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History of the Ducati factory

Photo of Villa Lydia in Via Guidotti. The building was the first Ducati factory from 1931 to 1935

Laying the cornerstone of the Borgo Panigale factory, 1 June 1935

Photo of the first version of the Borgo Panigale factory in 1936

A lovely evening photo of the Via Emilia entrance

Model showing expansion of Ducati factories, 1942

 
 

Borgo Panigale: what was once just a grouping of farms and country houses is now a thriving neighbourhood in the western suburbs of Bologna. The town began growing and becoming more distinguished back in 1935 when the Cavalieri Ducati brothers, Adriano, Bruno and Marcello, began building the Ducati Factory. Since 1946, this large factory is known as the home of the Reds of Borgo Panigale... But, by looking back at the history of Ducati, one can learn that the company was not really born in Borgo Panigale.

Not everyone knows that the origins of Ducati are in the heart of Bologna. The company, Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati (Ducati's original name), was founded on July 4th, 1926. The first headquarters were in the centre of town, in Via Collegio di Spagna 9, right next door to the Collegio di Spagna itself, an institute for Spanish students in Bologna. The three Ducati brothers rented three rooms on the ground floor to start their business while their initial workshop was located in the basement of their family's villa, Villa Lydia, in Viale Guidotti, 51.

Their business grew exponentially and in 1931, the Ducati brothers had to expand their workshop in Villa Lydia, transforming it into the first Ducati factory. It was at this time that Adriano decided to expand the production of electronic condensers to also include complete radio equipment.

Eventually Villa Lydia and the offices in the centre of Bologna were too small for Ducati and the brothers decided to move their operations to Borgo Panigale. The first stone of the Borgo Panigale factory was placed on June 1, 1935.

When the Borgo Panigale offices were opened, the production grew even more and in those years, Ducati was one of the most advanced and well-organised companies in Bologna, with more than 3500 total employees.

The quality of Ducati wasn't only based on the perfection of its products, but also on the high level of services provided to its employees; there were two cafeterias, one for the employees and one for the middle and top managers, two reading rooms, a professional school, two tennis courts and a volleyball court.

Ducati was a real miniature city!
Bruno Cavalieri Ducati created his mini city on a 120,000 square metre area along the Via Emilia. At the time, the Via Emilia was the only street that easily connected North and Central Italy and deliveries from the Borgo Panigale factory could be made to as far as Genoa, Florence and Milan in a half days time.

In 1938, Ducati opened two new plants, in Bazzano and Crespellano, two towns not far from Borgo Panigale that allowed the company to begin production in the optical sector. The company grew and grew so much that Bruno Ducati even began to study how to further amplify the Borgo Panigale factory itself.

Between 1937 and 1942 many famous people visited the factory including Umberto II, the king's son, Benito Mussolini, the leader of the fascist government (who came to Ducati on October 7, 1941) and King Vittorio Emanuele III (who came to Ducati in 1942). What with all of these important visits, Ducati received authorisation to expand the company again. The expansion was known as "Plant 2" and would have increased the total number of employees to 7000 people.

The planned expansion would have included a new administrative area along Via Emilia, four new rectangular buildings for employees and a new square production plant (that is the current Ducati Motor main office). The plans for expansion also included additional employees services like a movie theatre and a nursery school.
Building began in the spring of 1942 but, when Italy entered World War II, it was impossible to continue. In fact, when the truce was signed in September 1943 and the factory was taken over by German troops, the work was yet to be completed. From there things went from bad to worse: WWII bombing destroyed the Ducati factory on October 12, 1944.

At the end of WWII, in May 1945, Ducati began working to restore and rebuild the factory, starting with a first phase to clear out the debris left by the bombing. Eventually, the two additional plants in Crespellano and Bazzano were sold in 1948, the same year that the Ducati brothers left the company.

 

In 1954, while the company was under state control, Ducati production was split into two parts: Ducati Elettrotecnica and Ducati Meccanica.

Ducati Meccanica began producing diesel engines and Triumph Tr4 vehicles and needed to expand the structure of the factory to make room for these activities.
Between 1969 and 1973 the expansions included a new production plant for the workers that prepared the aluminium and steel parts (currently the Ducati motorcycle engine and assembly lines) and a large employee parking lot that was surrounded by a small track used to test the racing and production motorcycles.

As years passed, the work continued with the demolition of an old building to make space for a new parking lot for Ducati suppliers. The building that was demolished had a real treasure inside: it was the storage space for the entire archive of Ducati's written history, including the technical designs of all of the Ducati motorcycles produced. Luckily, some people from the technical office, including Gigi Mengoli, the current President of the Ducati Foundation, worked to save the archive from possible destruction.

When TPG bought Ducati in 1996, the original test track was closed and replaced by a new and safer testing track within the production areas.

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