PARTS & CRAFTS. A Beautiful Ducati 860GT Racer From Speed Craft Co.
Written by Martin Hodgson.
Dreams can’t be forced, they evolve and as much as we might hope that the object of our desire appears instantly before us it rarely if ever eventuates. Instead dreams take a series of twists and turns and only time reveals if they will live up to all we had hoped for; too often we awake disappointed. So to ensure total satisfaction Gregg Miner, Co-Founder of Speed Craft Co, decided to control his subconscious trance and lay his hands on mechanical metal. From the bare bones of a 1974 Ducati 860 GT comes this Bologna beautiful cafe racer crafted in Southern California.
Gregg’s always been building something, tinkering away here and there or making odds and ends. But when it came to building his ultimate motorcycle he took on a different approach “I wanted to do something special, no rush, no pre-set ideas, just build as it came to me, my dream bike. Also, not something everyone else is doing or current trend,” explains the self-confessed grease monkey. So he selected the Ducati 860 GT designed by noted car stylist Giorgio Giugiaro (creator of the original VW Rabbit/Golf, the DeLorean and many others) that features the legendary mechanical masterpiece that is a bevel drive twin.
While the 860 appeared to have much in common with many of the big touring Dukes of the time it fell down in one particular area. While other models would find a line in the corner and run like on rails through the bend the 860 would start to shake its head. So Gregg has put in an enormous amount of work into the chassis and suspension with the help of James Banke. The rear swingarm is a full custom job, ditching the twin shock setup for a modern mono-shock design. Crafted from high-end chromoly the trellis style bracing even matches the Taglioni era frame.
That frame has been smoothed out to perfection with no stone left unturned in creating the ultimate Ducati chassis. The subframe section has been shortened so a seat hugging rear hoop could be fitted and even this piece was done in superior chromoly. To really get the handling up to spec the old forks have been ditched for newer Bologna bits and clamped with a custom machined upper triple. Vortex clip-ons and a modern cross drilled disc with Brembo caliper all ensure control is returned back to Gregg’s hands. While new Sun rims laced to the original hubs get wrapped in Bridgestone Battlax rubber for classic looks with gluey grip.
The body work makes further improvements on the factory 860 GT offering with cleaner lines and sans any of the questionable styling additions. The distinctive Ducati tank was the first to be hit with the grinder and the entire lower sections awkward lines removed. In their place is a neat bevelled edge before the whole thing was straightened like an arrow and tested for a perfect seal. The tail section began life as a mid ’70s cafe racer piece that has been thoroughly customised for the job and matched to the GT’s distinctive lines.
The extensive paint work has been taken care of by one of the best in the business, the man behind Travis Pastrana’s custom lids, Chris Wood at Airtrix. The entire frame and swingarm has been coated in electric blue, allowing the custom work to get the attention it deserves. The tank and tail section gets lashed with the same blue that is broken up by classic Ducati silver from the period. The suspension components, yokes and wheels are finished in a muted black, while the custom trimmed leather seat gets the same colouring for perfect continuity.
On the surface the engine is just another Ducati 90° L-Twin; but boy is it so much more, essentially being two 450cc single top halves sharing a common crankcase. Combining two singles gives the engine effortless torque throughout the rev range and added with the viewable bevel drive its mechanical magnificence! To ensure years of reliable riding the engine has been totally rebuilt before getting a polish and paint. While velocity stacks and a custom one-off BMS GT exhaust deliver a soundtrack to die for.
Gregg has kept the rest of the cafe build deliberately minimal and the 860 deserves such treatment, the engine and chassis don’t need accessorising to look incredible. Shifting gears and banging down on the back brake is now taken care of thanks to custom machined rearsets. While up on the bars it’s absolutely clutter free with just a modern master cylinder and levers for the brake and clutch. Lighting too is kept simple, the front big single headlight is absolutely perfect for the period and a small strip LED taillight finishes the job.
The Ducati 860 GT is fast becoming a classic, perhaps only the original styling preventing that status arriving earlier. All of which means many will be hidden away in collections for years to come and very few modified. But with the help of Quickturn Cycle, Blake’s Motorsports and Bevel Heaven, Gregg has created a cafe racer that truly is a rolling example of what dreams are made of. And with it recently taking out “Best European” at the One Moto Show in Portland it’s clear this dream machine has captured more than one imagination!