It’s certainly the most important Ducati in America and, really, might be the most important Ducati of all (behind only perhaps Paul Smart’s ’72 Imola winner), since it was the V-twin, this very bike, that really put the Italian company on the map in the US and helped establish the worldwide performance reputation still enjoyed by the company.
And you can own it if you’re willing to hit the Buy It Now button on eBay, provided you’re approved to spend $1 million. All the better if you don’t need any approval. Bidding pushed past $100,000 on the first day, and, as of this writing, it was knocking on $130K. See the listing here as long as it’s live.
Is the bike worth it? Well, there is no other Ducati, perhaps no other motorcycle, that was both so successfully campaigned and so thoroughly and expertly developed while also being nearly molecularly documented publicly in the immortal pages of Cycle magazine. How “original” does this bike remain, and what exactly does “original” mean on a racer like this?
I contacted Neilson via email and he shared his comments from ductalk.com: “Curiosity about what’s in there is right on the mark—I’d like to know too, and I ain’t even a bidder. The history—or provenance—of any creature that ever raced is such a frangible thing, and I can tell you that while Phil and I had it, it was never the same for two races in a row. Sometimes it wasn’t the same from the beginning of a weekend to the end. For example: Old Blue’s last race with us was the Riverside National in the fall of 1977. It blew the crankshaft bearings during qualifying on Saturday: an all-nighter for Phil and me, since there was a lot of damage. Phil wasn’t completely confident that our Webster transmission had escaped unscathed, so we replaced it with a nice, fresh, stock transmission out of my (or Phil’s) spare 750SS, and that’s how it raced the next (and Old Blue’s last) day.”
Neilson sent a screen grab from his phone, a photo taken probably the last time the bike was publicly displayed, at Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio in 2005.
The last time the bike ever ran at the track was documented in the September 1997 issue of Cycle World. In “Hot Rod Reunion” by Phil Schilling and “Ode to Old Blue” by Cook Neilson, the gents recounted their trip back to Daytona to run the bike and hear its great booms echo off the banking 20 years after running in anger. Read the full feature in a free preview of CW’s COVER TO COVER archive service.