1978 Ducati 900 GTS - Thinking Man's Harley

A bevel-drive Ducati that looks like it was made in Milwaukee

By Tod Rafferty, Photography by Courtesy Of Peter Koren

Five years ago, when Peter Koren picked up a neglected 1978 Ducati 900 GTS, he saw it as a potential parts donor for his 750 GT and 900 SS. After a clean-up and a few minor parts, however, he discovered it ran just fine, and had to reconsider its destiny.

"I always liked the Harley-Davidson XR750," says the resident of southern England, who decided to mock up a Milwaukee-style, bevel-drive street-tracker. "The main elements that distinguish the XR750 are the tank and seat, the curvy high-level exhaust and the clean front end with spool hub. I had no intention of running without brakes, but reversing the fork legs and having the calipers behind improved the look enormously."

Koren patterned a tank and seat from polyurethane insulation foam. "I tried to build it as if it came out of the Ducati factory," he says. "That would determine many of the details, and the budget was set at $1000." He admits the lowball figure was because he knew that "it would always be a bitsa, and also because of fear of failure. I wasn't sure it was going to work, and I've seen plenty of modified bevels that make me shudder."

The XR750-style tank was too small for the Ducati frame, so Koren made a wooden buck, got a sheet of aluminum and a sand bag, "cut down one of the kids' croquet mallets and started bashing." Then he learned to gas-weld aluminum, which he said was tricky. Next he had to straighten the Ducati's subframe so the exhaust pipes would tuck in. His budget obviously didn't include labor.

"Something still didn't look right," he recalls. "It took me some time to identify that it was the steering head angle. That was steepened by 5 degrees."

Koren enjoyed fabricating the exhaust plumbing, but found his bin of headers had nothing for the tight bend required by the front cylinder. "Eventually I found a grab handle as used in toilets for the disabled," he reports. "For the record, I did not steal one!"

Koren fabricated the sidecovers to match the seat; the custom fuel tank holds 3.2 gallons. With the rearset pegs 5 inches aft of stock, and a flat-track-style handlebar, the riding position provides sufficient crouch to counteract windblast at speed. The result displays the soul of the Bolognese bevel-twin clothed in traditional Milwaukee style-international cross-dressing at its best.

By Tod Rafferty
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