1972 Ducati Mototrans 350
Starting back in the Victorian era when motorcycles were just emerging, you’d have a guy building bicycles in one village, and another guy building motors the next village over. The guy building motors was thinking about putting them in an automobile or a farm tractor, the bicycle guy was just making bicycles. Well, one day at a wedding for some local farmers daughter (there has to be a traveling salesman and shotgun joke involved here somewhere?), the bicycle builder and the motor builder met. Over a pint of the local brew, they hatched the idea of sticking a motor in a bicycle frame!!! Our life (as motorcyclists) was born. They designed motorbikes over a pint of beer and we still talk about them over a pint of beer. Or two or five. Ain’t life grand.
Over the past century or so a lot of motorcycles have been joint ventures. Matchless frames with JAP motors, Enfield motors in Indian frames, German motors in English frames…the list goes on and on. It is a very interesting part of motorcycling history that there are many books written about. Another twist on this same theme is a manufacturer from one country (in today’s story, Ducati) contracts or licenses a factory in another country to build motorbikes under their name for them. It’s been quite common since World War Two and is still done today.
Starting in 1957, Ducati of Italy licensed their motor design to Mototrans of Spain, who put it into their own design frames. But, they were also building Ducati motorcycles with…some slight differences. Most of those slight differences were in suspension components, carburetion and general build quality. The early Mototrans Ducati’s were not known for their quality, but later versions of the Spanish Ducati’s were as good as the homegrown models. They still had different suspension components and Amal carbs but the bikes worked just fine. There was only one niggling glitch and that was the oil pump gear…but the Italian model had the same issue.
The Mototrans Ducati’s got a bit of a bad rap from the beginning so the value of one of these motorcycles is not as high as the same bike from Italy but little by little that is changing, I think in part due the fact that Genuine Italian Ducati’s are getting way too expensive for the average Joe to start his collection with.
Mototrans kept building Ducati’s through 1983 when they were bought out by Yamaha. The Spanish company was quite successful with the Single cylinder bikes, the most popular being the Vento, a very sporty bike still featuring the Bevel drive motor.
I found a nice Mototrans Ducati 350 on ebay that is a rider and really only needs a good going through to be a great Sunday rider, vintage roadracer or….a really great little Cafe Racer! These bikes put out around 28HP, (which is quite respectable for its age, size and weight…there has to be a joke about my age, size and weight in there somewhere!?), have good handling characteristics and parts are still available…Maybe. This particular 350 seems to be very stock except for air filter and muffler, but these are two things that don’t take anything away from the bike if you are going to ride it. If you want to show it, well, you’ve got some work to do.
Now speaking of parts for older Ducati’s, and this Mototrans 350 is a prime candidate, Steve Allen’s Bevel Heaven (www.bevelheaven.com) is the best source in the United States. Information, parts, forums…it’s all there.
For more pictures and info about this neat little Ducati, click on the pics below. Oh, and if you do buy this little gem, check the oil pump gear…if it’s plastic, replace it with the steel version, your bike will love you. And so will your friend that might have to come rescue you on a Sunday morning.