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Re-made in the USA: DNA’s Hotrod Frankenbike

Life is unfair. Designers, managers and race champions get most of the gold and the glory, the goodies and the girls. Sales and marketing take what’s left. Service? Who? But the guys in Service can still dream. The fires of enthusiasm burn hot and bright at Ducati, long after office hours, not just in Bologna. At Ducati North America’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, the Service gang has created a project bike that will have Ducatisti worldwide drooling.

It was the right thing to do with a pile of parts at DNA,” says Bruce Meyers, a renowned Ducati racebike preparer and former Ducati dealer who now trains DNA’s techs to Master Technician skill levels. So Meyers and DNA Technical Manager Jon LaForte took stock. A 1098 trellis frame, tank, fairings, swingarm — okay. Öhlins forks with 1098 upper clamp and 999 lower — we can do that. Öhlins rear spring/shock — on hand. Forged Marchesinis and top-of-the-line Brembos — check. Toss in an 848 crankcase, an instant fit — got it. Crower titanium rods — a lucky find, in Meyer’s Ducati Performance stock. Sound easy? It is … so far. Then it gets more interesting, especially when you must pay for the parts and work long hours outside the office to get it done.

But what motor to use? Over the years Ducati’s air-cooled, two-valve V-Twin became iconic. Inevitably it yielded to water cooling and four valves, as outputs rose, pushed by World Superbike and MotoGP. The more stressed the air-cooled machine the more unreliable, the less competitive — a service headache that demanded costly and time-consuming TLC, more often. Grafting a high-performance two-valve top end onto a bottom end designed for much more power seems like a good solution.

We blended the best of both worlds: an air-cooled power plant with the big-sump benefits of the water-cooled machine, in an up-to-the-minute frame,” said Gray. “Back to the future, eh! Air cooling eliminates costly plumbing and reduces weight, though we needed dual oil coolers. Boring and re-sleeving creates a big, low-stress motor that doesn’t need constant fettling.”

Into that mildly machined crankcase went a previously damaged Multistrada crankshaft (carefully repaired and balanced by Fox Performance Engines) and a pair of air-cooled cylinders, bored to within a millimeter of their metallic lives and then re-sleeved, enclosing custom, (and carefully balanced) high-compression, 14:1 pistons from Pistal (in Rocchetta Tanaro, Northern Italy), crowns matched lovingly to custom titanium valves. Cam shape and timing? Ducati Performance ‘Hyper’ — moderate, not extreme overlap, for best rideability. Final weight saver: the DoubleDog Moto carbonfiber tail section, just seven pounds vs. the stock 16.

Bikes gotta breathe—the old in and out. For the ‘in,’ beautifully flowed and polished input tracts and ports, fed via a 1098′s pressurized airbox through 45mm throats in EFI-controlled Multistrada throttle bodies. The ‘out’ is 1098 plumbing ending in minimum-back-pressure Termignonis, producing the glorious thunder of mid-range torque beloved of V-Twin riders. Ducati’s marketing people should figure out a way to charge extra for that sound. What? They already did? Oh.

Strip its bright red clothes and you may experience a “Crying Game” moment when you see the air-cooled engine.

The ‘office’ is based on a Hypermotard wiring harness, but less complex electrics (no traction control needed for these relatively benign power levels) simplify wrist chores. What you get is what you see: an engaging mixture of vintage Ducati air-cooled mill in a modern frame/suspension setting. Old wine, new bottle. If you liked Ducati’s historic road and track weapons, and enjoy its latest 848/1098 or even Desmosedici derivatives, you’d love this elegant beast.

Bottom line: an 1176cc torque-monster (about 90 ft.-lbs. at 3800 rpm, on the Dynojet dyno at WyoTech, DNA’s training partner), asked to produce a mere 115 horses at moderate revs (9000), managed by a catalog Ducati Performance ECU. Since the entire machine weighs just 300 pounds, more powerful bikes will sweat to keep up during track days and club racing, particularly in the vital 0-120-mph speed bracket. As LaForte puts it, grinning ear to ear, “a truly sick bike.”

So: Ducati’s in-house Service Specialist hotrod, a wolf in wolf’s clothing, painted in livery that honors its origins.

Over to you, Bologna. Or perhaps Cupertino’s Service Gang can clone the existing creation. The bike you see here is not for sale but in the real world anything should be possible for Nicky. You want one, too? Get in line.

The Frankenbike: it’s alive!

Jon LaForte with his creation.

38 Comments

  1. JW says:

    I would take this bike over any bike on the market…nearly perfect!

  2. steve (aka-tricklidz) says:

    Bruce is The Man!!!

  3. Susie Leiper says:

    Must mention the beautiful paint by Rob Nigl of Peach Pit Painting in Canterbury, NH. And Tom – we call this bike Annie – because she was built from “orphan” parts!

  4. AOT says:

    The text says it uses a pressurized 1098 airbox, but in the third photo you can clearly see a K&N pod filter. What gives?

    • Susie Leiper says:

      You are correct – in final assembly they decided to go with the pod instead of an airbox.

  5. Tom Hull says:

    Dont get me wrong the bike here is a great bike. I Love the new styling. Love to get both bikes on the track together and see how they do???

    Tom H.

  6. Tom Hull says:

    Yes Street legal with gas. My race 900ss was 330lb wet.

  7. ziggy says:

    No offense, but it’s a little on the gauche side. There was a chance to put this together with flowing lines and colors and european sensibilities. Now it’s subtle mish-mash of hop up parts that scream “bolt on”. I supposed if one likes ghetto chic (diamonds in grills, spinner wheelcovers, lowevered mother-of-pearl Escalades) then this bike makes aesthethic sense.

    No doubt it will run like a screamer, but the visual appeal can be rivaled only by NASCAR or perhaps the tournament jerseys of tournament Bass pros.

    • Norm G. says:

      not sure i follow… at anything over 3ft, it’s practically indistinguishable from a stock 1198S…? unless you mean to say you dislike the current design of ducati superbikes…?

  8. Ric says:

    Very nice Bruce.But i’m not parting with the “Muffin” any time soon.You did an awesome job building it and it’s still a ton of fun.

  9. Tom Hull says:

    This has already been done back in early 1995 by myself. 916 chassis and a built up 944 air cooled motor.

    Check out the pics on http://www.tomsitaliantuneandservice.com or http://www.duccutters.com

    My bike is called the 944 corsa 375lbs wet…

    My customers even called it the frankinbike years ago. Ducati should have built a aircooled superbike back in the early 90′s…. They would have sold tons.

  10. Brewmaster says:

    Wonderful Bike! Just as I would expect from Bruce. Practical, fun, reliable and a real treat to ride I’m sure. As a lucky Bruce Meyers bike owner and friend, I can only say… Bologna take notice and listen… Bruce has the Ducati Passion.

  11. Vrooom says:

    While this thing might not have much commercial potential given what others pointed out as being the likely consumer reaction (if it doesn’t have 160 hp it’s just not fast enough), a few cost cutting measures and you could have a bad ass bike ala the old supersports for maybe 11-12K. Cheapen the wheels, brakes, suspension, and probably a few of the engine internals and even if you ended up with a 340 lb. bike that put out 85 ft. lbs and 110 hp to the rear wheel you’d have a bad ass bike. Throw some bags on it and you’d have a bad ass ST. Sign me up.

  12. ROXX says:

    !WOW!

  13. Norm G. says:

    no surprise bruce had his hand in this. anything aircooled and 2V invariably does. :) this still has me wishing bologna would resurrect the SS line with the discontinued 3V head. like this bike, it was a good hybrid between the monsters and the superbike. hypermotards and diavels are cool, but not what you would call “multi-purpose”.

  14. Stinky says:

    That’s more like it! I don’t need radiators, waterpump, traction control. I like the single swingarm for the ease of underseat exhaust( if it ain’t a bun warmer), not for the aesthetics, you could hang bags off that thing. Heli bars, lower the pegs if it didn’t mess up ground clearance. Monsterize it, I don’t care. They make other bikes that do some of these things but the Supersport HAS been neglected. If not for lack of talent, money, ambition I’d have one.

  15. YellowDuck says:

    Yes, yes, yes. It is so obvious that Ducati should do something like this. Getting 100 hp out of the 1100 should be pretty easy. Classic 2V air cooled motor in an up-to-date chassis. This is the natural evolution of the SS, if only it hadn’t gone extinct!

    Of course they would never build it because they know (from experience!) that practically no one will buy it. Just not enough potential customers out there with the required level of sophistication to appreciate this kind of bike.

    On the other hand, how much would it cost them, really, to stitch together a production model like this from the parts already available? Do it for the true believers, Bologna!

  16. DaytonaJames says:

    That’s absolutely gojuice… where does the lineup start?

    Kudos to Jon LaForte for creating the SS that should have been.

  17. Agent55 says:

    That’s one unique machine, & I love how light the air-cooled Ducs can get, 300 lbs.! That thing is damn near NCR cool. If only Ducati would give the Supersport line another try, basing it on the current Monster would make for a great sportbike.

  18. Ruefus says:

    115 horses, 90 ft/lbs and just over 300 pounds with a twin’s engine character and top-line suspension?

    Yee-mudder-fuggin’-haw!!!

  19. Jeff Roberts says:

    That is a real world Superbike! If Ducati were to build a base suspension model in the $10-12k range and an Ohlins equipped model in the $13-15k range they would find that many of us like that power curve over an 1198. These bikes would not require the most exotic components due to lighter weight and would be easier to ride. Ducati Italia…are you watching?

  20. MikeD says:

    Haaa! Talk about a “Parts Shake Special”…lol.
    Cool Stuff for sure.
    But…i can’t wait to see Ducati loose the stinkin Timing Belts for Gear Drives and longer valve clearance check intervals (I know the Multi went longer but what about the 1198 ? No Cigar ? ).
    I guess No Pain No Game ?

    • jimbo says:

      If Honda, in the mid 1980s, made and sold 550/650/750 Nighthawks, with 10k redlines IIRC (c’mon, that’s ALMOST THIRTY YEARS AGO!), with self-adjusting hydraulic valve lash (you know, like cages have had since the Mosaic Covenant was in effect), why can’t it be done now?

      Me thinks something stinketh in Denmark, as in: Cash cow for service departments!

      • MikeD says:

        Im affraid the fancy DESMO Valve Train Architecture won’t allow any provission for it.
        But with plenty of money and brains almost anything is possible ( and im running short on both most of the time, lmao).
        I WOULD venture and talk out of my lower back here and say… i think 5Krpm+ cams would collapse those lifters like jello.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Me thinks something stinketh in Denmark, as in: Cash cow for service departments!”

        can’t speak to the cash cow aspect, however, you say that like supporting an industry from which we clearly derive pleasure and enjoyment from… is a bad thing…??? an ironic disconnect this. curious, why do you think it is that you’ve come to “devalue” motorcycling and adopt such a “cannibalistic” view of something you love so much…?

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I know the Multi went longer but what about the 1198 ?”

      yup, they went longer also, with M.Y. 2007 forward iirc. albeit, relative to the OLD spec this. it is afterall, a narrow focus, highly-strung, pure sports, racing vee-twin and ducati (to their credit), have never tried to pass it off as anything but.

  21. fazer6 says:

    awesome

  22. mud says:

    Very beautiful roadster!

  23. Mark P. says:

    That sounds pretty cool. I wonder how much a street-legal production version would weigh.

  24. jimbo says:

    That’s just not right that anyone should have/ride a bike this nice! Shame! Shame!

    Final image with the builder is sweet.

    This may be the best ride I’ve seen at this site. Well, maybe with a couple of ergonomic mods to fit me…or maybe a naked version. Can you imagine if Ducati actually released a Hypomotard like this? Don’t worry, they won’t, because the marketing people would forbid the engineers from making something more desirable (as a daily ride) than the liquid cooled 4-valve models. I’ve long thought for many riders the latest 4-V’s, especially open class, are overkill.

    I’m happily surprised DNA could concoct such a great contraption from so many different models. Bravo! Molto Bene!

  25. Scotty says:

    Best Ducati ever!