Showing posts with label 1980s Classic Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1980s Classic Motorcycles. Show all posts

Ducati Pantah 600

Ducati Pantah 600 1980s Italian classic sports bike

The Ducati Pantah was available in both 500 and 600cc forms. It was a technical stepping-stone for the Bologna marque. The 500 was launched in '79. The 600 appeared in '81. They would be an important blueprint for future development. As such, they ushered in more prosperous times for Ducati. When they were released, the firm was a little down at heel, financially.

Not that you had have known it by looking at the bikes. Fabio Taglioni made certain of that. One of the most esteemed engineers in motorcycle history, he had worked on the Ducati 500 V-twin GP bike. That was at the start of the Seventies. The machine's claim to fame was its toothed overhead cam belts. Taglioni now re-visited them - inserting appropriately detuned versions into the cylinder heads of the new Pantahs. They were smooth, reliable - and easy on the ear. Rightly, they allowed the V-twin exhaust set-up to assume aural centre stage. The rubber belts were cheap to manufacture, too. That was a boon to Ducati - who were keen to keep the price of the new bikes as competitive as possible.

Taglioni's delicate touch reached other areas, too. The Pantah's tubular steel trellis frame - and sensitive suspension - synced up to deliver steady as a rock handling. Its brakes came out of the top drawer, too. Brembo and Marzocchi had been sourced for the second to none cycle parts. Power output was impressive - without being awe-inspiring. The 600 made 58bhp - up from the 500's 52. However, those modest stats were aided by light weight. 415lb was all the 600 was shifting. As a result, 120mph was only just out of reach. And the shortfall was more than made up by the way it got to that speed. Surging acceleration had long been a Ducati hallmark. When the engineering excellence was aligned with typically Italianate styling, the Pantahs were on a sure road to success. A curvaceous half-fairing - and racy removable seat - lent poise and purpose to both front and rear ends. Ducati's dynamic duo had done their work well. In the wake of the Pantahs - both 500 and 600 - the firm was set fair to weather future economic squalls.

Suzuki GSX-R750

Suzuki GSX-R750 1980s Japanese sports bike

By no means every motorbike can claim to be the first of its kind. One that can is the Suzuki GSX-R750. So closely did its looks reflect those of Suzuki's '85 Endurance racer, that it was designated a 'race-replica'. Performance-wise, too, it did not fall far short. 145mph on the road was not for the faint-hearted!

The 'Gixer', then, was built to go fast. Corners were no obstacle to that mission statement. The GSX-R's light aluminium frame - and beefed-up forks - made it highly 'flickable'. Powering out of bends, though, needed the rev-needle firmly to the right. The GSX-R's power-band was uncompromising. Low-down 'grunt' was not its strong suit. Keep the revs up, though, and you were flying. When slowing could not be put off any longer, state of the art stoppers responded with relish.

The first GSX-R 750 was dubbed the 'slab-side'. That referenced the perpendicular lines of its design. Certainly, it communicated solidity - and a sense of purpose. So - single-handedly - the Suzuki GSX-R750 sparked the 'race-rep' revolution. After that, roadsters really were not ever the same again!

Hesketh V1000

Hesketh V1000 1980s British sports bike

The Hesketh V1000 might be viewed as a mechanical folly. In production terms, was all the time, effort and expense incurred worthwhile? Not from a financial viewpoint, certainly. Only a few of them were sold, after all. Then again, an architectural folly stands tall - boldly proclaiming itself a glorious failure. Perhaps the Hesketh V1000 should do someththe same.

It was not as if the losses would hit Hesketh hard. After all, Lord Hesketh funded the F1 team which bore his name. Along with some sponsors, of course. Certainly, the noble lord did not lack for ambition. His goal with the V1000 was nothing less than the resurrection of the British bike industry. And he might have succeeded. All things considered, the V1000 was far from a bad bike. It was stylish, for starters. And, when it came to the cycle parts, everything was tickety-boo there, too. The frame was made from nickel-plated steel tubing. Suspension was by Marzocchi. Disc brakes by Brembo. As you would expect, then, the V1000 handled and stopped with aplomb. So far, so good! Why, then, did the bike fail? Did it, perhaps, have an Achilles' heel?

Lord Hesketh's choice of engine designer could not be faulted. Weslake were at the top of their game. What they did not know about 4-strokes was not worth knowing. But, something went badly awry. When tested, the V-twin was noisy - and prone to leak oil. The gearbox was basic, at best. That said, the twin-cam set-up, with four valves per pot, gave 86bhp - and did so smoothly. Top speed was a cool 120mph. So, things certainly were not all bad. Sadly, though, there were more than enough 'issues', to sow doubts in buyers' minds. Which was a shame. Because Lord Hesketh's vision for the V1000 could have led to a good British bike. Maybe even a great one. In true folly fashion, though, it finished up mere whimsy. The Hesketh V1000 promised so much - but delivered so little. Anyway - hats off to his Lordship for trying!