White Elephant


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Ducati Paso
Marketplace flop or not, the Ducati Paso has undeniable presence.

Ten years or so ago, as part of a panel discussing the future of vintage motorcycle collecting, the question of The Next Big Collectible was raised. My vote? The unloved and much maligned Ducati Paso. My esteemed panelist partners — including Ducati restoration specialist Rich Lambrechts, who would later craft a perfect replica of Old Blue, the Ducati Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling rode to victory at Daytona in March 1977 — looked at me blankly. The Paso? Ten years or so later, I’ve been proven … wrong.

Introduced in 1986 by new Ducati owner Cagiva, the Paso was the Castiglioni brothers’ bid to launch Ducati into the modern era and, it was hoped, challenge the ever-ascendent Japanese. Designed by Bimota co-founder Massimo Tamburini, it was revolutionary, its fully enveloping bodywork hiding a square-section tube frame carrying famed Ducati engineer Fabio Taglioni’s belt-driven, overhead cam desmodromic twin.

Contemporary reviewers praised the Paso, Italian tester Bruno de Prato calling it “the very best ever” Ducati, and the editors of U.K.’s Performance Bikes opining that “after years of pulling dinosaurs out of the corporate hat, they’ve [Ducati] suddenly produced a very sleek, very agile and very beautiful rabbit.” In the U.S., Cycle Guide called it “the first of a new breed of Italian sporters … to combine beauty with brains,” and Cycle World said the Paso was “destined to be one of sportbiking’s most exciting performers in a long time.”

So where did it all go wrong? A hint came in Cycle’s May 1987 review, which noted a “glitch” in the performance of the two-barrel, down-draft Weber carb. “We hope Cagiva can correct the carburetor problem and deliver to us Tamborini’s masterpiece full measure, because this most extraordinary motorcycle deserves a flawless canvas.” A further hint came in the very word used by Cycle, “canvas.” Tamborini’s Controlled Air Flow concept might have been cutting edge, but out in the real market it was seen as quirky and awkward. Combined with increasing issues with the Weber carb, the Paso quickly gained a reputation as being unreliable and unrideable. And while the Paso was improved over time, ultimately gaining a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine, it never achieved the marketplace influence Cagiva envisioned.

According to motorcycle historian and author Ian Falloon, a paltry 4,863 first-generation Paso 750s rolled out of the Borgo Panigale factory, with about half of those coming to the U.S. That makes the one I recently bought — a 1988 Limited Edition, one of only 50 white versions imported to the U.S. — a decidedly rare beast. But that doesn’t make it valuable. Prices haven’t moved in years, generally hovering around $3,500 — or less — for well-kept bikes.

11/13/2020 8:33:52 AM

I think the Paso is the most inexpensive way for those looking to get into Ducatis. Even with the stock Weber they are fine, and they are much better with Mikunis or DelOrtos. With a torquey motor, great brakes and nimble handling, they are great around town and the comfortable riding position makes them just fine on the highway. The Paso 750 may be one of the best all around bikes available.

10/18/2020 12:27:07 PM

Love my Paso, it's a great riding bike and reliable. I got mine with Mikuni's and have two Webers in parts storage. Only down point is limited tire choice, but I have been pleased with the Shinko's. Michelin quit making the OE tire in 2005, Pirelli perhaps earlier. Strangers have commented "it's the most beautiful bike they have ever seen, and is well over 30 now. Tamburini was a genius.

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