Our Italian Iron "Hot Rod"-Ducati 650 Pantah Racer

Posted by Scot Wilson on

Our "Italianiron Hot-Rod" is complete and running like a championship winning Racer!! Thank you to Michael Arnott for naming our "beast" for the "hot-rod" that it is! This Pantah 650 Racer project has come together like I envisioned when my wife and I first walked into the Ducati dealership in Florence (Firense), Italy and saw this bike as an inspiration. It is incredibly fun to ride fast, as it has loads of torque in a light weight kit. All of our projects to include this custom-built "Hot-Rod" is for sale. See Bikes for Sale section and blog posts on our Italianiron.com site. 

At Italian Iron Classics, LLC when we work on a build, we start with a vision such as the #22 racer from "Firenze". We always work to maintain the "spirit" or "soul" of the bike while enhancing it with the best in modern components. We are fortunate to work with Two Wheel Classics-UK as their US based dealer. The Pantah racer bodywork of fuel tank, seat base and windscreen are all items that we have in stock.

Below is former GP racer and 4 Time Formula 2 World Champion, Tony Rutter in front of the TWC shop between a Pantah Racer and a TT 2 that is very appropriate due to his massive racing successes with these racers!! Our TT frames, bodywork kits and other specialty bits are faithful copies of Tony Rutter's famous TT racers!!

The original Ducati TT Racer was born from the "new" Taglioni twin cylinder Pantah motorcycle. When the original Pantah was introduced to the public, It was not long until these Belt Driven Pantah's were, of course, set up for racing. The Pantah derived racers were very successful motorcycles and became a significant part of the Ducati racing history. The Pantah based engines powered the TT 2 and TT 1 racers. Seen below is Pat Slinn (dark blue vest) who worked with both world class racers, Mike Hailwood and Tony Rutter and guided them to great international racing successes. Pat has been rumored to share with Jim Blomley, owner of Two Wheel Classics-UK, that the Pantah is one of Mr. Slinn's favourite engines. 

As much as I love my Ducati bevel drives (and I do), our Ducati 650 Pantah racer builds great power and in contrast is so much lighter than my Bevel Racers. Thanks to Dave Railton for this shot of him (below) chasing Tony Rutter's 600 Pantah with a larger capacity Bevel Drive racer. This photo illustrates so effectively the evolution of a Ducati race-bike and the effect of greater Power:Weight Ratios, in action. Now through our focus on the Ducati TT Racers, we are sharing in this history and the performance of these early belt-driven racers!!

Like the first Pantah racers, we started with a SL frame with VIN and converted it to use a mono-shock with a F1 swingarm. We then added additional gusseting before powder-coating. We wanted to be able to use this bike on the road as well as the track. This focus on the chassis is due to my good fortune in meeting and in being mentored by Mike Baughn from Columbus, Ohio. Mike was a professional AMA racer back in the day who raced Ducati Bevel Drive Singles and Twins on dirt track as well as road racing. Additionally he was the crew chief for the very successful Reiser Harley-Davidson National Hill Climb Champions here in the US. Mike would always say that before the engine mods you had to get the chassis sorted so that it was light, responsive and stable. Mission accomplished!

Mike would also say that once you felt comfortable on your race bike, you can maximize all of the available engine power. The weight of our Pantah 650 Racer is 363 lbs Wet (164.65 kg) using a standard SL frame. This is in comparison to a Ducati 650 Pantah street bike listed at 397 lbs Dry (180 kg) and to a Cagiva 650 Alazzurra street bike listed at 418.8 lbs Dry (190 kg) according to data on the internet. The Ducati 650 Pantah itself is a light bike in comparison to my Bevels but responds even better when further lightened with quality fiberglass bodywork, magnesium wheels and other light-weight race bits. Frame stability comes from using hefty 45 mm vintage Showa front forks from an Alazzurra race bike.

The other philosophy that we embrace here at Italian Iron Classics is to take a Moto Morini approach of showing off the engine with the least amount of clutter and wiring as possible. TWC Pantah tank and seat are sculptured perfectly to display the Ducati Desmo engine that is at the heart of our 650 Pantah Racer. We used every bit of available space along the top frame rails and under the seat to "tuck-in" all of the upgraded electrical components such as the Dyna coils. We have an electrical wizard in Bill Eley who makes our wiring looms to significantly improve reliability and minimize unnecessary wires and connectors.  

What has always excited me about racing is the passion that race teams and the factories have to research and develop better components that transform a street bike into a "state-of-the-art" racer. From lightened suspension and braking components to light-weight bodywork and magnesium items, the goal is to transform the machine into the best performing package possible. This results in superior Power:Weight Ratios. When racing my 750 Ducati Bevel Drive, for example, I had installed a VeeTwo straight cut gearbox. It was the epitome of fast, seamless, light-weight shifting! Out of confidence comes superior performance and efficiency between man and machine. Thanks again to Dave Railton for this great photo of old versus new technology in racing. 

There were only a few engine mods that we made during a full crank-up engine build. I was quite intrigued to use Glynn Robinson's (of Sports Motorcycle NZ fame) kit to aide with the transplant of the original 5 speed gear box for a 6 speed modern gear box into our 650 Pantah engine since we had the cases split already. I love the gearing that this format allows using this 6 speed gearbox and find that the shifting is seamless and light. It allows great throttle control of the "grunt" and the torque of this engine through to the top of the rev range. 


Thanks to Malcolme Tunstall at Syd's Cycles for the crank work and high compression race pistons. Malcolme is another mentor that I have been privileged to receive good rider training from in the past. This is in addition to the quality "go-fast" race bits that Syd's Cycles provides. Below is a photo of Malcolme and me at Mid-Ohio getting the bike prepped for the next day's AHRMA races in early 2000. 


Hopefully, Malcolme and I can return to the Mid-Ohio Racetrack with our respective Ducati 750 Bevel Drive Racers so that he can again "show me the fast way around that track!" When I brought up that idea with Malcolme he commented that his son & racer, John should now show us both the fast way around the track!! I concur!!

I am open to any reasonable offers on this custom-built Pantah Racer. Please advise if you have any questions related to the build after reading the different blog posts that I have written about this bike on the website or contact me at italianiron@msn.com. This bike is a blast to ride fast on our mountain roads here in Tucson, Arizona and carries a valid Arizona title. Stay tuned as we are reaching the "finish-line" in completing our Ducati TT 1 Racer for the Road & Track. 


We will have all of our Ducati TT Racers with us when we travel to World Superbike at Laguna Seca next month in beautiful Monterey, California. Come and visit us at tent #9 in the Hagerty Marketplace!!


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