Ducati 750 Sport
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, café racers were for those who wanted to ride short, sharp trips to the next café. It began as a British phenomenon – café racers mimicking real road racers. Apart from some smaller-capacity factory bikes such as the Ducati 250 Mach I, café racers were generally home-built specials. The most popular café racers of the 1960s were Tritons, pre-unit Triumph engines in a Norton Featherbed frame.
By the 1970s, the Japanese were already winning on the track but had yet to embrace the production café racer, so the choice was pretty limited. Only Norton, Ducati and a few other Italian manufacturers offered big-bore café racers. The Norton was the limited-edition production bike and the other Italian café racers included the virtually unobtainable MV Agusta 750 and Laverda 750 SFC.
In 1973, the Ducati 750 Sport was the only readily available large-displacement factory café racer and it was the epitome of functional minimalism. This was a year before the emergence of the desmodromic 750 Super Sport and, for a street racer set-up, the Sport was it.
Long, low and narrow, the 750 Sport was the antithesis of a modern sportsbike. The rider moulded into it rather than perched on top, with the front wheel seemingly extending far out in front. Although it grew out of the very similar 750 GT, the Sport was considerably narrower and its sense of purpose saw it unadorned with superfluous paraphernalia.
As it was intended for pure sporting use, indicators and air filters were noticeably absent, instrumentation and switches were minimal and its bodywork was fibreglass. While the distinctive yellow fibreglass was of dubious quality, it contributed to a significant weight reduction. The 750 GT was already considered one of the best-handling motorcycles available, but the Sport was better.
The low clip-ons placed more of the rider’s weight on the front wheel. At 185 kilograms, it was lighter than the 750 GT and, as a pillion upset the power to weight ratio, only a solo seat was offered.
Compared with other large-capacity motorcycles, 750 Ducatis, with their distinctive leading-axle Marzocchi fork had a longer wheelbase (1530mm), a lazy, 29-degree steering head angle and a low centre of gravity. This provided exceptional high-speed stability at the expense of manoeuvrability. While there were only a few engine updates, the Sport was a much faster motorcycle than its 750 GT sibling.
It is difficult to imagine how, by simply changing the carburettor size and compression ratio, the characteristics of the engine could be so transformed. Tiny 30mm Amal carburettors and restrictive air cleaners strangled the 750 GT. Along with low-compression pistons, the GT was no match for a Norton Commando, let alone a Kawasaki Z1.
But with lighter 9.5:1 pistons and the new Dell’Orto 32mm ‘Pumper’ carbs with velocity stacks, the 750 Sport was suddenly a superbike.
The 90-degree twin-cylinder layout ensured the 750 Sport remained vibration free right up to its 7500rpm redline. A pair of barking Conti mufflers did little to quell the noise and certainly announced the Sport’s arrival. The only real weak points were the single Scarab front disc, the harsh Marzocchi shocks and a propensity for the kickstarter to fly off. The Scarab disc was effective enough but lacked the ultimate power of a dual disc set-up, while the Marzocchis were typically oversprung and underdamped.
In other respects the Sport also exhibited signs of Italian idiosyncrasy. The clip-ons, in particular, were widely splayed to clear the petrol tank without crushing the rider’s fingers. Early examples like this one also included distinctive period styling cues, notably the matte black sidecases.
When the desmodromic Super Sport appeared during 1974, the 750 Sport took a back seat. While retaining the roaring Contis and unfiltered carbs, a steel petrol tank replaced the fibreglass one, a dual seat became an option, polished alloy supplanted the black cases and a centre axle fork was introduced to reduce the wheelbase.
New handlebar and ignition switches displayed Ducati’s abject failure to grasp the principals of ergonomics but the most unusual feature was a dual-tone (town and country) horn that couldn’t be heard over the Conti exhausts anyway. Fortunately, the Sport’s soul and essence remained and the 750 Sport, in any incarnation, is now seen as the definitive 1970s factory café racer.
THE VALUE PROPOSITION
– New $1895
– Fair $30,000
– Mint $65,000
Ducati 750 Sport
- In 1973, the 750 Sport was the top model in the Ducati line-up, much as the 1199 Superleggera is today.
- Only 746 black-sidecase 750 Sports were produced in 1973, and 66 came to Australia.
- The 1973 Sport was the first Ducati to win a major production race in Australia when Tony Hatton took out the 1974 Adelaide Three-Hour race.
- When a magazine tested the 750 Sport in November, 1973 it managed a top speed of 211km/h. This was the fastest 750 the mag had tested and, unlike many contemporary machines, the 750 Sport didn’t scare the rider.
- Although it didn’t have desmodromic heads or 40mm carburettors, the 750 Sport was almost as fast as a 750 Super Sport.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Get these books from: www.Veloce.co.uk
The Ducati 750 Bible http://goo.gl/BNkKft
Ducati Bevel Twins 1971 to 1986 – Authenticity & Restoration Guide: http://goo.gl/45PbwM
Steve Allen runs a Ducati Bevel Forum: www.BevelHeaven.com
Rene’s site is worth a look: www.DucatiMeccanica.com