1977 DUCATI 900SS
THE BIKE'S STORY
As cited in “No Trespassing” published by Motorcycle Classics. May/June 2016
—Text by Greg Williams
This is not your average Ducati tale. Almost unbelievable, it’s a story with horror movie elements along with a whiff of romantic comedy.
Matt Linex isn’t sure which genre this tale best suits. The one thing the college student from Denton, Texas, does know is this — it’s the tale of a rare 1977 Ducati 900 Super Sport that positively changed his life.
In 2012, about a week before Halloween, Matt’s cousin invited him and a friend to a pasture party in South Arlington, Texas. After getting off the highway and navigating some back roads, the pair eventually traversed a bumpy and rutted trail. It was dark, muddy and overgrown. Branches were brushing the sides of his Jeep, and a rusted “No Trespassing” sign hanging from a tree was flapping in the wind. Matt wasn’t comfortable. It didn’t get any better when he saw the party was happening in a derelict-looking trailer house.
“I said, ‘I ain’t having any of this,’ and started to turn around to get out,” Matt explains, adding, “That’s when the headlights of the Jeep caught a flash of chrome hidden in the weeds.”
Overcoming his nervousness about what he thought was a sketchy situation, Matt got out of his Jeep and walked to where he’d seen the chrome — just inside a half fallen down wooden barn. He pulled aside the weeds to find an old Honda CB350, and behind that was a Norton and a bunch of Chevy Corvairs. Nearby, but fully exposed to the elements, Matt found a 1977 Ducati 900SS.
Ducati Super Sports are some of the most sought-after motorcycles the Italian manufacturer has produced. In 1972, Paul Smart and Bruno Spaggiari made a 1-2 sweep at the first Imola 200 race aboard 750cc desmodromic V-twins designed by Ducati’s famous Fabio Taglioni and based on the production 750GT introduced in 1971. Shortly after, Ducati set out to build a race-replica version that would be known as the Super Sport.
“I knew the Ducati was special, but didn’t know exactly what it was — I had never seen one before,” Matt says. “I pretended to be mostly interested in the Honda and Norton, but asked what he wanted for all three machines. He said he’d sell them all for $1,500. I only had $1,000, but I also had the first rifle I’d ever bought to offer as a trade, and he agreed to that.”
After the cash and gun were exchanged for titles, Matt removed the Ducati first. The bike had been sitting, unused and uncovered, since the late 1970s. There were just over 2,000 miles on the odometer, so it was most likely parked due to a mechanical issue. The brakes were seized and the chain was rusted solid. It took him six hours of sweaty labor to get the 900SS onto his trailer. Matt took another trip to pick up the Honda, which he sold, and the Norton, which went to his uncle. With the bikes off the land and passed along, Matt settled in to research the Ducati
“I couldn’t find a lot of information, so I phoned Ducati of Dallas,” Matt says. “I told them I had a 900SS and they laughed and hung up the phone — seriously. I called back and asked to speak to a manager, and when I told him the story again he said, ‘If you really have this bike, bring it to the shop and we’ll take a look.’ I only wanted confirmation that what I had was something special.”
Matt says when he pulled up to the shop the entire staff came outside for a look. Nobody was laughing.
Matt put the Ducati in his parents’ garage, but after a few months his mom grew less tolerant of the rusty old motorcycle taking up space. That’s when he decided that if he could sell the Ducati for a good profit, he’d let it go. So, to test the waters, he put it on Craigslist for $18,000.
This is where Italian motorcycle enthusiast and restaurateur Eric Kurtev of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, enters the story. Always on the hunt for rare and interesting models, Eric checks Craigslist and other sites at least twice a day, and that’s how he came across Matt’s listing. The two connected via telephone, and Matt described the Ducati as best he could, and sent photos to Eric. As it turns out, Eric is a friend of Ian Falloon, and Falloon weighed in on the derelict 900SS.
Eric agreed to pay $15,000, and without any deposit or other assurance Matt rented a U-Haul trailer, loaded the Ducati and began the 1,100-mile drive to Wisconsin to deliver the machine and pick up his cash. “I was terrified someone would steal the bike, so I stopped only once and slept for an hour,” Matt says. Once in Wisconsin, Matt dropped the Ducati off with Brady Ingelse at Retrospeed whom Eric had already contacted about restoring the bike, then linked up with Eric to complete the deal.
But when Brady met with Eric to discuss options, he said they felt the Ducati was too rough and required a complete restoration. Brady started by breaking apart the 900SS, and he says the amount of corrosion on both aluminum and steel components was “intense.” To rescue the alloy, Brady worked through multiple stages of media blasting to bring up a uniform surface, then Evan Steger at Evan's Detailing and Polishing brought everything up to a fine luster.
“These machines were 'race replicas', with no electric start or provision for signal lights. They were also right-foot shift, a drawback as recently adopted U.S. legislation required all new production motorcycles to have left-foot gearshift mechanisms."
Scott Moore of Fast-Finish Painting in Alabama sourced the correct colors for the 900SS and sprayed the frame the unique shade of Ducati silver. That’s when Eric flew Ian Falloon in to give some critical advice in the restoration process. “He said keep it 100-percent stock, that there’s no place for aftermarket parts on such a bike, and that whatever we did, do not over-restore the Ducati,” Brady recalls.
Luckily, although the top end of the 900SS’ engine was seized, the bottom end had been full of oil and the crankshaft and lower connecting rod tolerances were fine. This was important, because for the purpose of authenticity, Brady didn’t want to disturb the original Ducati wire and lead seal. The cylinders were sent out to be bored to the next serviceable oversize, and new pistons and rings were installed. The heads were treated to freshly cut three-angle seats and new valves, work done in-house at Retrospeed.
Brady sourced new rubber components, a seat cover and windshield for the fairing, and over a period of two years the 900SS came back together.
PHOTOS BY: RYAN HANDT
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.