The Big Problem with nostalgia, for a motorcycle manufacturer, is you really can't make 'em like you used to. As fondly as those of a certain vintage may remember it, 1978 was too loud, too dirty and a bit too rough around the edges to get by in 2006. That goes double for the revered '70s twins that inspired Ducati's SportClassic. Despite all windy pontifications to the contrary, not many people are willing to write a check for a 514-pound, 60-horsepower, 864cc V-twin complete with a leaky engine, a cruel seat and bits that go rusty after it rains, even if it does say 900 Darmah on the side.
And though it's a thoroughly modern, essentially well-behaved piece, the problem with a standard '06 SportClassic is, as delivered, it's a bit too civilized, sanitized and soft around the middle. Bolted up around Bologna's 992cc air-cooled workhorse, it's a rational homage to the '74 750 Sport, which was magnificently irrational in the first place. As delivered, it's a bit boring after a few hundred miles. But all is not lost. If global economic realities, cranky neighbors and the Environmental Protection Agency kept Borgo Panigale from rolling out a full-strength homage to late-'70s desmo-dromics, they didn't stop Jeff Nash.
A New Zealander with seven AMA, AHRMA and WERA roadracing titles on his rsum, Nash has since 1995 developed a solid reputation building and selling rapid Ducatis in North Texas under his Advanced Motorsports banner (www.advancedmotorsports.com), first in Alvarado and then with a second dealership in Dallas. He reckoned the Sport was good, but not nearly as good as it could be. So when Ducati North America boss Michael Lock commissioned a stripped-to-the-waist, bare-knuckled version, Nash went to work.
After unbolting everything from everything else, he shaved the 1000DS crankshaft to resemble a low-windage Ducati Corse bit. Standard 94mm bores were punched out to 98mm and sent out for a fresh coat of Nikasil, bumping displacement to 1078cc. Intake and exhaust ports were ported and polished, then Ducati Performance cams replaced the stock bits for more expeditious combustion in the middle of the rev range. And a 48-tooth EVR slipper clutch slid into place behind a lacy aluminum cover. Dyno numbers fairly mash the standard bike: 95.6 horsepower at 7770 rpm and 76.0 pound-feet of torque at 5990 rpm vs. 77.5 bhp at 8100 rpm and 58.3 lb.-ft. at 6000 rpm. For some desmodromic perspective, our '05 Monster S4R made 108 horses at 9000 rpm and 66.5 lb.-ft. of torque at 7250 rpm.Since all that work added up to more than the standard Showa suspension could deal with, a DP hlins fork slid into the standard triple clamps, followed by a longer hlins rear shock. Set off by a menacing selection of black-anodized parts, the black-and-gold paint is somewhere between '78 Darmah SD and 900SS, hence the "Back in Black" tag lifted from the AC/DC album that spent 131 weeks in the top 10 a quarter-century ago. In an informal staff survey, the only metal louder than the aforementioned Aussies-with the possible exception of Sr. Capirossi's Desmosedici-came out of the one-off open megaphone Nash had tucked in under the right side of the swingarm.
Imagine something between a Space Shuttle launch and an Angus Young guitar solo, and you're there. Since it's also loud enough to drown out the siren on an LAPD squad car, Nash sent us a more civil Termignoni slip-on. Eliminating the stock mufflers-along with the stock taillight/turn signal conflagration and other overweight blots on the landscape-pared the black bike's weight down to 417 pounds, complete with a full 3.9-gallon fuel payload.
At that rate, the AMS bike is 19 lbs. lighter than Ducati's standard SportClassic and 47 lbs. lighter than Triumph's Speed Triple. Any modern naked bike feels long, tall and overweight. BMW's 547-lb. K1200R, for instance, makes 141 horses at a fizzy 10,250 rpm, but Nash's little black Duck leaves it for dead on a tight road. Midrange thrust is stunning from 3500 upward. And though it revs quicker than any street-going Desmodue we've ever ridden, there's no reason to spin the 1078 past 8000. Choose a road far from the long ear of the law and tall gearing-3800 rpm puts 70 mph on the speedometer-makes rapid progress a second- or third-gear proposition. The suspension prefers smooth pavement at an aggressive pace. Otherwise? No complaints.
Fuel delivery is flawless. So are the brakes and gearbox.If it didn't sound like a P-47 Thunderbolt at treetop level, you'd be looking at perhaps the ideal real-world sportbike powerplant. As it is, there are precious few roads where you can enjoy something this loud without getting an expensive reminder from the cops that it's not 1978 anymore. We don't really want to go back anyway.
Still, some things don't change. Congratulations to Ducati for having the cojones to bring back the '70s, but the caf racer has always been an unfiltered home brew. Strong, expensive and semi-legal, it's sometimes too much for public consumption. We're warning you: Acquire the taste for Nash's particular recipe, and there's no going back.If you're smart, you won't listen.