Ducati 896 Superbike Cafe Racer Project

Posted by Scot Wilson on

I never raced a Ducati 888 or 851 like I did with the 748 RS and 996 SP. However, I have owned 4 Ducati 851's to include the original Tri-Colore. I did like the riding position of the 851 which makes sense as the 888 frame was the predecessor to the modern Ducati Monster and is more comfortable than the 996.  As I was used to the power delivery of the revvy 748 RS and the torquey power delivery of the 996 SP, it only made sense to put a modern Superbike engine in what is a very good looking 851 package and especially in the Tri-Colore livery. 

This build took place before the Ducati factory made the Monster with the 996 Superbike engine. We found a nice low mileage 996 street engine that had became available. Now it was time to see how it would fit. The engine fit just fine, however, due to the different location of the mounting point for the swingarm from single-sided of the 996 engine in contrast to the location of the twin box section swingarm of the 851, we needed to figure out a way to get the rake and trail to work. Luckily, I found in Europe, a 851 Corse Rear Shock Linkage with an Adjustable Eccentric. This allowed us to get the geometry correct that was imperative in mating the 996 street bike engine with an 851 rolling chassis. 

I know that there is a large community of those who love their Ducati 888 & 851 Superbikes as they are striking in appearance. Additionally, they were effectively the first Ducati Superbikes and found great success in Superbike racing. However, I preferred the power delivery of the more modern Desmoquattro engines which seemed to have more power. This turned out to be a potent package. 

The Cafe Racer philosophy seems to me to take at the core what is good, lighten, and improve components to get the best performance out of this package. Bigger and more modern forks and suspension were chosen. Brakes used were currently the best available. However, we still were able to use many of the 851 components to include a carbon fiber airbox, carbon fiber engine case breather box, ECU and a trick F1 manufactured 2:1 Stainless Exhaust system. Additionally, we were able to use 5 spoke Marchessini wheels with big modern, sticky Dunlop tires

Thanks to Tom of Tom's Italian Tune & Service, as we were able to put the bike together at his shop before I ended up getting my shop space. It was a labor of love. The biggest challenge was mating the 996 wiring loom with the 851 dash. Using a bigger Superbike axle than stock, we had to have a shop in town to build a converter box for the speedo drive that would effectively take speed data from the 996 speedo drive and convert it for the 851 gauges. However, the converter was made and staying legal on the roads was accomplished. 

What has always amazed me is how lean these Superbikes are so that you can really pull them over for maximum lean angle. There is also something special about the 851 Superbike as a blank canvas to make art. I have always been a huge fan of the Tri-Colore paint schemes to fly proudly the Colors of the Italian Flag. With the 851 in particular with its angular rear seatbase, these red, green and white colors seem to flow purposely from the front of the bike through to the back.

The aluminum fuel tank of the 851 is proportioned perfectly and looks so good in my opinion with the red along the top and the pearl white underneath. As I have been a huge fan of Doug Polen and the Fast by Ferracci team, it was essential that I had made the Fast by Ferracci logos for along the sides of the tank above the Ducati emblem in addition to sporting the famous number 23 on the number boards. Additionally, at the front of the tank, I had placed the Commemorative Decal that recognized the AMA Superbike Season Victory in 1994 which I had received from one of the board members of the AMA. 

From every angle of this bike, the Ducati 851 Tri-Colore seems to have purpose in every line and crease in the bodywork. A small change that I made was to carry the green forward through the front fender/mudguard and carried forward the white on the top of the fender. As mentioned earlier, this machine leant itself to being an outstanding canvas to create art. 

Again from the sides, the lines seemed proportional and purposely intended by the factory design team when this 851 was originally created. I am a fan of the NCR racing effort and their contributions to the factory race effort. Regardless, it was my choice to add the NCR decals with Wille E Coyote on the sides and the City of Bologna crest over the air vent. 

Despite its great looks, this machine could fly!! It was so much fun to take this bike up on our mountain roads as the suspension kept the bike planted and the power delivery was never in question. Photographed above is Chuck who later bought the bike from me and is putting her through her paces at the track. 

This was a special build in my opinion and I was honored when I was asked by a photographer if he could do a photoshoot of this glorious Ducati 851 Tri-Colore Superbike. I will continue to post photos from that shoot as well. Shown below is the great Doug Polen on his famous #23 Fast by Ferracci Superbike celebrating another win for the bike, the team and for the Ducati factory. 

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  • Tremendous, thanks for sharing !

    David Knowles on

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