Posted by Malcolm Anderson

The Restoration of a 1977 Ducati 900 Super Sport by Malcolm Anderson

Firstly , thank you to all the volunteers and organisers of the Papakura Rotary club for making the 2018 Ride Forever Motorcycle Show a great success . It has grown into a "must go" for motorcycle enthusiasts from all areas of the sport and those with an interest in bikes but also it has a great family atmosphere for the general public to see a positive and exciting side of motorcycling.
 
I was delighted that the judges and the public appreciated the restoration of my 1977 Ducati 900 SS and to have the opportunity to talk about the process of bringing a 41 year old motorcycle back to it's former glory!
 
My interest in motorcycles goes back a long way to when I was about 12 years old with mini bikes and then competitive motocross in my teens and then in my early twenties in classic motorcycle racing with the New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register which in the 1980's was for the preservation and racing of British and European machines.
 
After many years of racing English Velocettes with my father Bruce also involved, my interest has changed a bit away from the competitive racing side to a focus on the preservation and restoration of machines. Being an engineer , I like to research the history of how and why things were manufactured in that time period and try to preserve as much of the original components butmstill take advantage of some of the modern techniques such as paint finishes that we have today.
Ducati is now a well known global brand ( owned by the VW/Audi group ) but like many Italian brands they started from a small family owned business and have an interesting history before making motorcycles.

The area of Bologna, the home of Ducati has been an industrial heartland in Italy since the sixteenth century with a complex of canals to supply and drive textile and grain mills. In 1922 Adriano Ducati was a gifted young physicist and began to study radio communications and by 1924 he succeeded in linking Italy to the United States by Radio and a few years later established radio contact between the Canary Islands and New Zealand. His three brothers joined the newly formed
company and by the time the Second World Wart started, Ducati were making a range of industrial and domestic electronic goods from condensers to radios, electric razors , film projectors and cameras.

The factory in Borgo Panigale Bologna was seen as a strategic risk to the allies during the war however and was almost completely destroyed by bombing. Facing financial ruin after the war , the company went into state ownership and to get back on their feet they saw that the public needed cheap and reliable transport. Ducati developed the Cucciolo bicycle kit in 1948 ( Cucciolo meaning"little puppy" in Italian. ) This kit consisted of a 48 cc engine with pedals and a petrol tank that could be fitted to any bicycle. By 1953, this had developed into Ducati's own "mo-ped" and could be considered the first Ducati Motorcycle! (I have one, see the attached below)
 
So up until the 1970's, Ducati developed their small machines into sporting and racing bikes but in 1972 they achieved their first major international success in theclass we now think of as the superbike era by winning the Imola 200 endurance race against all of the big manufacturers of that time including the Japanese. My 1977 900 SS is a direct descendant of that same design of race bike that Ducati made available in production and road legal form and a tuned version of this model won the Isle of Man TT Formula 1 race in 1978 with the legendary Mike Hailwood riding. The specification includes the last model to have wire wheels with aluminium Borrani rims and is presented in "1975 spec" with a 20 litre Imola style fibre glass petrol tank , 40 mm Dellorto carburettors and Conti exhausts, all of which were optional for the 900 SS from the factory in 1977. All of the mudguards , side panels and seat are also hand laid fibreglass for lightness. Despite having no electric starter and basic instrumentation even by 1970's standards, the900 SS with "clip-on" handlebars, a single seat, rear set foot pegs and a race fairing was an uncompromising road legal race machine for purists over 40 years ago.

The opportunity to purchase my bike was purely by word of mouth chance. I have a little "one man band" engineering business having gone back to my trade after 20 years as a plant design engineer at Fisher and Paykel. I have my bikes and memorabilia in a private cafe setting within the business although I don't do any work on bikes for the business. One of the visiting tooling reps commented that their storeman had an old Ducati which I didn't take much notice of but he had already called him on his cell phone and I discovered that it was something special being an iconic model. It had been laid up for 23 years at that time in 2014
and was in a very sorry state but I managed to convince the owner that I had the skills and patience to properly restore it.
 
 

There is an ethos today in the classic car and motorcycle world which is probably a rule of thumb with all antiques that something can be restored many times but is only original once. So preserving patina ( dirt and cosmetic wear and tear ) is valuable especially if the article has provenance in terms of racing history or previous owners that can be documented. I realised that my bike had a little too much patina with rust and dirt, corrosion, seized brakes and broken fittings that
it would require a full nut and bolt strip and rebuild of every component including the engine.
 
 

Along the way, I did a lot of research on originality and correct specification of every part for the model and along with books and articles from the time in 1977, the internet and Ebay are really essential for tracking down pieces of unobtanium. At some times you think that you are trying to locate unicorn ivory but even the rarest of parts eventually surface ( at a price ! )

It is always interesting to see before and after and progress photos of restorations like this but for anyone considering such a project , I will explain the way I approached this project. For any enthusiast, the thrill of the chase and being able to purchase a barnfind is exciting because all of the potential lies ahead but it can also be quite daunting as a lot of hurdles are waiting too! I have learned to be realistic about the time, expense and sacrifice that is required but also
to set achievable targets and milestones for progress. My mantra is to do a little bit often. Resist the desire to pull everything apart and "get stuck". Not only will you run out of steam quickly but the complexities must be broken down logically and everything must be documented and filed and recorded systematically of how and where everything comes apart and goes back together. Digital cameras and camera phones are great tools for that.

While working on individual parts, they also need to be grouped if specialist services are required such as bead blasting and powder coating and in this way some tasks can be done concurrently and some need to be done in order. In this way, it appears to outsiders that nothing seems to be happening and they wonder ,
"will he ever get it finished" (along with me ! ). However with this planning, everything does eventually come together quite quickly in the end.

Above all, the process should be enjoyable along the way and not just satisfying at the end although dips in motivation are inevitable when expensive or unexpected obstacles arise. I have done as much of the engineering and restoration of the Ducati myself and retained as much of the original DNA of the bike as possible but we are lucky for such a small country to have access to many specialist skilled services for the many processes to restore a classic Ducati like mine.
 
The next step in the process is to ride it!
 
 
 
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