When first developed in the 1970s, the Super Sport was the fastest and best Ducati available. After the original 750 machine set the tone, it passed the torch to the 900SS which was involved in one of Ducati’s most significant victories.
Mike Hailwood made one of the most famous motorsport comebacks in history when he drove his red and green machine to TT glory in 1978, which consequently set Ducati on the map in a way they had never really dreamed of before. It was this success that also gleaned from their many failures that followed in the ’80s and outlived most of those involved in the event.
Legendary Original 750 Super Sport
Originally offered as a production version of the bike that won the Imola 200 in 1972, it was really designed by riders, for riders.
Only around 400 of these hand-built machines were made, Ducati quickly shifted production to the more powerful 900s and began selling them in large numbers.
Replica Mike Hailwood
After leading his 900SS to victory in the 1978 Isle of Man TT, he also made history, making an incredible comeback.
Ducati was quick to capitalize on this particular story, releasing a replica the following year that was reportedly made in limited numbers. This was not really the case due to the demand for these motorcycles, unlike the previous 750 version, and they were made until the mid-1980s when Ducati was finally sold to Cagiva.
Relaunched as SuperSport
After being sold to Cagiva, this was always going to be one of the role models they persisted with. It was cleverly renamed SuperSport, as it was no longer the top-of-the-range model and was to be marketed as a mid-range machine.
The first effort was to be based on the 750 F1 and get its engine from the ill-fated Paso 750, a motorcycle that didn’t gain too many fans during its production.
First generation 750 A Flop
Although the name SS has been around since the 70s and has an incredible history, these bikes from the late 80s and early 90s are widely regarded as the 1st generation. Ducati has a complicated history and has changed hands several times, so this awkward nomenclature is actually not that surprising.
What was surprising was the combination of a chassis that had way too much flex and an already unreliable motor for this SS nameplate comeback, it was to say the least a start (or restart) of bad omen and unless you are ready for an expensive rebuild instead avoid those first 750 bikes.
Pantah to the rescue
After tripping over the first hurdle, Cagiva quickly sorted things out by stiffening the frame and giving the bike the 900cc engine it desperately needed; the now famous Pantah 900.
This turned out to be a pivotal moment in SS history as the bike started to sell well, well enough that they began to expand the model range.
Mass expansion in the 1990s
In all fairness, this was probably one of their many missteps. In an effort to seduce an even wider audience, they decided in their infinite wisdom to make the bike with no less than 5 engines, from the 350 to the 900.
All of this served to dilute their market, selling fewer different bikes rather than more bigger and clearly better bikes.
The first generation ends as Ducati hits the weeds
In 1996 Ducati changed hands again, and once again the SS found itself in the limelight for the wrong reasons, with a model line that made no sense to anyone, let alone their new owners.
Fortunately, the baby was not thrown out with the bathwater, and it was decided that in 1999 the bike would undergo a drastic makeover and enter a second generation with the 750 and 900cc engines retained.
Second stanza unloved
This was Pierre Terblanche’s first design, and he unilaterally encountered contempt, and in some cases hatred.
Once again the SS met with overwhelmingly negative reviews, this time all related to the divisive style. At this point it was a proven running gear, although dated, that would all change by 2003.
Most advanced air-cooled twin
Three new (types of) engines were under development for various models, all three were air-cooled v-twins and all three would find their way into the now economical SS.
The 620 was the smallest Ducati engine currently available, had a fairly high compression ratio and produced a respectable 60 horsepower. The 800 had an equally high compression ratio and put out a solid 74 horsepower, but the main attraction was the new 1000cc v-twin. It was the real deal, making 86 horsepower. It was good for a top speed of 140mph, and the flat torque curve kept you entertained at any speed.
End of production around 2007
Regardless of the quality of the engines and equipment, most people erred on the ‘hate’ side of the ‘like it’ or ‘hate it’ style and sales were nowhere near where Ducati and their (believe it or not) new owners, wanted them to be.
If you’re on the love side, these bikes offer great value in the used market, by far the most reliable Ducatis of the day.
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