Ducati 851 Superbike, Current Customer Project

Posted by Scot Wilson on

This is the 6th Ducati 888/851 project where we are replacing the 851 S engine with a larger 996 cc engine. Fortunately, in this build, we have found a low mileage Monster S4R engine that can accept the 851 rear swingarm spindle without modificiation. It really begs the question as to why this is such a popular project. It makes sense to me as the 851 was the first 4-valve Superbike and has an iconic shape to its bodywork and styling. However, the 888/851 frame eventually evolved into the Ducati Monster frame and has a very comfortable riding position. This could be the number one reason for these conversions. 

One could argue that the Ducati 888/851's and 916 Superbikes both have  iconic looks but the 851 has proven to be a better platform for a street bike than the later 916 Superbikes and their various derivatives according to many riders. Having raced Ducati 996 and 748 Superbikes, I can attest to the fact that a 996/748 has a more aggressive riding position and geometry that made it the dominant force in racing in the late 1990's and 2000's. However, if the goal is not racing, then one can always depend on the compliant riding position of the Ducati 888/851. I may be the oddity, but I have always enjoyed the riding position of the Ducati 996 Superbike on the track as well as on the road as a personal preference but I do understand the preference for the Ducati 888/851's. 


There can be a "fun-factor" to working on a build like this. As our customer wants to have a more powerful performer, we began to strip this 851 down to the bare "canvas" with which to create our piece of artwork. However, we have also mounted a 999 radiator as I never found the original radiators that came with the Ducati 888/851 to be sufficient to provide adequate cooling of the original engines much less a bigger Ducati engine. Fun and improved function are not mutually exclusive goals. Then there are numerous items of carbon fiber bits on order to add some "bling" to our project. 

On my Ducati 851 Tri-Colore with 996 engine, one of the best additions to the bike was to add the carbon fiber engine case breather box. Not only is it a cool piece of kit found on the Corse bikes but like a bellows, it creates a significant deepening of that beautiful, distinctive, throaty exhaust note or "growl" from our 996 cc engine!! Some other enhancements in addition to carbon fiber rear-sets, etc, we will also be using the carbon fiber Corse "box-shaped" dash with white-faced Speedhut speedo/tacho gauge and white-faced temperature gauge. 

Shown above is our low-mileage Ducati 996 S4R engine with bright white 851 frame that bolted around it with ease. We were hoping not to have to re-paint the frame but due to the care by the previous owner, a good cleaning of the frame rails made re-painting unnecessary. As a result, we were also able to keep all of the original frame stickers. Our customer also wanted a 888 Mono-Posta seatbase and I have sourced a nice aluminum subframe and seatbase for him. It is great to have in this photo our Ducati TT 1 that was one of the patriarchs in the series of evolution of this Superbike lineage.


Evolution in design and engineering makes this project seem as a natural process. All of these efforts are designed to pay homeage to the spirit, success, and innovation of these original Ducati Superbikes. Shown above is our front street cowling/fairing with white number board to match the white number boards on the tail section. Additionally, as I had a race cowling/fairing, it too is now ready for when our customer wants to take this Superbike to the track. 


Shown above is my friend, Chuck who is the proud owner of my Ducati 851 Tri-Colore with 996 cc engine putting as he is putting her through her paces at the famous east coast racetrack in Loudon, NH. Let us "Fuel Your Race Passions" at Italianiron.com!!

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