Ducati’s first desmodromic V-twin engine powered Paul Smart to victory in the 1972 Imola 200 and Mike Hailwood to his legendary comeback win in the 1978 Isle of Man TT. Replaced by the belt-driven Pantah engine that was introduced in 1979, the bevel-drive desmo ceased production in the mid-1980s, and ever since, parts for the thousands of bikes built with this engine have been drying up.
Ducati bevel-drive engine specialist Vee Two Australia has addressed this issue, developing a brand-new air-cooled, bevel-drive, desmodromic V-twin engine, unveiled in April by company owner Brook Henry and Vee Two’s general manager Andrew Cathcart [Alan Cathcart’s son] at Australia’s annual Broadford Bike Bonanza historic bike festival. To demonstrate that the engine is close to being customer ready, the prototype was fired up several times, drowning the Broadford circuit’s pits with waves of rolling thunder.
The Vee Two Ritorno Twin (ritorno is Italian for “comeback”) has a bore and stroke of 88mm x 74.4mm for a capacity of 904cc (production Ducati 900s had a bore and stroke of 86mm x 74.4mm for a capacity of 864cc), and in racing form is expected to deliver around 120 horsepower. A modern re-creation of the ultimate bevel-drive Ducati desmo V-twin engine, it’s being manufactured for sale using the original Ducati drawings, supplied with the approval of the Ducati factory.
It’s an externally faithful reproduction of the factory NCR race engine used by Mike Hailwood to win the 1978 Isle of Man TT, with the crankcases and other major castings sandcast in high-strength heat-treated aluminum and external covers cast in magnesium. “While the engine is historically authentic externally, all engine internals have been manufactured using modern materials and up-to-date design technology,” says Andrew Cathcart. “But all parts are interchangeable with existing bevel-drive engines, so Ducatisti around the world whose bikes are off the road because they can’t source spare parts for them will now be able to do so from Vee Two Australia.”
The Vee Two Ritorno aims to offer cutting edge performance with authentic bevel-drive looks. “We have put together this first prototype engine as a mule to allow us to commence our testing regime,” says Brook Henry. “Over the next 12 months we will extensively develop the engine with the aim of providing both reliable interchangeable street bike components, and an excellent platform to go racing in the Post-Classic Period 5 class here in Australia, or in Vintage Superbike and the air-cooled Pro Twins class in the USA, Japan and Europe.”
Good news for Ducati owners everywhere, just don’t expect them to be inexpensive: Prices for the Vee Two Ritorno engine start at $29,000. More info: Vee Two website. MC