Speak of the name “Ducati” and there is no ambiguity to what they build. Their blood red thoroughbreds reek of the passion they bring to the motorcycling world.
Truth is, the Italian icon found their calling, as in building motorcycles, only after WWII. They were producing radios, parts of radios and even artillery shells prior to that.
But did you know that Ducati built a Formula One engine? No, that’s not misinformation. Or typo.
The post-war era was tough on many companies other than those on American soil. Ducati’s factory was bombed to smithereens in 1944. All they had to go on with was Aldo Farinelli’sCucuiolo (puppy) engine. So, Ducati had to find some money and they did so by trying on almost anything.
However, the car industry was starting to boom so they put together a car prototype called the DU4 in 1946. It didn’t work, putting Ducati out of the automotive business for the next 14 years.
In 1960, the deaths of three prominent drivers pushed the Formula One organizers to force manufacturers to downsize their engine sizes from 2500cc to 1500cc, to curb the speeds of their cars. This change appealed to the legendary Ducati engineer Fabio Taglioni. He went ahead and worked on an engine which he thought may do well in Formula One.
He came up with a 1500cc V8 featuring his signature desmodromic valve actuation. It engine produced 170 hp, which was a big deal back then.
At the same time, the OSCA-Maserati Formula One team was looking for a new engine. But they had been losing so much money that they could not afford Ducati’s F1 engine. It’s thus that the Ducati F1 engine was never produced in volume, and almost lost in history.