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The Holy Trinity

The 900SS completes the 1970s holy trinity. When Kenny Blake won a production race in April 1975 at Bathurst in Australia there were howls that his roundcase 860SS was anything but production. He had won by the length of Conrod Straight despite injuries making starting problematic and giving most of the field a big lead. Keen to let the win stand the Ducati importer got a letter from Ducati along the lines of “Certo, it’s a production bike. Um, how many do we need to build to homologate it?” Ducati’s government handlers had decided the high barred GT860 tourer in square case form was the future. Confronted with the need to build 250-odd 860/900SS the GT’s motor received the same hand built experience as its 750cc predecessor, complete with desmodromic valve gear that Taglioni had thought had gone forever. It was slotted into a 750SS chassis with that wonderful fibreglass Imola fuel tank and put on sale with little expectation of sales success. Oh ye of little faith – while the GT860 bombed, the 900SS sold out. For 1976, with a smaller steel fuel tank, the 900SS became a production model and went on to outsell all the GT860’s replacements, including the Darmah For me the 1975 900SS is the finest Ducati of them all: more capacity than the 750SS, but still a hand built sports motorcycle. The one in the photo belongs to Zed Zawada, an advertising bod for Bike when it was the UK’s best selling motorcycle magazine. I met him several years ago and he explained his Polish heritage and the fact he did write for Bike under a pseudonym – R P McMurphy - but as I’d not seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the 1970s it never occurred to me that it might be a made up name. Zed wrote eloquently – under his own name – in Bike about the experience of Ducati ownership and his words are worth seeking out. They were at least in part responsible for me eventually buying a 900SS, albeit a 1980 model. Still the most wonderful motorcycling experience I’ve ever had, especially when I carted it off – very foolishly – for my first Motogiro. All I know about the Ducati bevel twins is in my Ducati and the TT book, and sprinkled throughout back issues of Benzina

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