The original Ducati Scrambler was introduced in 1962 for the American market. They are considered one of the most iconic motorcycles of the 1960’s.
First editions were available as a 250cc or a 350cc. The Mark II models which were introduced in 1970 had a brand new engine and frame design and were available as 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 450cc.
In much the same way as we have a motorcycle importer to thank for the Laverda Jota, it was a Ducati importer who came up with the design of the original Ducati Scrambler.
The American Influence
Joseph and Michael Berliner ran the Berliner Motor Corporation which was a motorcycle importer based in New York.
As well as Ducati motorcycles, they also imported bikes from Zundapp, Norton, Matchless and Moto Guzzi.
The Berliner brothers (originally from Hungary) were tough cookies. They had survived the holocaust, first being forced into slave labour working as engineers under the German SS and then being sent to the infamous Auschwitz camp.
Their father was an Hungarian WWI hero and outspoken anti-communist so the brothers feared Russian reprisals if they returned home. They fled to America shortly after the war had ended in Europe.
The brothers had a lot of influence over the European motorcycle companies they imported from. Due to the large number of sales they made the European manufacturers bent over backward to keep them happy.
As well as coming up with the design work for the original Ducati Scrambler classic looks, Joseph also pushed hard for the creation of the Norton Atlas for the American market. He was also heavily involved in the failed Ducati Berlinger Apollo project for the American motorcycle Police market.
The Scrambler was an instant hit. Although designed for the American market it proved to be successful in Europe too and is often cited as the motorcycle that merged North America and European styling.
Why it was such a hit can’t be found with a single reason but rather the result of getting lots of small things correct and at the right time.
- Its sat up riding position and low centre of gravity made it ideal for new riders who were attracted to its styling.
- The bright colours gave it a thoroughly modern look but the styling was classic meaning it attracted both young new riders as well as the older more experienced crowd.
- The engine gave a smooth ride and the frame performed really well for those who did venture onto the dirt tracks.
- Scrambler styling was already becoming fashionable thanks to bikes like the Honda CL72.
1962 Original Ducati 250cc Scrambler
Although named and marketed as a Scrambler, it was actually designed more for the road than dirt – a bit like the modern Ducati Scrambler.
Ducati advertised it as a four in one motorcycle. They claimed that with a few changes – tyres, handlebars and exhaust – you could transfer your scrambler styled street bike into either a road racer, a short tracker or a full blown enduro.
Produced from 1962, this first Ducati Scrambler classic engine was basically a Monza slim case engine that had been tricked up. The Monza was a little known 250cc specifically built for the UK market, again at the behest of an influential importer – Kings Motorcycles of Oxford.
For the Scrambler the narrow case engine had an improved high compression four ring piston, improved camshaft and a larger carburettor. It had a 4 speed gearbox and kicked out 30bhp.
Incidentally, this engine known as the Type B would be used in The Ducati Diana MKIII which was a huge success for Ducati in America.
The Ducati Scrambler classic had a 6 volt electric system with a flywheel magneto. There was no battery and the lighting was poor.
The exhaust was also nothing more than a 36mm straight thru pipe, see image above.
1964 250cc Ducati Scrambler
In 1964 The Ducati Scrambler kept the same narrow case engine but got a cosmetic update. These included a new Giuliari Scrambler saddle and a lower fuel tank similar in design to the Diana. Folding footpads were updated with a more practical rubber covering.
1965 250cc Ducati Scrambler
The gearbox was updated to a 5 speed and the following year the 250 Scrambler got fork gaiters, a skid plate and a high rise exhaust.
This 1965 released Scrambler would be the last to use the narrow case engine.
1967 350cc Ducati Scrambler
This MKII was the first to use the new Scrambler engine and frame. Like most Ducati engineering innovations and improvements, these new modifications were a direct result of Ducati’s race track exploits.
This and future Scramblers would be known as the wide case models due to the wider engine casing.
The 350cc Scrambler would remain available until 1975.
1968 250cc Ducati Scrambler
This 250cc Scrambler with the new wide case engine is generally regarded as the smoothest of all the original Ducati Scramblers. Like the new 350cc, it was available until 1975.
1969 450cc Ducati Scrambler
The largest of all the original Ducati Scramblers. The frame was strengthened to cope with the additional power. The 450cc Scrambler would survive until 1976. It was known and sold as the Jupiter in America but didn’t sell well.
1970 125cc Ducati Scrambler
1970 saw the release of the smallest Scrambler. This 125cc option sold poorly with less than 200 sales worldwide and was dropped the following year.
1970 Desmo R/T Scrambler 350cc & 450cc
These was released in America as a genuine off road motorcycles with an option to purchase on road parts such as a lighting kit as an extra. The R/T was fitted with the Desmo engine.
R/T stands for road/trail and was again the brainchild of the Berlinger company.
Desert racer Doug McClure had won the Baja 500 in 1969 on a 350cc Ducati Desmo Scrambler. The win prompted the Berliner Bros. to push for a 450cc genuine off road scrambler capable of competing with the all conquering BSA 441 Victor.
Although a powerful scrambler – and it certainly looks a capable off roader – poor handling made them unattractive to the weekend desert racer. It couldn’t compete with the emerging 2 strokes and production ended in 1971.
1971 And Onward
In 74 there was a brief appearance of a 239cc model built to beat some tax rule in France. Apart from that the 250, 350 and 450 Scramblers continued on with the odd update now and then.
In 1975 the 250 and 350 were dropped.
The 450cc continued on for another year until finally, the last of the original Scramblers rolled of the production line in 76.
By the mid seventies the old single cylinder 4 stroke engine was costing almost as much to manufacture as a twin cylinder engine. Together with the emergence of the first of the Japanese Superbikes, Ducati decided they had bigger fish to fry.
Original Ducati Scrambler Value
As only a few hundred of the Desmo R/T Scramblers were sold these seem to be appreciating quicker than the other models. This is particularly true in Europe where they proved to be more popular than in America. I have found several for sale at around £15,000
CycleTrader have several 1968 350cc Scramblers for sale in America with prices from $8995 to $9995.
At the time of writing the UK’s Car and Classic has this 1969 250cc Scrambler for sale priced at £5000
They also have an award winning 1969 Scrambler available for £6,500 and the seller is throwing in the 1st place trophy it was recently awarded at the Newark classic bike show.
Slim case model (pre 1967) prices vary wildly. I have found a 1965 250cc model unrestored but ready to ride away for as little as $3000 in California and the same model in as new condition in San Fransisco for $7745.
An original Ducati Scrambler makes an ideal entry level to the classic bike world. Parts are generally plentiful and can be found both sides of the Atlantic.
The New Ducati Scrambler
In 2015 Ducati released the new Scrambler using the old Monster V twin engines. These retro Scramblers weren’t a copy of the originals but more a what if. As in…..
What would the original Ducati Scrambler have evolved into if a new model had continued to be released at regular intervals?
Just like the original Ducati Scrambler, the new model wasn’t really designed for the dirt tracks. Not until, like the original, demand for a Scrambler with genuine off road capabilities grew and they released the Desert Sled.