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Bonhams hoping for max price on rare Ducati four-cyl GP bike


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It’s auction season these days, and the prices keep rising on rare and old motorcycles. Here’s another machine up for auction soon, one that might set the market spinning: an ultra-rare 1965 Ducati 125 cc GP bike with inline-four engine.

It’s an oddball bike, for sure. Oddball doesn’t even really describe it fairly—it’s maybe the only one of these machines in existence.

Of course, Ducati was really known for building L-twins (or 90-degree V-twins, as the rest of the world calls them) until fairly recently, when it started tinkering with V4 architecture for its MotoGP bikes, then its high-end streetbikes. But, decades earlier, Ducati had seen the advantages of inline four engines, and started work on this design in the late 1950s. By the mid-’60s, it was hopelessly behind what the Japanese GP bikes were capable of, so Ducati pulled the plug on the project before actually racing the engine (the frame was used, but the engine pulled after the bike ran the show circuit for a while).

Still, some people were interested in what might have been, and one of those people was the highly-connected Giancarlo Morbidelli, who wanted it for his legendary private museum. Many of the bikes in Morbidelli’s museum were his own creations, during his time as a successful GP team owner/manager, but he had other interesting machines as well, and this was one of them. Using his network of contacts, Morbidelli tracked down the bits needed to restore the bike and built the rest (this sort of thing is easier when you own your own GP team). There’s a great write-up on the bike’s discovery and history at the Bonhams website.

Sadly, the Morbidelli museum closed down last year, and many of the rare and exotic bikes have been making their way through auction houses since (Morbidelli himself died earlier this winter). So, Bonhams is going to be auctioning this machine at its sale on April 25-26, and reckons it might bring in more than $750,000.

That’s a lot of money, even for an ultra-rare bike like this, but the exotic and rare motorcycle market has been steadily climbing, with prices pushing many working-class collectors out of the market in recent years. Talk to anyone who’s into the scene, and they’ll tell you that the good stuff is getting expensive. However, the highest price hikes have been on machines that have a celebrity connection, especially if that celebrity’s initials are Steve McQueen. This four-cylinder GP bike is a rare item, but with no past Hollywood megastar ownership, and especially with stock markets in freefall currently, the price might not be as outrageous as some other vintage machinery has been lately.

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