Every few months, a vintage motorcycle comes along that literally stops me in my tracks—a machine so sculptural and beautiful, it would almost be criminal to subject it to the rigors of the open road. It happened three months ago when pre-release images of the French “CP Project #1″ Triton arrived in my inbox. And now it’s happened again with this 1974 Ducati 750 Sport. As so often happens with the internet, a few images of this bike were floating around, but without any clues to its provenance. I’m no Ducati expert, but the machine is obviously customized—and after a little investigation, it turns out that it’s a rare 1974 Ducati 750 Sport Desmo Special owned by Mike Cecchini of Maryland, USA, a well-known name in Ducati circles. His café racer took out the ‘Wild Card Judges Pick’ at the 2007 Ducati Superbike Concorso held at Laguna Seca, probably because there’s more to this bike than first meets the eye. The original Sport [see contemporary review] was based on the 750 GT, but with larger carburetors and high-compression cylinder heads and pistons. The upgrades reportedly sent an extra 8 hp to the rear wheel, and along with a reduced frontal area, made the Sport good for 200 km/h. Cecchini’s machine, however, is labelled a ‘Desmo Special’—so it looks like the engine is in an even higher state of tune, with a non-standard Desmo valve system for higher revs and even more power. If you know anything more about the history of this bike, please drop us a line in the comments. [Many thanks to Steve Ducharme of MPOTD, and ADVrider member Jehu. First two images © Vicki Smith.]
Update from owner Mike Cecchini: I’m very pleased you like my 1974 Ducati Sport Desmo Special. I think you can tell I’ve put my heart and soul into this motorcycle. Frankly I never thought I would ever own a green motorcycle, but when I saw the paint color at a California car show, I knew it was the one for this bike. The Sport Desmo engine is something of great joy for me as I am a gearhead through and through. Not only is it rather nice to look at (now you can see why they are called “roundcase” motors) but it was also built to run as good as the bike looks, by one of the very best Ducati engine builders in North America, Guy Martin of MBP Ducati.
Pronounced “Gee”—he’s French Canadian—he’s a long-time friend and a well-respected Ducati engine builder in Montreal, Canada. When I approached Guy to work on the Sport Desmo project he was not initially interested in building any more bevel motors, as the numbers of them had dwindled to near nothing and they take an enormous amount of time to set-up properly and assemble compared to the new belt-driven Ducati motors. But after some arm twisting (and a few good dinners and bottles of wine) he agreed and promised to build an engine befitting the project.
To start with, Ducati roundcase GT and Sport motors use valve springs like most engines of the 70s and only the 750SS motors are spring-less, with desmodromics doing all the valve opening and closing work. In those days if one wanted to reach the rpms needed for competitive hp, there was little else that would allow a motor to rev and not have valves floating about. Therefore once Guy got into the project he wanted to pull out all the stops and not only do the 750SS desmo head conversion, but also his “TestaRossa” headwork on the Sport heads to bring them into the 21st century.
Over the winter of 2006 Guy built a very special engine using his 20+ years of experience in the Canadian aircraft industry as an engine and materials quality control inspector, along with his excellent Ducati engine building experience. So not only did the upper part of the engine get the full head flow and Desmo treatment, but the crank, connecting rods and pistons also were upgraded to the point where the engine was now able to go well past its previous 7500 rpm redline, to nearly 12,000 rpm—which Guy told me I had better not exceed. Doh! With this in mind, I set the engine redline at 10,500 and the motor has gone from its original 58 hp to just a tad over 80 rear wheel hp.
In conclusion, and as I read the comments left by some here, rest assured gentlemen that while this motorcycle gets the finest care and lives the good life in my shop, it’s actually being used as designed. #1: make any gearhead stop, pause and enjoy. But more importantly, #2: ride it as often as possible. So far it’s been ridden in anger at V.I.R. with the Mid-Atlantic Ducati Club and on the winding roads and rolling hills of Maryland … right where it belongs.
My best … Mike Cecchini.