Ducati designer Fabio Taglioni began developing a 90-degree V-twin in the late sixties, and prototypes were unveiled at the Milan Show in 1970. First developed as a 500cc engine, a 750cc variation emerged soon after.
After getting off to a slow start in development, the 750 proved its mettle in elite competition when Englishman Paul Smart and Ducati teammate Bruno Spaggiari took first and second in the 1972 Imola 200.
Not wanting to lose the glow of Smart’s victory on the sales floor, Ducati quickly launched the 750 SuperSport Imola Replica. With the displacement race in full force, Ducati brought an 846cc version of their V-twin to the Barcelona 24 hour endurance race and won. The street version, called the 860GT, was introduced in 1975, and that was soon followed by the introduction of the 900 SuperSport.
Both the 900 and 750 SuperSports used the unique Tagilioni-designed desmodromic valve train that is shared among these variants of his 90-degree V-twin. The system eliminates valve springs by using a shaft-drive, bevel-gear mechanical linkage to close and open the valves. This enabled the Ducati V-twins to rev higher and last longer than a comparable bikes with valve springs by eliminating the possibility of valve spring breakage and valve “float” at high rpm.
The 750cc version of the SuperSport produced approximately 65 horsepower at 8,500 rpm, while the Ducati 900 SuperSport would deliver about 79 horsepower at 7,000 rpm. Both were equipped with five speed transmissions and wet, multiplate clutches to deliver the horsepower to the rear wheel via metallic chain drive.
The twin included angle between the cylinders is an important design feature, even though it seems to take up a lot of room in the frame. The benefit it brings is excellent primary balance, which minimizes engine vibration—to the benefit of the rider comfort and the machine in terms of longevity.
Both models featured rigid frames, relatively long wheel base, advanced suspensions and disc brakes that gave the bikes superior road holding and handling. Those characteristics combined with relatively light weight made them more than competitive as race bikes against multi-cylinder opponents with more horsepower. They continued through 1981, when they were replaced by the S2 that only survived through 1984, and the Mille S2 through 1986 – the last of the bevel-gear driven camshaft motorcycles.
On the street, the 900 and 750 SuperSports became legendary in their own time – transforming them into history-making motorcycles.