While Ducati’s current flagship Panigale V4 marked its first-ever production four-cylinder model, the Bologna firm’s history with producing four-bangers actually dates back to the 1950s. In an effort to market its bikes and demonstrate their competitiveness, the Italian marque called on Fabio Taglioni — legendary engineer, chief designer and technical director of Ducati from ’54 through ’89, and the father of Ducati’s hallmark Desmodronic valve arrangement — to design a new multi-cylinder engine to compete with the models coming out of Japan, resulting in the 125/4 Grand Prix racer.
Ducati’s first-ever four-cylinder machine, the GP bike consisted of a steel cradle frame wrapped around an air-cooled, DOHC, inline-four engine with four (spring-actuated, non-Desmo) valves per cylinder and an eight-speed transmission. Other equipment included Dell’Orto carbs, Ceriani suspension, and Oldani brakes front and aft. Unfortunately, by the time the final prototype was completed in ’65 — over-a-decade after the design was originally drawn up — the eighth-liter four had grown pretty long in the tooth, prompting Ducati to pull the plug on the project. Eventually, this machine was acquired by the Morbidelli family who fully restored the bike using period-correct components throughout. This unique piece of motorcycling history is now slated to cross the auction block at Bonhams Spring Stafford Sale where it’s expected to fetch between $520,000 and $770,000, which would set a new record.
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