1990 Ducati 851 Superbike

The Bike That Changed My Life

By Andy Jacobson
RIDER: Andy Jacobson
NOW: Living the Life of Riley in the
  Pacific Northwest
THEN: Ford Motor Company design and
  marketing guru

"I remember the first time I saw a Ducati 851 'in the flesh.' My wife Margaret and I were visiting Santa Barbara and there happened to be an Italian bike show at the Miramar Hotel. I heard this magnificent sound, looked up and saw two fellows riding in on the big V-twins. They had slip-ons and sounded fantastic.

"I had seen photos in Cycle News, but with the low-resolution black-and-white shots I was not impressed, and I felt a loyalty to my old bevel-drives. But when I saw the new machine with my own eyes, I was truly smitten. When I got home to Detroit, I went to the Ducati shop and found that year's production was sold-out. I then made a trip to Duke University in South Carolina, and while there was on a quest to see if I could locate one--I even had dreams of riding home. I found a dealer in Lillington that said they could get me one, as there were 50 'gray-market' bikes coming into the country. Months later it did come, and I drove my pickup truck down to Knoxville, where I met them and took it home.

"I remember getting a ticket on my 851 the first time I rode it--guess I had to hear that exhaust! I later shipped it to Santa Barbara and kept it there, as Highway 33 was much more fun than the roads in Michigan.

"I still have the bike, and it's been mildly customized. The fuel pickup separated from the bottom of the aluminum tank and I couldn't find a replacement tank. But I was able to get a carbon-fiber racing tank, and the single seat from the late Jimmy Adamo's racebike. The engine needed rebuilding, and because it was easier to find the parts for an 888, it's now a little more potent. I never did like the large rectangular headlamp, so I've replaced it with a couple of projector beams. It has now been 'relegated' to a bike I just look at, but with a battery and fuel, it would be ready to go!"

By Andy Jacobson
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