Since the early 1900’s many companies have emerged in Italy to make some of the best motorcycles in the world. Though some companies may have failed, a few great companies prevailed to make the most high tech machines and win numerous world championships.
Ducati started out with bicycles with engines clipped on. The company’s success came from designer Fabio Taglioni. In 1954 he created a single cylinder machine with a shaft driven overhead cam-shaft that formed the basis for Ducati. Taglioni also added Desmodromic valve gears to racing versions. This utilized the camshaft rather than the springs to close the valves. (Wilson 92)
Ducati became renowned for superb performance and handling. The first Desmo Ducati was the very successful 125cc Gran Prix bikes of the late 1950s. These bikes were runners up in the 1958 World Championship.(Wilson 92) Ducati was building single cylinder bikes with shaft driven camshafts for fifteen years, when the company decided to move into the bigger bike market. The 750 went on sale in 1971, and a sports version appeared the following year. Later the capacity was increased to 900cc. The 1973 Ducati 750 was an air-cooled, overhead-camshaft, four-stroke 90-degree V-twin. It produced a boasting 55bhp@ 7,900rpm. The top speed was 115mph.(Wilson 93) The Ducati 750ss Imola was introduced in 1972. Ten special racing versions of the new 750 road bike were built to compete in the 1972 Imola 200. Victory would ensure excellent publicity for the racers, and that is exactly what the Ducati team expected to achieve. On the day of the race, Ducati scored a double win, with Paul Smart in first and Bruno Spagiari in second.(Wilson 94) Ducati’s decisive win in the 1972 Imola 200 began the remarkable racing career of its V-twins that continues today with total domination of the world Superbike Championships in the early 1990s. (Wilson 94)
In 1989 the Ducati 851 was born. It was the most complex Ducati road bike ever built, though it still retained Desmodromic valve operation and the 90 degree V-twin engine layout. (Microsoft Encarta) It utilized four camshafts, eight valves, water cooling, and fuel injection- all firsts for a road Ducati. The 851 was the basis for the successful 888 Superbike racer and modern Ducatis'. (Wilson 93)
Giuseppe Gilera founded the firm in 1909 when he was only 22 years old. The company grew quickly and, in 1920, moved to the large new factory in Arcore, outside Milan, which it occupies today. In 1935, Gilera acquired the Rondine design and this machine provided the basis for the factory racers for the next thirty years. (Wilson 96)
The Saturno appeared in 1939, but production began only after the war. The Saturno belonged to a line of Gilera machines made during the forties and fifties. Also in this line were the Mars and Nettuno. This solid sporty bike, based on previous 500cc...