Pantah Engine - Pantah Power!

A Path To Glory Through Persistence

It's hard to imagine now, but Ducati's seemingly evergreen belt-drive V-twin was created as an expeditious and slightly desperate response to aging and expensive bevel-drive V-twins and disastrously unpopular parallel-twins. Intended to fill the lower end of Ducati's then-bifurcated lineup, the little Desmo twin, originally in 500cc form in the 1979 Pantah, stemmed from the fertile mind of designer Fabio Taglioni. His mandate was to make the engine as modular as possible and cheap; that explains the belt drive-the first time one was used in a production Ducati.

This is the prototypical engine that could. Soon after its introduction, it grew to 600cc and would eventually be reworked to an impressive 944cc. What started as an engine with bore and stroke measuring 74mm x 58mm would then expand to a truly impressive 94mm x 68mm. Arrivederci, bevel heads.

In the intervening 21 years and myriad models, the Pantah engine has retained its basic architecture (the rear head was figuratively turned around for the Paso and Elefant in the late 1980s, thus facing both intake ports into the vee) along with many of its signature design elements, some because they're still viable and some just out of corporate intractability. Metallurgy has caught up with high-rpm valve springs, but the Duck is resolutely desmo.

Perhaps more impressive than the mere idea that the Pantah engine has survived as most bike makers (Harley-Davidson and Moto Guzzi excepted) have long since cast off 1970s designs, is that the engine is still a strong and evocative performer today. As the liquid-cooled, four-valve twins begin to permeate the Ducati line, you have to conclude that the Pantah engine will eventually be put down. That will be a dark day, friends.