Then & Now: Ducati GT1000 vs. 750 GT

Two Brutes From Bologna

By John L. Stein, Photography by Kevin Wing

The 1972 750 GT was more than Ducati's first twin-cylinder production model; it also established the architecture of a 90-degree V-twin in a tidy steel frame that the company still employs today. Studying the original 750 GT and the newer GT1000 cheek-by-jowl at Willow Springs, the lineage is unmistakable: a lithe, spare, air-cooled engine wrapped in minimalist bodywork offering a straightforward, gimmick-free riding experience. A bulls-eye, then and now.

Producing 50 horsepower at the rear wheel, the 750 GT wasn't a zenith of high performance in stock trim. It ran down the quarter in a lazy 13.3 seconds at 101 mph in '73, but it nevertheless had the bones of a formidable racer. Many did just that with it, including Jonathan White, an AAMRR and AMA Superbike rider from Ohio, who built a 750 GT into a racer for the '76-'78 seasons. "It had a limitless rev range for a spring-valve motor," White recalls. "But the front tire would not get hot or grip, so when you turned it in the front wheel would slide before the rear and put you down." Despite having problems turning the long wheelbase, White never had problems at high speeds. "It twitched a few times, but that's all," he allows.

A modest disclaimer: I bought the red Duck you see here new from Jack Simmons Motorcycles in Compton, California, in '73. Compared to the push-button starting ease of the fuel-injected GT1000, the 750 is downright primitive. Its 30mm Amal carbs have ticklers to flood the float bowls, which the engine usually requires to start. It was also the only kickstart motorcycle in our group, and the scythe-like lever prefers that you stand beside the bike to use it.

The loping idle is like one-quarter of a cammy V8, and there's so much flywheel weight that the revs wind up and unwind in the lazy trajectory of a javelin throw. Another departure for our group, the shifter lives on the right with a backwards shift pattern. Hefty clutch in, click up for first and the big flywheels and torque carry you away. Lacking impressive peak horsepower, the 750 GT nevertheless has a really useful powerband and could probably live happily in third gear. And it is smooth: An old story held that you could balance a coin on the crankcase and rap the engine to its 7800-rpm redline without it falling over.

The bevel-driven valve train and Conti mufflers produce a tremendous amalgam of sound that suggests much more acceleration, but on the Horse Thief Mile and again on the roads, the 750 GT somehow just seems adequate. On the other hand, the handling is superb, even though the 60-inch wheelbase requires a lot of planning to turn sharply. But the marriage of big, alloy engine cases and a phalanx of steel frame tubes create terrific rigidity, making the Ducati a confident and rewarding high-speed friend. With its big 4.5-gallon fuel tank, comfy bars and broad, flat seat, it's no wonder I once rode this unit 1022 miles in one day.

Hopping off the 750 GT and onto the GT1000 is an interesting study, as some 30 years of engineering separate the two machines joined by a common design idiom. The GT1000 has a taller seat (31.8 inches vs. 30.5), more rearward foot controls and much lighter throttle, clutch and brake actuation. It awakens with a mere touch of the starter button, and thanks to EFI idles happily always. But the bigger differences emerge once it's rolling. With far less flywheel effect, the desmodromic engine simply loves to rev, delivering a much more playful riding experience, and it will race right to the rev limiter at will. But its bigger cylinders also produce significant torque pulsing at lower revs, and the tach and speedo jitterbug away on their little mounts. Developing 76.3 bhp at the rear wheel, the GT1000 is noticeably quicker than the 750 GT, but it's by no means a fast motorcycle, turning the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds at 112 mph.

The GT1000's shorter 56.1-inch wheelbase, steeper 24-degree rake and reduced trail all play a part in its easy handling, and this geometry strikes a useful balance between responsiveness and stability. With the GT1000, Ducati really did create a bigger, better version of the original 750 GT. Though the styling is clunkier and less organic than the original bevel-drives, the dynamics make up for it, providing a machine that's useful and enjoyable for just about anything you'd want to do on a streetbike, from commuting to sport riding to touring. Like the original 750 GT, the newer GT1000 offers no dramatically high points, but the overall package is well balanced and useful, making it a logical pick for everyday use. Advantage: GT1000.

THEN & NOW 1973 DUCATI 750 GT 2010 DUCATI GT1000
Price new $1964 $10,995
Dry weight 440 lbs. 436 lbs
Horsepower 49.9 bhp @ 7250 rpm 76.3 bhp @ 7750 rpm
1/4-mile 13.3 sec. @ 101.1 mph 11.84 sec. @ 112.2 mph
Tire size 3.25-19 front, 3.50-18 rear 120/70-17 front, 180/55-17 rear
Brakes Disc front, drum rear Triple discs
Wheelbase 60.0 in. 56.1 in.

Dyno
Ducati's 992cc 90-degree V-twin maintains 50-plus lb.-ft. of torque throughout most of its rev range, which easily adds miles per hour to any situation. A healthy top end that spreads peak power over a 2000-rpm range makes the GT1000 fun and easy to ride in a sporting fashion.

Ergos
The GT1000 has the most legroom by over an inch, and that broad, plush seat makes this retro-rider mighty comfortable for around-town travel. A moderate reach to that high handlebar keeps things relaxed for your top half, and there's plenty of room to tuck in.

Ducati GT1000 | Price $10,995
Tech Spec
Engine type: a-c 90-deg. V-twin Frame: Tubular-steel trellis Rake/trail: 24.0º/4.1 in.
Valve train: SOHC, 4v Front suspension: 43mm Marzocchi fork Seat height: 31.8 in.
Displacement: 992cc Rear suspension: Sachs shocks with adjustable spring preload Wheelbase: 56.1 in.
Bore x stroke: 94.0 x 71.5mm Front brake: Dual Brembo two-piston calipers, 320mm discs Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal.
Compression: 10.0:1 Rear brake: Brembo single-piston caliper, 245mm disc Weight (tank full/empty): 460/436 lbs.
Fuel system: EFI Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Phantom Colors: Red, black
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate Rear tire: 180-55ZR-17 Pirelli Phantom Availability: Now
Transmission: 6-speed Warranty: 48 mo., unlimited mi.
Measured horsepower:76.3 bhp @ 7750 rpm Contact:www.ducati.com
Measured torque: 59.4 lb.-ft. @ 5750 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.84 sec. @ 112.2 mph
Top-gear roll-on: 4.49 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 43/33/38 mpg
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By John L. Stein
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