Stored For Years: 1975 Ducati 860 GT

Ducati is known for producing beautiful, sexy, fast, mean, winning motorcycles. Most of us think of the color red and layers of farings when we think of Ducati motorcycles, but this 1975 Ducati 860 GT is different, very different. This rare bike can be found here on eBay in Bellevue, Iowa with a current bid price of just over $4,300 and there is no reserve. Let’s check it out.

This is another vehicle that I hesitated showing here because I thought that I’d be sneaking it into one of my storage units and tinkering with it as I had the time. Then I thought about what I already have in those storage units that I don’t even tinker with now and I gave up on that idea, as painful as it is. The Ducati 860 GT was made for a scant two years, 1974 and 1975, and fewer than 3,000 of them were made. They were designed by the “car designer of the 20th century”, Giorgetto Giugiaro. Yes, the same one who gave us the Delorean, the VW Golf Mk1, the gorgeous Maserati Ghibli, and many others. His angular style was perfect for the 1970s but there are more than a few motorcycle fanatics who aren’t enamored by the boxy styling of the 860 GT. The high, wide handlebars also gave it a less than hunkered-down Ducati feel in the handling department.

The seller isn’t sure if the 1,540 miles shown on the odometer are actual miles or not, and by now you’ve noticed that this is a project, not a hidden jewel that just needs to be wiped off and brought to a certain motorcycle auction in Las Vegas in January. The seller mentions that the shift lever is missing. Ducati made kind of a crudely-fashioned shift-lever modification for us Yanks so we could have the shifter on the left side where we thought that they should be located. It was a rod that ran through to the other side and it gave us a right-side foot brake where we also thought that should be located. You can see that there’s also an info plate missing in-between the five lights and headlight switch between the tach and speedometer. There was a variation of this bike called the GTE that had electric start and that would have been nice here as the seller mentions that the kickstart lever is missing so you’ll have to push it to attempt to start it.

But, before you attempt to push start it, please for the love of all that’s holy, do your due diligence on this unusual engine first, don’t just try to start this rare bike. The engine is more than unusual, it’s a 60-hp, 864cc 90-degree V-twin and the angular shape is wicked cool, in my opinion. The seller says that this bike has been sitting for years and they don’t have a clue as to the engine’s condition, so prepare to rebuild it. The clincher on this Ducati 860 GT is trying to pin down a value. NADA and Motorcycle Classics are both at around $5,500 for a nice example. Hagerty, on the other hand, lists the value of a #3 good condition example as – are you sitting down? – $34,000! I kid you not. Have any of you seen a Ducati 860 GT?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    A Duke, way cool! Leave it to Scotty. Italian motorcycles never caught on in Milwaukee, and for good reason. Probably a knee jerk reaction threatening their Harley way of life. These had a unique gear driven valve drive system, and I heard they were sweet running machines. Never had a chance, as we were just getting used to Asian bikes, and apparently, all the sexy Italian ads depicting fashion models draped over the seat, didn’t help and I read, the bikes were just as unpredictable. Cool bike, but still no Z1.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/33435800@N04/5636457168

    Like 9
    • Dbauer

      Quite right Howard. Growing up south side, I noticed a trend. In the late 1960-1970s Milwaukee riders generally were 2-types: a Harley rider or an ‘other’ rider. I was in with the British and Japanese riders. There was also a few scooter gangs that rode Italian scoots but I never really saw any motorbikes. Good times to be a moto-head kid!

      Like 3
      • Howard A Member

        I believe it was called the Sout’ side. I lived on the Nort’ side. Milwaukee Harley on Fond du lac Ave. near where I grew up, was a rough crowd. I was in the Asian group and of the many bikes I had, only one H-D, and I loved it. Madison was the place for scooters at the college. GO PACK!!!

        Like 4
    • Mike

      “The Fonz” rode a Triumph. I’m not sure what model it was, but, I’m currently restoring a 1970 T-120 Bonnevile for my daughter. I can’t wait to take a ride up to Milwaukee with her when it’s finished, just so I can get a pic of her with her arm around that statue! Of course I’ll be riding my 1985 V-65 Sabre. I bought it brand new back in 1986.

      Like 1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        A ‘70 Bonny for your daughter?!? Very cool, Mike-& though I joke about Lucas stuff it’s been my experience that it’s only as troublesome as the rider makes it out be. The ‘98 Harley I had as a company ride had more electrical issues than my ‘64 Bonneville ever did, but regardless what the bike is it’s always better to ride than to have to drive (all they had was boring cars)..
        RE: “The Fonz”-IIRC his early bikes were HD (I remember seeing a Pan, a Flathead and maybe a Sportster) but the bike he was most associated with in the show was a late ‘40’s-early ‘50’s TR5 Scrambler with Catalina pipes: the Harley’s were too heavy for him even though he didn’t (couldn’t?) ride!!!
        Enjoy your rides with your daughter, Mike, and Safe Travels to you and yours.
        Nevadahalfrack

        Like 2
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Setting up a ride for your daughter, that’s got to be one of the best things you could ever do. My hat is off to you. You can’t get much more righteous than a Triumph. And I agree with Nevada, most of the problems with Lucas are our own fault. Still fun to joke about though…

        Like 1
      • ken tilly UK Member

        As an Englishman in UK please let me know to which statue your very lucky daughter is going to hug. I suspect that it is the Fonz? It’s also very refreshing to see Nevadahalftrack telling the truth re Lucas and American electrics.

        Like 1
      • dbauer

        Heres Bronze Fonz info for those interested:

        https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/18990

  2. ken tillyUK Member

    @Howard A. I think the valve system was called “Desdronomic” or some such name and the bikes were magic if cared for. My friend had one and he loved it to death. I remember following him very closely on My ’56 Triumph Tiger 110 and earholing it around some very fast bends and I noticed that his rear tyre was nearly bald, however, it didn’t phase him as much as it did me! That was 40 year ago and I believe he still has the bike. I would think so as he still has the ’41 Harley 750cc that I sold him in 1978. I wonder if he ever replaced the tyre!

    Like 6
    • On and On On and On Member

      Desmodromic.

      Like 4
      • Dave

        Engineering shorthand for “attempt valve adjustment without knowing what you’re doing and ruin your expensive engine.”

        Like 3
      • ken tillyUK Member

        Thanks, On and ON.

        Like 2
      • WaltL

        The 860 square case bikes were not desmodromic (they used springs for valve closure), which is one reason why these bikes are not highly sought after by Ducatista.
        The later 900 square cases (900 SS, Darmah SS and Darmah SD) were all desmos (mechanical valve closure) and they command a lot more money, with the 900 SS being the pinnacle of the square case desmo bikes.

        Like 7
  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    This would be an interesting bike to have. No doubt that you would have to resort to making some of those missing pieces. I would ride it when it was fixed. No sense doing the work and not having a chance to enjoy it.

    Desmodromic heads. Now there’s a term I haven’t heard in years. Some thought it was going to be the new wave but I think it stopped as soon as it started.

    I remember a short article in one of the car magazines back in the 60s. Up On Two Wheels? Hot Rod? Or was it Car Craft? They talked about an experimental Duke with a V4 engine, similar configuration to this one. It was 1260 cc so it wasn’t for the young. I read the article then never heard of it again. They also had a feature on a ’29 Henderson KJ which got my attention somewhat better…

    Like 2
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Geomechs, Up On Two Wheels was a column in Cycle magazine written by the incomparable Peter Egan of Flying, Road & Track, and Cycle World fame (which called his column “Leanings”). He’s also a guitar collector and, like his bikes, cars and airplanes, isn’t in to collecting stuff he can’t use fo it’s original intent…

      BTW, your assistance to another BF reader RE: problems with his COE was really cool.

      Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Thanks for clearing that up, Nevada. I remember the column but then, it was over 50 years ago. 50 years?!? There’s something wrong here; that would mean that I’m closer to 70 than 60. Now I’m depressed. LOL!!!
        And thanks for the good words on behalf of another BF Bro. As much as I enjoy actually getting my own hands in the grease, I love helping others out. One day all that I know is going to go in a box in the ground with me so I’m only too glad to help others while I can…

        Like 1
    • Greg Lindstrom

      Ducati’s are called Ducks by most Ducatisi similar to the way BMW owners call their bikes Beemers and cars Bimmers. As far as Desmodromics, most call them Desmos and all Ducati’s from Pantah’s (late 70’s) on have Desmo valve trains. Fabio Taglioni adapted the Mercedes Gull Wing engine for Ducati Desmos

  4. JohnS

    Two friends and I had (mine a metallic blue GTS) 860 GT/ GTS’s around 1981-83. I believe the imported GTS 860 followed the GT 860 for a while in Australian sales.

    This looks uncared for, the open crab intakes suggest a full tear-down before kicking it over. Also there is no kick start lever on the spline. Ducati electrics are crud, no other word for it. Expect work there, though at least the instruments look original.

    The 860 GT are indeed not as sought after, as was posted above as desmodronic Ducati, but, to make a small claim, I think 860’s have the sweetest sound with standard intakes and Conti pipes of all the v-twins. Check out Youtube videos of them running.

    Tricky to tune despite not being desmo’, but smooth as once right, and fun to ride. Mine was bought tuned by a Duke race guy, and was never the same once I went to other bike mechanics after moving inter-State.

    The torquey 860 corners on rails such that its easy to exceed your ability. Pillions had to lift their inside foot on some corners due to the footage hitting the road. This I experienced first hand on the back of a friend’s 860.

    Others did, but my 860 would not sit in top gear, I think there were six, until you were comfortably over 60MPH.

    Mine was kick start only, two twists of the throttle to prime, find TDC and give it one firm kick. If it didn’t start, walk away for a few minutes or risk leg damage.

    Would love one in the shed.

    Like 2
  5. Stangalang

    Yep desmodromic…and not too bad to adjust once you learn the system…I had one of the 998 models some years ago (full faired sportbike) seriously awesome performance and would love to have this older model..you just don’t see these anymore

    Like 2
  6. Stevieg

    Not a big secret that I am a Harley guy. I live in Milwaukee, roughly 1.5 miles from Harley corporate headquarters. I also, until recently, worked @ the “illustrious” Milwaukee Harley Davidson which HowardA referred to earlier. But I am also of Italian descent, primarily on my Mom’s side of my family (Polish last name). Subsequently, I have a deep love for all things Italian, including vehicles, food & women lol.
    This bike kicks A$$! I would be proud to have this in my garage, parked next to my hog.
    Anyone from Milwaukee, or who might be heading to Milwaukee, especially on 2 wheels, let me know. I am always willing to ride (weather permitting) with other gear heads.
    That bronze Fonz looks creepy to me lol.

    Like 2

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