Long before the glorious, and race winning Ducati vee-twins hit the streets in 1972, Ducati was a manufacturer of traditional single cylinder street and sport/race bikes. Some were utilitarian, others with chassis and engines honed to win races like the post-World War II Moto Giro Italia.

Ducati had not built any motorcycles before World War II. Starting with the 50cc Cucciolo in 1946, for about 25 years Ducati focused on sporting and utilitarian single cylinder bikes up to 350 cc’s, then moved up to 750cc V-Twins in 1972. Their focus before the War was electrical devices like condensers, radios, shavers, calculators and cameras, even refrigeration equipment. Transforming bicycles into motorcycles, filling the needs of the Italian population, getting them to work after the devastation of World War II is what drove Ducati to its success in motorcycle manufacturing.

With the 1966 model year, Ducati made the move to design machines with the off-road look popular by the mid-1960’s. This “narrow case” 250 was derived from the Diana street bike. Hence it was not a serious contender in scrambles or dirt track racing events but offered a trim performance look then popular in Europe, England and the United States. In 1972 the much more potent RT450, largely designed for the U.S. market, came available. The RT, for Road & Track, was designed at the request of the U.S. distributor, Berliner. To prove its mettle the RT 450 was entered in the 1971 International Six Days Trial and the Italian team returned home with several medals. Testing the “scrambler” styling theme again for the 2015 model year, Ducati successfully resurrected the theme in several displacement categories and trim levels.

This 250 scrambler is among interesting “bevel drive” Ducatis on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum including a great early 900SS. There’s also a radical Ducati MH900evoluzione designed by Pierre Terblanche in honor of the Ducati Mike Hailwood win at the Isle of Man Senior TT in 1978.

    • Engine: Single Cylinder Four-Stroke
    • Type: Air-cooled, Desmodromic** OHC
    • Ignition: Battery & Points
    • Carburetor: 29mm Dell’Orto
    • Bore & Stroke: 74mm x 57.8mm
    • Lubrication: Wet Sump
    • Displacement: 249cc’s
    • Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
    • Horsepower: 18HP
    • Starting: Kick Starter
    • Exhaust: Straight Pipe, Stock
    • Transmission: 5-Speed
    • Clutch: Multi-plate, Wet
    • Final Drive: Chain
    • Frame: Single Down Tube to Double Cradle
    • Suspension: Hydraulic Fork, Swingarm, Shocks
    • Brakes: 180mm Drum / 160mm Drum
    • Wheels / Tires: 3.50” x 19″ / 4.00″ x 18″
    • Wheelbase: 52 Inches
    • Top Speed: 78mph
    • Weight: 305 Pounds

**Desmodromic valve trains use two cam lobes to control opening and closing of each valve; one cam lobe opens the valve, the second cam lobe forces the valve shut. Most engines use one cam lobe to open the valve, but a coil spring to close it.

6 replies
  1. Bennie E Howard
    Bennie E Howard says:

    Thank you. I really enjoy the motorcycle history and pictures. For some reason this article reminded me of the Bultaco. In about 1968 or 69 I was watching a cross country motorcycle race. A friend won the race on a Bultaco. He missed seeing the checkered flag and did an extra lap. By the time he got back to the finish line he was so exhausted he could not hold his Bultaco up while people were congratulating him. I ask Sid if he wanted me to take his bike to his pick-up. Well that was my first on a Bultaco and i unintentally popped a wheelie in the dirt taking off.but i got it to his pick-up without laying it down . I was impressed with the power. I know, now days the dirt bikes are a lot more powerful and i am just an ole geezer glider riding a GL1800. Thanks again for the motorcycle history lessons that rattles memories in my head.

  2. Bob Fox
    Bob Fox says:

    Nice looking bike. I had a BSA 250cc I iced raced and short tracked in Michigan in the early 60’s. This bike reminds me of that one. Love the horn, nice touch.
    Thanks for pic

  3. Bob Zeliff
    Bob Zeliff says:

    I have long been a fan of Ducati Singles. I would love to own or at least ride a Diana.
    I think they are bueatiful, so simple, so sparse and such great design.

  4. Roger
    Roger says:

    Please revise. This bike does NOT have desmo valve gear, which Ducati didn’t put on their singles until the early 1970’s. Prior to the v-twins, they also made a 450cc single – all three displacements (250, 350, 450) were ultimately produced with desmo valve gear.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Roger, Bob, Bob and Bennie,

      Thanks for your comments, and Roger, for your correction. This 250 is a bevel drive, but does not have desmodromic valve actuation. Not all bevel drive Ducati were Desmos, including some of the V-Twins.

  5. Tom Carter
    Tom Carter says:

    The story seems to imply that 1966 was the first year of the Scrambler. Since I have a restored 1964 250 Scrambler, I think they were around in 1964, for some reason I thought maybe even before, but maybe not. I worked in a Ducati dealership in the early 60’s and we sold 3 1964 models. I got one, my best friend bought one and I am not sure who got the other. The restored bike I have is the one that belonged to my friend.


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