1981 DUCATI 900SS

1981 DUCATI 900SS

From the late Christopher Coakley’s private collection, and “as new” 1981
Ducati 900 SS


—By Tim Parker

This wonderful bike’s original owner was one Chris Coakley, a collector of Palo Alto, California.

He bought many motorcycles – big four Japanese, big two
British (BSA and Triumph), Harley-Davidson and several Ducatis - at least one a year – and registered each one In California, rode it for about twelve months,
and then parked it in his garage, never to ride it again! Chris named each bike. His first was “Diana” after Oh Diana by Neil Sedaka, but regrettably there is no record of this 900 SS’s name. Chris was a mechanical engineer – ex-Northrop Institute of Technology, and Stanford, and then on to Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in 1969, to stay until retirement in 2011 after 42 years. “Flying satellites” in the Blue Cube, working on the Trident
Missile Systems and Navy Reentry Programs was his work, but private flying (aerobatics, even) was his real passion, only his poor eyesight preventing him from being a professional pilot. Flying on the ground was his second channel of fun.

This majestic bike comes with all the original owner and dealer manuals. Only 170 miles.

In the beginning Mr. Coakley installed “external reservoir” rear shocks, K&N filters, a bar end mirror, but saved everything. The bike is now set-up with the original Marzocchi shocks, and complete original airbox.

So seldom does "as new" actually mean "as new"! Here is a unique opportunity to acquire a "new" unspoiled bevel 900SS.

This bike comes with all the goodies, it is an exceptional time capsule from 1981, the last registration 1983 in Ca. This example has such a complete history with FPS carrying the original Michelin tires with that rare original Italian air. 

This 900SS begs the question, what more could you possibly want in a collectible? 

After eight years without any serious progress, the Ducati 900 Super Sport model finally came in for a mild update.

The “new” 900 SS was displayed at the Bologna Motor Show at the end of 1980, going into production at the start of 1981. Earlier in 1980, Finmeccanica, which controlled Ducati, was moved from the EFIM Group to the VM Group; VM, of course, was a diesel engine manufacturer who showed (then) some interest in motorcycle manufacture. After a good beginning – the new 1981 edition 900 SS was one of their opening shots – VM interest regrettably wavered, one result of which was quality control suffered. “Poor manufacture rather than poor design” was the contemporary complaint but in retrospect the cognoscenti has come to appreciate that it is “inconsistency” of specification on the production line that is, if anything, the problem. On the up side, however, some 36 years or so later “we know where to look and how to ‘fix’ what we see.” 

For 1981 the factory claimed 57 horsepower at 7,400rpm from the still kick- start motor (albeit with very restrictive Silentium mufflers and 32mm carburetors! Surely, there should be more.) A new alternator rotor, ignition system, clutch cover, gearbox dogs and shafts, a random choice of 32mm PHF or 40mm PHM Dell’Orto carburetors, and Silentium mufflers (with Contis as an option) were on the docket. Frame and engine numbers didn’t match and were sometimes as much as “2000” apart! The bodywork (note steel fuel tank) was painted a new silver color or “old” black, and new decals applied. A lockable fuel cap, gray Paioli fuel petcocks, front and rear fenders (now ABS) and a mix of dual seats – all new – were installed. Marzocchi forks and rear shocks were much as before but brand new were the gold-painted FPS cast aluminum 18-inch wheels. Brembo “Gold Series” calipers with 6-bolt brake discs were installed on early bikes. Nippon Denso supplied the left handlebar switch but both Veglia (this bike) and Smiths gauges were used. The above ably illustrates the randomness of the model’s specification. Not necessarily negative, just random. 

This example represents one of if the finest if not finest unrestored 900SS know to exist. This bike should be cared for and cherished.


  • 170 original miles

  • Frame # 090124 -

  • Engine # 091357

  • One owner

  • Stored inside a Palo Alto, California garage for 37 years.

  • Amazing original gel coat paint, exceptional.

  • Original ultra rare complete tool kit 

  • Complete airbox

  • Silentium mufflers

  • Additional NOS 40mm DellOrto carbs, with stacks and intakes 

  • Additional cams for 40mm Carb conversion 

  • FPS aluminum rims.

  • Original tires

  • Clean California title.

  • Correct reflectors and original turn signals 

  • All keys, tail, steering and ignition

  • Factory case seal 

  • Correct original windscreen with chromed rubber trim 

  • Last registered 1983

  • Parts manual

  • Owners manual 

  • Factory repair manual










Every single bike I buy and sell, I personally go through—not someone else. I am the owner operator of my small business, and I take what I do very seriously.  I work on the bikes, I ride the bikes.

If you are serious about buying a true collector piece from someone who not only has a passion for these bikes, but works on them, rides them, and collects them then call me. Jokingly people say to me, “these bikes don’t seem so rare as there are so many in your shop” well... I consider myself a custodian for these machines, they should go to people who will love, and appreciate them.