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Fidel Castro's Ducati 900SS

This is Fidel Castro’s 1976 Ducati 900SS. Yes, really. The story was in Benzina 13 told by Rene Waters who stumbled across it in a museum in Havana. It was in sad shape, the sea air not doing Bologna's finest any good, dulled by a layer of dust. There were just 1837 kilometres (113.9 miles) on the odometer, and fewer than 40 on the trip, but it looked in sorry condition for having been ridden so few miles. The museum guides claimed it had been Castro’s but, since the two bikes on either side were both supposedly Che Guevara's, Rene took it with a pinch of the local sea salt. After all, almost everything you see in Havana is claimed to have belonged to either Fidel or Che. But later the Peso dropped: the revolution was in 1959. The Ducati emphatically couldn't be an import from before the revolution. So who imported a 900SS into Cuba in 1976: and why; and how? By this time inevitably Rene was back home. So, emailing Ducati museum curator Livio Lodi, the digging started. Yet Livio had never heard of the bike, although he was intrigued enough to reply that he would see what he could discover. About a month later Livio was back in touch with the surprising truth, although not from the museum's own records. It really was Fidel Castro's 900SS. Easy to forget, but Europe was an ideological battleground in the 1970s. It seems that in 1976 the good communist city of Bologna had indeed made a gift to Fidel in solidarity, sending him an example of the people Bologna’s work: one shiny, new Ducati 900SS. You have to wonder if Fidel himself put the 183 kilometres on it, and why that last 40km trip was the final time the 900SS was ridden. Maybe Castro didn't like the Ducati and just parked it up. Or maybe the bevel engine went bang: those early 900 big ends could prove fragile. I'd love to know the story; the bike has to be the most original example on earth of a 1976 900SS, albeit in sorry condition. Sadly, along with all the other exhibits, the 900SS disappeared when Cuba opened up. With my Bonhams hat on and knowing what a famous owner can do for a machine’s value, it would be wonderful to see it resurface rather than stay hidden away.

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