Tagged: 1959

Like a Fly Trapped in Amber: 1959 Ducati Elite for Sale

1959 Ducati Elite 200 R Side

This jewel-like Ducati Elite is more of an object d’art than a living, breathing motorcycle. Like the titular bug embedded in fossilized tree sap, the world has passed this little time capsule of a motorcycle by, leaving it perfectly preserved, but very dead.

1959 Ducati Elite 200 L Side

Which is a shame: these little Ducatis were created with the same passion as their larger siblings and were often very competitive in small-displacement racing classes. Introduced in 1958 and displacing 204cc, the Elite was light, sporty, and very sexy. With 18 flexible horses and a four-speed gearbox, it could reach almost 90mph, a pretty impressive number for such a small machine.

And even if it could barely go around corners, just look at that beautiful “jelly mould” tank and striking paint scheme! With all the retro designs Ducati has tried over the years, I’m surprised they’ve not yet tried to recapture this little darling.

1959 Ducati Elite 200 R Side Rear

From the original eBay listing: 1959 Ducati Elite for Sale

This Ducati Elite came from the incredible RM Sothebys Monaco auction of 2012, from the Carlo Salterelli Collection in conjunction with the Ducati factory. This auction was much publicized in the motorcycle press for the unprecedented scope of Salterelli’s collection from it’s earliest single cylinder Ducatis to some of it’s finest v-twin and single racers. There’s much information online which can be easily searched regarding this incredible collection and auction. After winning the auction this motorcycle was shipped to Los Angeles and placed in my office to be enjoyed as a motorcycle sculpture.

I’ve never attempted to start this bike, but it does have good compression and can select all gears with ease. I have just enjoyed it’s pleasing lines. I’ve attached the images of the catalog and I feel that the auction company’s description is apt and the accompanying photographs best describe the motorcycle better than I can.

It has minor nicks, scratches and blemishes but no major-offending issues. It is a very beautiful bike and I think the new owner will be pleased with this incredibly rare motorcycle, with the excellent provenance of coming from the Salterelli Collection (an ex-Ducati factory works racer, test rider and factory based dealer).  It would be impossible to duplicate such history and factory connections that this motorcycle has. The auction catalogs and all accompanying paperwork will be included in the bike’s sale. There is no title, but a Bill of Sale only, as it has never been registered in California.

1959 Ducati Elite 200 In Situ

These are beautiful little motorcycles and although I appreciate that some collectors have saved these for posterity, keeping them in visually perfect condition, I feel like it completely misses the point. Certainly, there are show bikes and cars meant to be barely functional metalwork confections that aren’t intended to be used on the road.

But the Elite combines both show and go in what was originally a relatively affordable, practical package. This is a very nice example, but I hope the next owner spends the time and money to get it back on the road where it belongs.


1959 Ducati Elite 200 Dash

1959 Ducati 175 Sport for Sale

1959 Ducati 175 Sport R Side

It’s easy to forget, but Ducati’s history began with a tiny little bicycle motor and their sporting roots are in single-cylinder machines. Unlike today’s “entry-level sportbikes,” they featured sophisticated technology and top-shelf components: the very first production Desmo Ducati was actually a 1968 250/350 Mk 3! It’s a little rough, but this 1959 Ducati 175 Sport would be a great candidate for restoration, or you can just enjoy the classic patina as-is and wait for the value to climb further… I’d be unable to resist putting some new tires on so I could blat around the neighborhood.

1959 Ducati 175 Sport Tank

These are delicate little machines, so different from the hyperbikes that Ducati seems to focus on today: 190hp frameless road missiles, 1200cc naked roadsters, cruisers with impossibly fat, 200mm rear tires.  Not that I don’t lust after those, it’s just that modern bikes have become so much more capable than all but the most skilled riders, a two-wheeled performance pissing match akin to the nearly pointless posturing of the 200+ mph car club.

1959 Ducati 175 Sport L Grip

This is clearly being offered up by an enthusiast. The original eBay listing contains some history of the owner’s relationship with this machine: 1959 Ducati 175 Sport for Sale

I took part in the Italian Motogiro several years ago on a Moto Morini 175 Tresette.  It was truly an incredible experience!  Once I got home, I began collecting a few Giro-eligible 175cc Italian bikes, which have never been easy to locate here in the US.  One of the bikes I felt was a mandatory addition to my collection was a Ducati 175 Sport.  The only problem was finding one.  I searched and searched, and kept coming up empty.  Finally, I was able to locate one but it was located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The logistics were tricky and expensive, but I managed to get the bike crated and shipped back to California.

This particular bike is unique as many electrical components were sourced from Argentinian manufacturers, and these should not be viewed as “incorrect” when the bike is eventually restored.

The “Jelly Mould” gas tank is in very nice solid condition.  I have seen these genuine tanks alone trade for $2500-$3000.

Originally, this bike was going to be restored, but the bike had a unique time-worn patina that i really enjoyed.  It became part of my collection and was displayed many times over the next several years at various events (last was my “Barn Find” display at the 2013 Quail Motorcycle Gathering alongside my Vincent, Harley & Indian).

1959 Ducati 175 Sport R Rear Susp

I took a while for the “jelly mould” tanks to look right to me: they really do have a strange shape. The design is intended to allow the rider’s arms to tuck in close against the tank and the little loops on top allow packages and luggage to be strapped to the tank. According to the seller, it starts easily but has had no fuel in the tank, so it is currently more for display than riding, although that should be fairly simple to correct. When restored, these little bikes just radiate cool, and the vivid paint scheme is one of the most striking ever put on a factory bike.

Bidding is active, but still very low and the reserve has not yet been met.


1959 Ducati 175 Sport L Rear

1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo for Sale

1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo R Front

The Moto Guzzi Zigolo is really a “sportbike” only in a loose sense, but fun, frugal and hey, it’s a Guzzi.  The Zigolo was a small-displacement, two-stroke bike launched in 1953 as a follow up to the Guzzi’s “Guzzino 65” an extremely frugal machine that helped get Italians back on the road after WWII, with over 200,000 produced.  The Zigolo was a much more sophisticated machine: more “small motorcycle,” less “bicycle with a motor.”

1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo dash

The seller has some good information about this model and this particular machine in his original eBay listing: 1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo for Sale

My understanding is that the Zigolo was never officially imported and that consequently there are very few in the U.S. I mean very few like a dozen. Maybe some Guzzi expert will see this and shed some light; what I do know is that I’ve had it in a couple parts of the country and of all the hundreds of people – expert or otherwise – who just have to approach me every time I park it, no one has ever seen one in person, if at all. I’ve never cared about how rare it may or may not be, I just love the bike and have tried to honor it. I feel pretty safe in saying that, with a couple small exceptions, this is a 100% unmolested original. I replaced the tires, brake, throttle and clutch cables, all of which were basically unsafe when I bought it. I’m pretty sure the spark plug and wire have also been changed, but not by me. I think you should be able to see by the tire photos how many miles I’ve put on it. Of course you can’t be sure because there is obviously no odometer, but suffice to say not many.

1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo dash plaque

As you may know, many of the Guzzi’s of this era were named after birds. Zigolo translates to Bunting, which is what you see where the speedometer would ordinarily be. I can tell you without hesitation that of the half-dozen or so vintage bikes I’ve owned, this is without question the most reliable. Even at times where it hasn’t been ridden for 6 months, it starts in about 6 kicks. Seriously. It’s hard not to wear a smile on this thing, but at 54 years-old and 98cc’s, you’re not going to be setting any speed records. I don’t really know what to tell you about it that you can’t generally see. It’s a pretty straightforward 2 stroke single and it runs like a top. It’s my belief that the seat will be structurally useable, but the upholstery is definitely shot. It has numbers on the frame and the engine, which match.

1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo L side

The Zigolo had a horizontally mounted motor like it’s bigger, four-stroke brothers for a low center-of-gravity and good cooling, and put its modest power through a three-speed box, with top speed about 50mph.  It was lightweight, reliable and relatively fast for a machine of its class, with a powerband defined by a surprising flexibility.  In 1958, the Zigolo became first series production bike to use a chrome plated cylinder removing the need for a cast-iron liner.  With the revised motor, 100mpg was easily achievable.

The seller claims that these are extremely rare in the US.  Assuming you keep the limitations of a 1950’s 100cc motorcycle in mind, this is a very useable little bike: the Zigolo was designed as practical transport for the masses.  Parts availability may be an issue, but I doubt that many bikes this old don’t present at least some problems in this regard.

Plus: you’ll have a rare as all get-out bike with a tiny bird plaque instead of a speedometer!


1959 Moto Guzzi Zigolo R side engine

1959 Ducati Elite for Sale

1959 Ducati Elite R Front

All too often, “bike enthusiasts” get caught up thinking “bigger is better”, whipping out rulers to measure their…  Uh, displacement.  But this argument doesn’t take into account the simple pleasures of a bike happily whizzing along the open road.  It’s easy to forget that all of the major manufacturers cut their teeth on small, affordable, economical machines.  Many of these little bikes have the same race-winning DNA as their larger siblings and are extremely fun to ride and own.

The Ducati Elite was introduced in 1958, and the 204cc machine was very popular at the time: light, sporty, fun to ride, and very frugal.  The little 204cc bevel-drive single put out 18hp through its four-speed box and could push the machine to almost 90mph.

1959 Ducati Elite Tank Detail

The seller of this example mentions that the bike has been restored, and it sounds like it was a bit of a basket case when he started.  From the original eBay listing that gives a pretty good rundown on what is new: 1959 Ducati Elite for Sale

What is original on the bike as I got it? – Frame, toolboxes, engine/gbox. Hubs, spindles, chain guard, rear number plate, exhaust pipe, forks, it is a 1959 as the serial number on the engine is 150691 which is consistent with that year and the cylinder head has the fins on top versus after 1959 they did not.

What are original Ducati parts I located? – Gas tank (not a copy and sealed with Caswell sealer) Headlamp shell, front fender. fork aluminum covers/headlight bracket, rear shocks which are regular not all aluminum which some bikes had in 59.

What is new? – Italian rims, SS spokes, tires (‘RADO” Chinese I think, sorry) Generator and regulator ( from the UK an upgraded set which can be converted to 12v )Rear Fender, clip ons, Speedometer, seat, Silencers, horn, cables ,switches and wiring, battery. Seat, silencers, clip ons and some other parts were from Italy. All rubber parts.

Paint – Frame powder coated, all rest painted. As for the frame color I have had various comments when I have showed the bike at events that “ is it the right color?” I have seen many pics of other bikes and some it looks like and some it is slightly off. I have another frame with some original paint and I think it is very close but then that paint is 50 years old. The tank, fenders and toolbox paint is excellent and was matched with original paint on the toolboxes. All paint is in excellent condition. Chrome is new and excellent.

General – The engine, gearbox and clutch was rebuilt with all new bearings and piston rings. I intended to rebore as cylinder had some wear but in my opinion not bad enough to bore but I have a new OS piston and rings that are included in the sale if whoever buys wishes to do. The engine starts and the bike runs and shifts properly. All electrics work. I have done 7 miles around the block on it since rebuild, The engine cases and engine aluminum parts were vapor honed which without doubt is the finish of choice for restorers. New brake shoes and chain. I have used original Ducati fasteners where possible.

1959 Ducati Elite Dash

These are beautiful little machines: take a look at the “jelly mould” tank and the striking paint.  I’d want one in my fantasy garage for sure.  Bidding’s already north of $10,000 and the reserve has not been met.  Given the apparent quality of the restoration, I’m curious to see what sort of price this Ducati will command when the dust settles.


1959 Ducati Elite L Rear

1959 BSA Golden Flash

The British motorcycle industry before WWII, and directly after, was a very small world even though there were many different marquees. Triumph, Norton, BSA, Ariel and many others all had a market share before and after the war, but a major innovation that effected all makes was the development of the parallel twin by Edward Turner at Triumph. This new engine design doubled up the iconic British single, and soon most manufactures had their own twins. Bert Hopewell had worked with Edward, moved to Norton and then to BSA, and it is their parallel A-10 that powers this BSA Golden Flash offered on eBay.

With the arrival of Bert Hopewell at BSA in 1948, BSA expanded the A-7 500cc twin to 650cc and offered the first Golden Flash in 1950. The A-10 might have been developed to keep up with Triumph and their 650cc 6T Thunderbird, but the BSA engine offered its own incarnation on the concept. Were the Triumph separates the two intake and two exhaust push-rods, the BSA groups them all together at the rear of the engine. This opens up the front of the engine for better cooling, and offers fewer places for oil to leak, something most British bikes are known for. The Golden Flash was offered first in a rigid frame, then in the short lived and unpredictable plunger frame, and by 1954 a swing arm frame.

The person listing the bike is not only the friend of the seller, but the restorer:

            I took the bike completely apart and sandblasted all the parts re chrome all the chrome.. including the gas tank… The bike is painted with urethane paint PPG single stage. The bike has been converted to 12volts.

When they took the bike completely apart, why didn’t they re-chrome the header pipes? Why is the choke lever on the fame under the seat and not on the handlebar? Where are the cables? Why are there chips in the paint along the frame? Is that a drip tray under the Carb? How long ago was the restoration? This is another of many eBay listings were more questions are raised then answered. This is a classic example of a 20 ft. bike, one that looks good at first glance (and why I started this post) but when you get closer, not so good.

The A-10 engine found itself powering more then just one bike. Starting with the Golden Flash with matching gold color, in 1954 the Road Rocket, and finally in 1957 the Super Rocket all used the A-10 to move down the road. A great history of the A-10 engine and what can be done with it can be found here. So if you are able to look past some of the things that I saw, this BSA has the potential for someone looking for a British twin. BB