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.
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.
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.
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.