share

Apollo

In 1963 Fabio Taglioni makes the prototype of the Apollo, first Ducati motorcycle ever with L engine configuration.

Built at the request of the US importer Joe Berliner, the Apollo was a first attempt at building a heavyweight cruiser specifically designed for US police departments and later offered to the broad public.

The 90°-L four-cylinder engine was the forefather of what was soon to become the milestone of Ducati’s technology - the L-twin engine.

The Apollo ranks among the most ambitious - albeit unsuccessful - projects developed by the Borgo Panigale marque during the first half of the Sixties.

The Apollo was sold to a Japanese collector in 1984. The Ducati Museum staff recovered it in 2000 and restored it to its original beauty in 2001.

In 2002, the Apollo went on parade at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, attracting great interest of motorcycle lovers.

Loris Capirossi had the opportunity of appreciating the sheer size of this behemoth bike at the beginning of his career with Ducati in 2003.

Giuseppe Montano, along with Fabio Taglioni, delivers the Apollo to Joe Berliner.

A rare brochure put out by the importer Berliner for the U.S. market illustrating the technical features and sales price of the Apollo.

 
 

In the history of Ducati, it would be fitting to define the Apollo as the link in the evolution of the Borgo Panigale motorcycle, as the missing link which explains why Ducati went from one-cylinder to two-cylinder motorcycles.

Let us tell the story of this mastodon. In 1963 Joe Berliner, the only official Ducati importer in the United States since 1958, and a man endowed with great decision-making power in Borgo Panigale, decided to begin the construction of a new 1200 cc motorcycle, initially conceived as a potential competitor to Harley-Davidson (which was used in those days by American police) and later as a motorcycle to present to customers across the ocean.

This task was without doubt difficult for Fabio Taglioni considering that, at the time in Ducati, the larger motorcycles were 350 cc. However, Taglioni did not give up and in a relatively short time Ducati was able to present the most ambitious project of its history: a 1257 cc motorcycle, 100 horsepower, weighing 270 kg and featuring an estimated speed of 135 mph, approximately 200 kmph. Among other things, Ducati still holds a sort of record for this project, as it was the only European company to conceive this type of motorcycle. 

The model was presented in the summer of 1963, when the then Managing Director Giuseppe Montano and Joe Berliner officialized the agreement with a handshake, immortalized by a celebrated photograph. Together with them there was the unfailing engineer, Fabio Taglioni, standing beside his new creation.

The choice of the name "Apollo" was not entirely accidental. In those days, the space race between Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts had just begun, therefore Apollo was chosen to somehow celebrate the astronautical splendor of the times. Actually, the motorcycle was not as lucky as the famous American spaceships.

The problems that marked the failure of the project were basically dictated by the weight and power of the engine, which were really excessive, and by the impossibility of finding materials in Italy which could resist the stress of the 90° L-shaped four-cylinder engine. It underwent rigorous tests, during which its main flaw became apparent. Most of the tests were carried out by Librenti, but Farné also gave it a try. His opinion is unequivocal: "It was like driving a truck. I didn't like it." In an attempt to make it roadworthy, the power was reduced from 80 hp to 65 and it was fitted with special tires, but the problems remained.

It was the end of a dream. the Apollo never got beyond the prototype stage and very few of them (only two in fact) were ever made. Today only one survives.
The motorcycle was left unused until 1984, the year in which the remains of the Berliner Motor Company were ceded to Domiracing Ltd. which, in that same year, sold the Apollo to a Japanese collector who, up to now had remained anonymous.

New Ducati enthusiasts must be asking themselves why "waste" time on a motorcycle that was never even produced.
The reason is simple. In some way, with the desire to compare the history of

our motorcycles to the history of mankind, the Apollo represents the "fossil" of the modern Ducati two-cylinder engine.
In fact, in 1968, Taglioni decided to rediscover his project so hastily put aside, by creating the initiator of today's Ducati production: the Gran Prix 500 cc two-cylinder engine with taper gear distribution, born for competitions when Ducati decided to make its comeback to the world of racing.

Therefore, we feel that it is our duty to remember the Apollo not just for the rarity of the object (as far as we know the model that for a time was in exposition in the Museum is the only one existing in the world), but also for its importance with regard to modern Ducati's, especially the more recent Superbikes.

Technical specification

  • ENGINE

  • TRANSMISSION

  • CHASSIS

Subscribe to the newsletter

By entering your email address, you will be kept updated about Ducati innovations and promotions. You can complete your registration and create your profile on Ducati.com at any time to access all of the functions.
I confirm that I have read the information pursuant to Art. 13, Legislative Decree 196/2003 and the attached text pursuant to Art. 7 of the Privacy Code and

I agree to the use of my email address for the purposes indicated therein

Enter your e-mail address