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1946 - 1992
Ducati has been in business for many years and has produced a wide range of products including wartime condensers, cameras, radios and obviously, motorcycles. Not many Ducat fans know that Ducati has also designed and produced prototypes for four-wheeled vehicles.
The first four-wheeled project goes back to 1946, right around the time that Ducati began production following the WWII bombing that destroyed the factory in 1944. The Ducati brothers began producing the Cucciolo (puppy) in March of ’46, but, evidently, the economic pressures of the time pushed them further towards the development of an automobile. The company designed, at least on paper, a 250 cc vehicle with a 4-speed engine. Ironically enough, this engine was a 90° L-twin cylinder and the frame was designed with trellis tubes – both just like the Ducatis of today. The vehicle was 2-seater sedan and the one-and-only prototype was born in the summer of 1946 in the Ducati plant in Milan. The vehicle was named the DU4. Unfortunately, all that Ducati has left of this project are the designs. The prototype remained in Turin for many years and now belongs to a private collector. Despite the research in to the DU4, the automobile never went into production. Perhaps this was due to the great success of the Cucciolo – so much so that the company decided not to invest in a whole new kind of product.
In 1960, Engineer Fabio Taglioni designed and built an 8-cylinder desmodromic “V“ shaped engine for Osca Maserati. Maserati, located in the eastern suburbs of Bologna, in San Lazzaro di Savena, asked Taglioni for a propulsion engine to use on a racing car, probably destined for Formula 1 racing. Although an engine was built, the project was never completed. The engine now belongs to Giorgio Monetti, a man otherwise famous at Ducati for having ridden around the world on a Ducati 175 TS with his friend, Leopoldo Tartarini.
In the early 1960s, the team “Corse Tecno” was founded by the Pederzani brothers and their headquarters were right nearby in Borgo Panigale. Although Ducati wasn’t formally involved, one of its specialised mechanics, Renato Armaroli, was a part of the team. Armaroli worked in Ducati with some of the most famous Ducati mechanics like Franco Farné, Giorgio Nipoti, Rino Caracchi and Mario Recchia.
In 1964 a new kind of 4-wheeled racing began, the Formula K, named after the world of go-kart racing. One particular vehicle that raced in the Formula K was the Tecno K, built by Tecno, a company especially famous in the late 60s and 70s for its racing success in Formula 2 championships. The Tecno team was the starting point for famous riders like Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert and the Swiss rider Clay Regazzoni. In the brochures of the day, the Tecno K was described as a vehicle for single brand championships, designed with a 250cc motorcycle engine produced by one of various brands including: Benelli, Aermacchi, Morini and Ducati. Soon after, Ducati became the official supplier of the single-seater propulsion karts and even today, some historians and collectors call it the “Formula Ducati”.
In 1965, while the company was under state control, the CEO, Giuseppe Montano, decided to begin producing an automobile to increase the overall production volume. Ducati worked with the British company Leyland to produce a much-loved sports car, the Triumph Herald and production began in 1965. No one knows exactly how many automobiles were built in Ducati but you can identify them by the cursive logo reading Ducati Meccanica, right below the Triumph emblem.
The next two stories linking Ducati with the four-wheeled world occurred during the most difficult years for Ducati. Despite the victories on the track and successful projects like the Pantah, Ducati management no longer believed in the production of motorcycle engines and Ducati risked becoming a company producing diesel engines for use on boats or agricultural vehicles. The production of motorcycle engines was minimal, approximately 1700 units total per year. Between 1979 and 1984, Ducati Mechanica worked closely with the company VM, located nearby in Cento, in the Ferrara province. VM hired Ducati to produce a 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine for some of the Alfa Romeo cars. This continued at least through 1988 when the Castiglioni saved the company from potential closing. The Castiglioni brothers and their great enthusiasm saved Ducati from becoming an engine storage house and nothing else and brought Ducati back to its original focus on motorcycles.
The last chapter on 4-wheeled engines is more recent and comes out of the friendship and collaboration between Ducati and Ferrari. Between 1990 and 1992 Ducati produced a V-8 cylinder automobile engine that was designed by Ferrari but produced in Ducati. This engine was used for a limited series of the Lancia Thema, the 8.32. Source
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