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August 16th, 2016

Necessity is the mother of Invention, and with invention comes a new way of life. Such is the story of the Ducati Scrambler, which came to life during the early 60s as the vision of one man who saw the need for an off-road / on-road motorcycle in the American market.

We know the Ducati Scrambler today as a 803cc, twin-cylinder, 75bhp motorcycle that has fuel injection, upside down forks, ABS and light aluminium wheels, but at the start, things were rather rudimentary, only to cover the bare necessities.

Joe Berliner with Fabio Taglioni

Joe Berliner (right) with Fabio Taglioni (left)

Joe Berliner, owner of American firm Berliner Motor Corporation was a rather influential man when it came to motorcycles in United States. His company was the largest importer of European motorcycles. Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Matchless, Norton, Sachs and Zündapp were all imported and distributed through America by this very company between the 50s and the 80s. Being the sole distributors of many brands, Joe Berliner and his company had a vast influence over European manufacturers who wanted to sell their products in America. He was the sole voice of the massive American market that he catered to, and thus has his own demands to an extent where Berliner had a strong (sometimes forceful) say in what European manufacturers made.

But Joe Berliner was not forceful because he could. He understood the American market thoroughly and thus demanded for what was absolutely needed in it for better consumption. During the early 60s, Joe saw a strong demand for a motorcycle that could reflect to the “Free American Spirit”. A motorcycle that could be ridden between traffic in the city, while having the complete freedom to go out with confidence into the rugged countryside. He took his idea to Borgo Panigale and demanded the Italian company to put together something special.

The Ducati Scrambler was born from the skeleton of a Ducati Diana. It used the “narrow case” engine of the 250 Diana with slightly altered frames and longer travel suspensions to make it more versatile towards off-road use. The 250 Scrambler was an instant hit in the American market, and soon the European market after their debut in 1962. Its 30bhp air-cooled single cylinder engine and a light body meant that it would do 160kmph on the straights while having no problems tackling the dirt. Between 1962 and 1968 the same “narrow case” 250cc engine was used to create several variants of the Scrambler, with the exception of the Scrambler 350 which was introduced in 1967.

Ducati Scrambler OHC 1962 Left Side Profile

The first series of upgrades to the Ducati Scrambler came in 1970 with the introduction of the “Wide Case” single cylinder engines. As it goes with most things made by Ducati, the Wide Case engines used technology derived from the company’s racing motorcycles. With the new engines came a wider variety of Scramblers that ranged from the 125cc engine that was then used in Grand Prix races all the way upto the Scrambler 450 which was the largest ever bevel drive single cylinder engine produced by Ducati. In 1970, the Scrambler Desmo R/T 450 was the first on/off motorcycle Ducati introduced with their desmodromic valve system, a technology the company still uses in all of their engines.

Ducati Scrambler 125 250 OHC 1965

Since the first Scrambler came out 54-years ago and today, the core embodiment of the Italian brand’s marque is still the same. While the modern-era Ducati Scrambler might have grown in size and equipment it still straddles on the core philosophies that it’s predecessors created almost five decades ago. Today these old Scramblers are still valued as one of the highly collectable Ducati motorcycles for their smooth engine, superb handling, frame design and a wonderfully centred riding position. But more important than everything else, the original Scrambers were the ones that brought forth a completely new outlook to motorcycling.

Ducati 450 Scrambler

Image credits: Ducati, Motorpad.it, Motorcyclespecs. Cover image: Guerry & Prat images

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