Tagged: 500GTL

Lemony Fresh: 1977 Ducati 500GTL Cafe Racer for Sale

1977 Ducati 500GTL R Side

The Ducati 500GTL is a motorcycle that Ducati would clearly rather forget, a bike from the era before they realized that heritage sells, and any attempt to introduce something really new could backfire and cause the ruin of a company as small as the Bolognese firm. Especially when the bikes were powered by motors that liked to eat themselves alive.

If you’re not aware, Ducati’s famous v-twin is difficult to package: the horizontal cylinder looks great and sticks out into the cooling breeze, but makes for a very long, slow-steering motorbike. And as suspension caught up with engine design and quick turning became an actual thing for motorcycles, Ducati had a bit of a problem on their hands.

1977 Ducati 500GTL Dash

In addition, the good looks of the bevel drive twin came at a price. Literally: it was very expensive to manufacture and service, and Ducati was looking for a way to solve both of these problems in one fell swoop in a new entry-level model.

Enter: the 500GTL.

The new parallel twin, while no powerhouse, was sweet and handled well. But with angular styling that aped the unpopular 860GT, you can see where this is heading: Ducati purists didn’t like the new looks and unfortunately, a reputation for crankshaft failures put the final nail into the coffin. Luckily, Signore Taglioni had been developing a belt-driven v-twin all along, and the new Pantah 500 was there to propel Ducati into the modern era.

1977 Ducati 500GTL R Side Front

From the original eBay listing: 1977 Ducati 500GTL Café Racer for Sale

THIS BEAUTIFUL AND RARE 35 YEAR OLD CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE IS THE FINE EXAMPLE OF A FINE ITALIAN BIKE, ITS BEEN CONVERTED TO A CAFE RACER. THE BIKE SOUND BEAUTIFUL FAST AND STRONG, OIL SERVICE, BRAKE FLUID, SPARK PLUGS, WIRES, PLUG POINTS AND CONDENSER HAVE BEEN REPLACED. THE CARBURETORS WHERE REBUILT. THE GAS TANK IS RUST FREE, BRAKES ARE ALMOST NEW. THE SEAT ITS BEEN UPHOLSTER WITH GERMAN LEATHER, CONTI MUFFLERS, ALL THE ORIGINAL PARTS LIKE MUFFLERS, SEAT (4) TURN SIGNALS TAILLIGHT ASSEMBLY, FRONT AND REAR, STAINLESS FENDERS, HANDLE BAR (2). EVERYTHING GOES WITH THE BIKE THEIR IS NO MODIFICATION DONE TO IT, SO IF ONE DAY YOU FEEL ON PUTING IT BACK TO ORIGINAL STYLE ITS NO PROBLEM,

1977 Ducati 500GTL L Side Engine

I’d say that, considering the redheaded stepchild status of the 500, a $7,500 asking price might be a little rich, especially with such a… distinctive color choice. While I do love a truly individual motorcycle, sometimes it’s worth considering your personalized machine’s eventual sale. The overall presentation is clean, but I think that color choice might make this one a hard sell.

The paint seems nice, mind you, it’s just that I can’t look at it and not think I should stick it in a tall glass with some ice for a refreshing, summer treat…

-tad

1977 Ducati 500GTL Tank

1978 Ducati 350 GTV for Sale

1978 Ducati 350 GTV R Side Front

For all of their cutting-edge technology and hyperbike posturing, Ducati can be a surprisingly traditional company. They’ve stuck with their iconic “L-Twin” [90-degree v-twin] engine since their success on road and track in the 1970’s, in spite of some inherent limitations: it’s a very narrow engine, which is great for cornering clearance and aerodynamics, but it’s also very long, requiring a wheelbase that lends stability, but not agility.

And the famous Desmodromic valves? Well, you want to hit 9,000rpm in 1955, valve-float may have been a problem. But today’s screamers clearly show that traditional springs work just fine at high revs and the smoothness of a 90 degree twin can now be approximated with crankshaft trickery and balance shafts. There are advantages to four-cylinder power long recognized by less inflexible companies and even Ducati has had to bend their own rules to be remotely competitive in Moto GP, creating their temperamental v-four.

1978 Ducati 350 GTV R Rear

You’d think that Ducatisti would be eager for any advancement that would keep their storied marque in the black, but history suggests that they’re not so very open minded, and attempts at modern design have backfired more than once. Just ask Pierre Terblanche…

In the 1970’s, Ducati decided the way forward was to develop a line of more affordable, middleweight machines. The L-twins, with their tower shafts and bevel gears were very expensive to produce. So Ducati came up with a compact, affordable parallel twin. It made sense on paper, but the cost to develop an entirely new engine were high, and Ducati designer Taglioni was not happy with this new direction.

The new 500cc engine used simple valve springs and a single overhead camshaft. It made a respectable 35hp, but the styling was perhaps a bit too forward-thinking, and the bike was not popular at all, even when it was redesigned to resemble the more popular Darmah and a Taglioni Desmo head was added.

1978 Ducati 350 GTV Dash

The 350 GTV was a smaller version of that redesigned twin that aped the look of its larger sibling with its slightly ducktailed styling and is very rare in the US. In fact, I didn’t realize any had ever been imported…

From the original eBay listing: 1978 Ducati 350 GTV for Sale

Nice condition for a 36 Year Old Motorcycle It does have some bumps and scratches, not unusual for a bike of this age. Please look at the pictures carefully and ask about anything extra you might want to know.

I have had this Duc in the barn for 6 years and ultimately have had no time to play with it, so it’s time to find another owner that will use it. This is really a nice survivor. I have it running (see short video clip) pretty well but I think that carbs will need to be cleaned and setup properly. I installed new fuel petcocks/taps this spring as the old ones were just not making a seal. I still have the old ones to include. The tires are quite old and I have a set to include with the sale. See the video clip to hear it idling away. 

1978 Ducati 350 GTV L Tank

As a result of their slightly forgotten [cough sweptundertherug cough] status, they tend to sell for pretty reasonable prices. But be advised: controversial styling and engine configuration aside, the bikes also have a reputation for crankshaft failures and I’m not sure if there’s an easy fix for this, other than “hope yours doesn’t explode.” It might be worth tracking down a parts source for items you might need, like oil pumps, cam chains, and maybe a spare crankshaft or two…

Humor and horror stories aside, these were popular in Europe into the 1980’s so parts availability might not be so bad, if you’re willing to wait a while for things to ship from overseas. There’s plenty of time left on this auction, but current bidding is up to $810 [?!], so someone really should go on and buy this bike. It certainly won’t be fast, but you will get to answer a ton of questions about it every time you stop for gas.

-tad

1978 Ducati 350 GTV L Side