Thursday, March 5, 2015

1978 Ducati 900 Super Sport

We had just finished celebrating Ducati at an event I organized in 2011 when I was offered a 1978 Ducati 900SS, the legendary Super Sport. I wasn't looking, but threw caution to the wind and went for it. While these machines are not as desirable, in collector terms, as the 750 Super Sport, the 900 SS still rates high on the 'bucket list' of bikes sporting 1970's road machines.


There were some fantastic machines on display and the bellow of Italian L-Twins blatting from Conti pipes washed over me as the bikes left when it was over. Our Special Guests that fall weekend included Cook Neilson, winner of the 1977 Daytona Superbike Race at Daytona Speedway, Nobby Clark, tuner for Mike Hailwood who scored a hugely popular win at the Isle of Man in 1978 on a Ducati 900SS, Dave Hailwood, son of the late World Champion Mke Hailwood and Eraldo Ferraci, whose teams won AMA and World titles on the legendary brand from Bologna, Italy. There was some serious Ducati desire in the air with that company, so it seemed destined to happen.


Cook won the Daytona Superbike race in 1977 on "The California Hot Rod", aka "Old Blue". The bike he and Phil Schilling built was 750SS based mongrel of the first order, utilizing the best bits regardless of the source. Neilson claimed he had the "Unfair Advantage" with the bike. Aside from Paul Smart winning the Imola 200 race  in 1972, this was the most significant win in Ducati history, particularly in the United States.


Before jetting back to the U.K., Dave and I drove to Eraldo Ferraci's shop to check out the bike which was in for a service. Once I laid eyes on it, it was over. A deal was done and a week later, the bike was at it's new home with me.



The bike had been maintained regardless of cost and is a strong runner. Once used to the starting drill, the Ducati and I became fast friends. I am very fortunate to live near some of the best back roads you could imagine, and this is a bike to experience them on. It stunning silhouette and rapturous exhaust note are reason enough to own one. It's a no-nonsense, take no prisoners sport bike that begs to be flogged.


The 900 Super Sport is, of course, the model that followed the ground-breaking 750 SS, using the same frame and 'all-business' design ethos that made for a great production racer in it's time. This bike had been in the same ownership for nearly thirty years and had a stack of invoices for service and parts showed someone cared a great deal for this superbike of the seventies. Starting the bike up on the centerstand, off the bike's right side is a the kicker that makes it all happen. No electric starter on this machine. When these were new, the included a spare pair of Conti 'mufflers' along with the stock Silentium pipes. They even threw in a pair of 40 mm carbs to be run without filters instead of the 32mm carbs and airboxes on the stock machine. This bike had all the go-fast goodies and the stock parts too. The original Speedline cast magnesium alloy rims have been replaced by a beautiful pair of shouldered alloys since the originals were prone to cracking.

According to the owner, only fifty-three 900 Super Sports made it to the USA in 1978. That the Japanese manufacturers were offering bikes with electric starters and four cylinders for considerably less money was just one of the problems faced by Ducati.  This machine features Bosch electrics. When Mike Hailwood won the Isle of Man F1 Race in the summer of 1978, Ducati's fortunes took a turn for the better. The bike Mike won on was a Steve Wynn prepared Ducati with full fairing and Ducati duly turned out a streetbike replica that is another blue chip collectable Ducati today. It may well have saved the company. In 2009 Ducati launched a MH900E , the Mike Hailwood Evolution sports machine as a tribute to Mike's great comeback on the Isle.

                         Here's a short video of that historic ride with Hailwood at the Island:


A friend suggested the SS on my Ducati stood for Super Scruffy, but I'm pretty sure he's jealous that he doesn't get to ride his trailer queen show machine anymore, it's too pretty to take out and ride. Well, I bought this one to ride, because that's what the former owner did and what I intend to keep doing. When he told on his one "illegal street race" I was shocked to hear it was against a Ferrari 275GTB in the Philadelphia suburbs in the 1980's. He claimed he had the Ferrari covered to around 100 mph when the car stormed by. After that, the Ducati then went to Fast by Ferracci for head work, new pistons and a swap to Mikuni carbs. Dyno'd at 67 hp, top speed was likely in the 130-140 mph range. Raw, rapid and single-minded in purpose, the SS does indeed deliver on what it's looks promise, a real factory built production racer for the road experience.

More insight on the Ducati 750SS and 900SS Wikipedia entry :

Because the price of the 750 Super Sport was very similar to 900, very few 750s were produced with the majority of them being shipped to Australia, Germany or staying in Italy for racing applications.
By 1978 the bike looked identical, but several significant improvements had made their way into the motor making them more reliable and solving problems with engine cranks breaking. The electronics also improved as well as some minor timing tweaks making the bike run more efficiently. Most notable was a majorly redesigned gear shifter that made the bike a lot easier for owners to live with the bike. Most 1978 900 Super Sports also came with a dual seat and lockable tool box. The solo seat was available as an option. The 1978 model bike is considered to be the finest iteration of the bevel drive square case Super Sports. The 1978 900 and 1979 750s were the last to retain close links with the Imola racers and the last to come with the "old fashioned" spoke wheels. it was also in 1978 that the Isle of Man TT Formula 1 race was won by a 900 Super Sport.
In 1979 the Super Sports were painted black with gold accents to appeal to the British market. Cast Campagnolo wheels replaced the Borrani alloy rims and a Mike Hailwood Replica was made available in very limited numbers painted in lavish green and red schemes. The new changes, specifically the black and gold paint and cast wheels were very successful at making an aging design look more modern. The 1980 model stayed essentially the same with no notable changes. Essentially, the Super Sport was being transitioned into the Mike Hailwood Replica.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dick Klamfoth's 1956 BSA Goldstar B34 Gold Star

Dick Klamfoth's 1956 BSA 500cc B34 Gold Star " Ultra Short Circuit Racer"

Dick Klamfoth had already won the America's most important race, the Daytona 200 in 1949, 1951 and 1952 on a Francis Beart tuned Factory backed Norton. This was the 'Garden Gate' Manx which was quick but not a particularly good handler. When the AMA banned its replacement, the paradigm shifting 'Feather Bed' Manx, with it's ground breaking duplex cradle frame because they feared it would dominate the series, Klamfoth decided it was time to make a change.

He took three Norton Manx double overhead cam motors with him when he sailed to England to sell them to raise funds to buy a 1956 BSA Gold Star he would campaign until 1962 in the American AMA Grand National Championship series. It sported a BB32R USA short Circuit Rigid Frame with RRT2 four speed. Dick took back-to back wins in 1958 and 1958 Charity Newsies races on this bike. The Gold Star was continuously modified by Klamfoth.

In 1962, Dick was involved in a horrible crash with this bike at the Lincoln, Illinois National. RIders were killed in the melee and Dick and Carroll Resweber spent months in the hospital recuperating. That was the last time this bike was used in anger. Dick came out of retirement in 1964 to run the high banks of the new Daytona Speedway on a Matchless and finished fifth. It was only fitting that his final race would be at Daytona, where he conquered the beaches at such a young age.

Over the years Dick and his wife Beverly raised their three daughters, opened a motorcycle shop in Groveport, Ohio, became the first Honda dealer east of the Mississippi, survived a brain aneurism, ran two moto cross tracks, hosted trans -am and inter- am races and created the Daytona 200 Monument on Daytona Beach, Daytona, Florida. In the Winter of 2014, Dick and Bev were the victims of a house fire and were lucky to escape alive. They lost several dogs in the tragedy as well.
Despite this, the 85 year old AMA Hall of Fame inductee keeps looking towards the future and not back on his illustrious past. He's won the Daytona 200 three times, won 12 AMA GNC races and was voted most popular rider in 1961. He's a true living legend in my book.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Petite Velomoteur Mandille et Roux

The French Connection
For twenty-five years I'd been trying to persuade my friend to sell me one of his favorite motorcycles, the 1938 Velomoteur M-R. The Type D2 was made by Mandille et Roux in Paris on the Rude des Prairies and was also known as 'Passe Partout' (Goes Everywhere). In their tiny shop, Mr. Mandille and Mr. Roux carefully constructed the best small motorcycle of their time.
 Despite my frequent attempts to buy the bike,  he refused to sell it. I wasn't likely to find another any time soon, so I kept gently prodding him to think about it. He did loan me the bike to show at an exhibition on vintage bikes at one point so I got to know the bike and research it. Every time I walked into his garage, I'd glance up to the top of the bookcase where it sat. My friend loved the fact that Mandille et Roux with it's 98cm3 Sachs two-stroke engine won its class at the famed French endurance race, the Bol d'Or from 1934-1938. One of their most talented riders was Mr. Maucourant. At that time, it was one rider per machine in the race.The M-R fans at the time recognized it from a distance by the 'the roar' that the little Sachs engine emitted.
Above photo of Jean Monneret is from

The M-R's made popular sidecar rigs as well. These children are flogging them for all they're worth.



The M-R's owner also loved this little machine because it was the same model that his motorcycle racing hero learned to ride on, the great Mike Hailwood. Mike, a nine-time World Champion, aka, 'Mike the Bike' had a privileged upbringing.  His wealthy father saw fit for young Mike to start with a scaled down 'real motorcycle'. Ultimately, it would lead 76 Grand Prix victories and 14 Isle of Man T.T. wins. Look up a picture of young Master Hailwood racing around the yard on the little M-R. Find it here:  
The diminutive black M-R was purchased years ago at a swap meet and was set up as a period race replica by Iron Oxide Engineering Impresario Dick Miles.

Iron Oxide HQ
For more information on Iron Oxide Racing, check out this clip from The Classic Motorcycle TV show trailer at

During the last thirty years Miles was running any number of impressive British racers in AHRMA Classic Racing competition, like his 350cc Velocette Mk VII and 500cc Norton Manx.

The team often turned up in the impressive 'China Clipper' transporter, a former drag race hauler and workshop. The M-R was going to be hung off the side at the track, a pit bike dingy, if you will. The former illusionist, escape artist, go-kart racer, car racer /collector and machinist has led an interesting life to say the least.

Miles made up the stylish little fishtail exhaust on the M-R

After many years perched on that shelf, the time had come for the M-R to find a new home.
It'll share floor space with our 1949 Peugeot Type 156.


Original Michelin tire needs replacement, but the engine, also original to the machine is sound.

Other Mandille Roux Type D2's on the web

For those who like a little Elvis with their MR's:
Check out this clip !
Au Revoir