Ducati’s second-generation v-twin engine – the 900cc ‘square case’ (actual capacity 864cc) – debuted in the 860GT of 1974 and the following year was used to power the new 900SS superbike. The latter was styled like the original 750SS that had been developed from Paul Smart’s 1972 Imola winner. More than just a simple over-bore, the ‘square case’ engine incorporated a new camshaft drive arrangement, improved oil pump, cartridge-type oil filter and electronic ignition. In addition, the gearchange was moved to the left-hand side and the frame altered to provide chain adjustment at the swinging arm pivot. As had been the case with the original 750SS, desmodromic valve gear distinguished the new sports roadster from its tourer counterpart. ‘Like the tamer valve spring version of the engine in the 900GTS it is uncannily smooth, while possessing a much more dramatically punchy power output than the soft touring motor,’ reported Bike magazine in October 1977. Breathing through gaping 40mm Dell’Orto carburetors, the 900SS engine produced 70bhp at 7,500rpm, an output good enough for a top speed of 135mph. The 900SS’s competition heritage was obvious on the road: ‘While other flash Italian bikes are basically roadsters dressed up and pretending to be racers, this is the real thing,’ declared Bike.
Engine design improvements pioneered on the Darmah model were incorporated for 1978 together with a left-side gearchange, while Speedline alloy wheels were adopted part way through the year. For 1981 the 900SS underwent more extensive updating, gaining improved cylinder heads, Bosch ignition and – later on – a revised gearbox. Production ceased during 1982 after a little over 6,000 had been produced and today this classic Ducati bevel-drive twin is highly sought after.
This 1979 Ducati 900SS is an original US delivery machine and has been featured in several of marque guru Ian Falloon’s books, deemed as one of the most original examples he’s ever seen. The bike sports original paint throughout, not in perfect condition, but with the lovely patina of a well-stored, low mileage 40-year-old machine.
Unrestored cosmetics belie the superb mechanical condition of the bike. Reported to run perfectly, this exquisitely rare motorcycle has been enjoyed by only a couple of owners and shows only 6,000 miles from new, supported by the original rear tire. The original smaller carbs and Silentium exhausts remain, a feature of the US spec bikes, often upgraded and lost to time. A great riding machine in time-capsule condition and welcomed in any preservation class concours.
Engine no. DM860SS*089361
Location: New York, New York