact power unit with gear primary drive and vertically-stacked gearbox shafts to keep the engine as short as possible. At the same time, the GT’s long wheelbase contributed to its legendary straight-line stability and unshakeable cornering.

The production 750GT was launched in June of 1971. The twin was fitted into a frame inspired by the Colin Seeley item used on some of Ducati’s GP bikes, with the engine as a stressed member hung beneath a spine frame made up of three steel tubes.

4/30/2015 2:37:47 PM

I had a dealer quote me $1875, out the door, but I had only $1700, and my dad wouldn't loan me the rest. So I went to college instead. I still don't know that I made the right decision...

4/28/2015 6:33:51 PM

When I first read the article and saw the price the author quoted for todays examples being between $5,000 and $15,000, I thought the article was written about 10 years ago. Mr Smith must have missed a nice restored example on bay that sold for $32K, or the rusty parted out one, that made almost $28K. Nice Bike Robert, where can I send you my check for $15,000?

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