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Ducati 350 XL. Calimero rules!

ER Classics Desktop 2022

Ducati made very nice single-cylinder motorcycles. But The (American) Market wanted more. In Den Beginne there were the now legendary 750 cc L-twin 'round crankcase blocks'. These were successful crossings between a thoroughbred racehorse and a petulant princess. The assembly of such a tallest complicated piece of watchwork during production could not be defended from any business perspective. Recovery: Only by defending an Italian. Because: "Look how beautiful it is!" Or better yet: "Che bella macchina !!"

Ducati's Revolution: The Pantah

Then came thick twins with easier to assemble engine blocks, where the royal axes remained in place. When the Pantah line was presented with the belt-driven camshafts, the crowd knew for sure: This was not a Real Ducati. The brand would suffer!


Now, like almost all other Italian manufacturers, Ducati had, of course, almost enough death experiences enough for passion rather than pasta. But Pantah blocks became the rescue of the company.

Pantahs became the salvation

In addition to the 500, 600 and 650 Pantahs in the early 80s, a range of 350's were specifically produced V-twins - or let them be 'L-twins' - for the Italian market. They were also sold in Greece and Spain. That kind of hassle with cylinder capacities usually has something behind it in terms of tax, insurance and protection against steaming testosterone from young riders or competition from Japan. In Japan only motorcycles up to 400 cc were allowed to be sold. In America, there was a Harley-lobbied scheme that double-taxed Japanese motorcycles with engine displacements close to the Harleys. The clever Japanese therefore started to make 700 cc machines. And they also sold well in the States.

From 500 to 350 cc

The Italian 500 cc motorcycles were almost all also available with a cylinder capacity of 350 cc. Laverda, Moto Morini and Moto Guzzi also bravely joined the game to keep the local market at the brands. Something of 'who has the youth has the future'. The 350 XL was a Ducati's parts bin special and essentially a 500 SL with a 600 TL fairing and taller handlebars plus some cheap stuff. There were unventilated discs underneath. The rear shocks were cheaper Paioli's without 'backpacks'. More was borrowed from the SL Pantah than the TL, including instruments, instrument panel and rear footrests.

The 350 engine was a scaled-down 500 SL, with smaller valves (33,5 mm inlet and 30,5 mm exhaust). The Dell'Orto carburettors were smaller (30mm) and new camshafts were fitted. The lower block, including the five-speed gearbox and wet cable-operated clutch, was identical to the later 500 SL, and the exhaust system came from Silentium.

Nice numbers!

The small Ducati was - in his Italian - specified for 38 hp at more than 10.000 rpm. And that is a lot of speed for a Duc! The 350 XL bicycle part was also very similar to the 500 SL, with golden FPS wheels, Paioli suspension and small 05-series Brembo front brake calipers. Attractively colored in red and black, the 350 XL was specified for a top of about 170 km / h. But it is also known that the color makes red motorcycles very quickly.

The Ducati was more expensive than the Morini 3 ½ Sport and the Moto Guzzi Imola. And in the southern European countries too, money was a thing, certainly in Italy where at that time Lire was still charged. Large amounts scare off enormously! In addition, the Moto Morini was born a true 350 and not a tuned 500. And it weighed 20 kilos less than the Ducati. The 350 cc Moto Guzzi Imola did its very best to look like a LeMans and hit the Italians with their hearts.

The Ducati also had a disadvantage

An optical disadvantage. The styling was not of the kind that aesthetes declined steeply. The large side panels virtually obscured the rear cylinder so that the Duc melted like a motorcycle with a horizontal single-cylinder. Seen from the side, the whole was also very full and sheet-like. You could put it this way very briefly: This little Ducati was an ugly thing.

In the meantime, the 350 cc Italians are scarce here

But that does not result in mega prices. They have often come along for small change as a truck / container filling after a visit to the fair in Imola or similar festivities. Nobody gets wildly enthusiastic about it. Because the top speed of 170 km / h once declared is against a strong polder wind and with a fully grown North Hollander or Grunninger in textile motorcycle outfit on board? With some cycling you get away on the highway on the left lane. But don't expect much from it. Where these motorcycles - and in 1970, for example, a 350 cc engine was still a medium-duty machine - can simply give a lot of fun, that is on secondary and tertiary roads. Just play inside. To enjoy. Taking turns. Have a drink. And all for little.

An additional advantage is that non-motorcycling the Netherlands does not see you as threatening. You make friends on such a small Duc. We found the instigator of this entire consideration freshly traded at Startwin. The price had not even been considered.

2 Comments

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  1. Ehm… Hr. Peeters… 'Che bella macchina' means 'what a beautiful car'!
    🤔
    Don't you mean 'che bella moto (cicletta)?' 🤭😉

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