The Ducati Paso was the first Ducati designed by Massimo Tamburini and the first bike produced under the new Cagiva ownership. The Paso is often overlooked but if you check the history, this was the revolutionary start of a new breed of Ducati’s that would soon dominate the road and track.
While it only had a short run, if Massimo Tamburini hadn’t been able to iron out his design with the Ducati Paso, who knows if the race winning Ducati’s of the following years would even exist.
Let’s start at the beginning and look at how the Ducati Paso 750 came to be.
Ducati Paso 750 and Massimo Tamburini
Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglione were the owners of Cagiva and in 1985 they purchased Ducati, which would save them from extinction. Cagiva had been using Ducati’s V-twin engines in their own line of bikes so they knew the capabilities and strengths that were produced in Ducati’s workshops.
The Pantah engine was also used by Bimota for the DB1, which made the bike the first all Italian Bimota.
Cagiva wanted to switch up the Ducati lineup, bring some excitement back to the bikes and kickstart something spectacular for both the road and track. The Ducati 851 superbike would be the fruits of the labor, followed by the incredible 888 and later 916; before all of that however, there was the Paso 750.
The bulk of the Paso design was the work of Massimo Tamburini, who would later design the incredible Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta F4 750.
Massimo Tamburini had just parted ways with Bimota after being a co-founder and chief designer of the small Italian manufacturer, and so much of the Paso’s design was owed to the Bimota DB1.
Legendary racer Renzo Pasolini was Tamburini’s friend and unfortunately the Italian racer was killed alongside Jarno Saarinen in a horrendous crash at the 1973 Italian Grand Prix. Tamburini subsequently went on to name the new bike after Pasolini’s nickname hence the name ‘Paso’.
The engine was based on the 750cc Pantah which had been designed by Ducati engineer Dr. Taglioni; the engine consisted of key features of belt-driven overhead cams and the famed desmodromic valve operation.
It was actually modified from the unit in the 750 F1 Sport, the rear cylinder was reversed which meant the intakes could be paired and fed by a car-style Weber twin-choke carb which fitted between the ‘V’ of the twin cylinders.
There was a large air box under the gas tank, oil coolers on each side of the engine, and vents in the fairing which was intended to stop the fully enclosed engine from overheating.
The headers which exited in front and behind the engine were connected to dual mufflers via a diamond shaped collector box and that split the exiting exhaust evenly through both pipes. It was a nifty and clever design.
The motor fitted it into a new cantilever frame made from square-section chrome-moly steel tubing. A lower cradle meant easy access to the engine for servicing, this was quite the change from having to remove the engine for work as other Ducati’s of the time required.
It was one of the most balanced Ducati chassis ever made which was helped by Marzocchi front forks, Ohlins rear suspension and a 16” front wheel. A steep 25° rake matched to a more conservative 4.1” trail provided sharp handling and confidence inspiring stability. Brembo disc brakes provided the stopping power.
The bodywork was the true revolutionary design with a swooping all enclosed fairing with only vents noticeable, to allow the “Controlled Air Flow” system along with the oil coolers on the sides.
The engine was tuned to a rate of 10:1 compression. It offered up 72hp @ 7,900rpm and a top speed of 131mph.
With all that work, thought out design and Cagiva’s belief and investment in reviving Ducati, how did the Paso 750 perform upon its release? Let’s take a look.
Ducati Paso Performance
The Ducati Paso 750 was first shown at the Milan Motorcycle show in late 1985. It would be 1986 before its production release and the short run would only last until 1988.
Only 4,863 Paso 750’s are said to have been sold and only 9,000 models of the whole Paso range are said to have been produced.
The bike wasn’t the hit Ducati needed and while Cagiva had believed in Tamburini’s work, the Paso 750 didn’t surpass the expectations the company needed for a successful bike. Part of the problem was the hefty price tag, which outweighed any offerings from Japanese manufacturers at the time who were producing fast 750cc and upwards machines for less money.
Despite this the Paso made our list of best ever 750cc motorcycles, mainly due to its importance in the Massimo Tamburini story.
Another issue that plagued Ducati throughout most of the 1980’s and still has a hold on their modern reputation to date, was that the bikes were inconsistent in their build quality and reliability.
The “Controlled Air Flow” system was no good in slow traffic, the engine would overheat, despite the design’s best efforts to avoid this problem.
The Weber twin-choke carb was partly responsible for this, as despite it improving throttle response and getting the most out of the engine; when moving slowly, the fuel in the bowl would overheat, the engine would lose tractability and eventually cut out because there wasn’t enough airflow to cool things down.
Ducati Paso 906
The Ducati Paso 750 was replaced by a new 904cc engine in 1988 which was water cooled, and bumped the horsepower from 72hp to 88hp but overheating problems remained. This model was named the Ducati Paso 906.
The 906 was then later replaced by a fuel injected model and named the Paso 907 which eliminated the carb problems plaguing the Paso.
It was too little too late by then for Paso models as Tamburini was already focused on developing the 916 that would go on to wipe out the competition and the relevance of the Paso model from Ducati’s line up. The Paso deserves its props as it was the spark that lit the flame for what was to come, so
Buying a Ducati Paso
In total there were only around 9000 Paso’s produced in its run from ’86 to ’92 (which includes the Paso 906 and 907). This means the original Paso 750 isn’t the most common Ducati to find on the market today.
However, because they have slipped under the radar in terms of prominence, when they do come up they are more affordable than most of the other 1980s Ducatis.
You can expect to pay between £2,500 – £3,500 or for potential US buyers $2,500 – $5,000.
For potential US buyers Cycle Trader has one 1991 Paso 907 advertised for $4,400. Smart Cycle Guide also has six adverts for the Paso 750 in various places across the States priced from $2,500 – $5,000.
When looking to purchase a Ducati Paso 750 to ride, it is worth knowing the following:
- The twin cambelts will need replacing every two years
- The carb used was a bit of an odd one so that can be tricky to keep tuned
- The 16” wheels are not very common so finding replacements readily can be challenging
- Voltage regulators were known to be tempermental – a Ducati specialist could fix this quite easily for you
Restoring a Ducati Paso
As with restoring any Ducati, parts don’t come cheap compared to other marques. However, if it is a passion of love, then you shouldn’t be put off because there are plenty of original and reproduction parts available to complete your project.
The best bit about using a Ducati Paso for a restoration project is the bikes aren’t all that expensive to begin with so that helps keep the expenses down. Some example prices for parts off eBay US are shown below:
- $412.96 Frame
- $175 Right Air Scoop
- $141.41 Radiator Oil Cooler
- $139.99 Rear Brake Caliper
- $79.99 Headlight
- $59.95 Timing Belt
Ducati Parts Online is another great source for parts and they ship worldwide.
Is a Ducati Paso a Good Investment?
Buying a Ducati Paso will be somewhat a labor of love, which is the case for most 1980’s Ducati’s anyway. Paso 750 are a good price point, great fun to ride, and will stand out from the crowd at your local bike nights. It is unlikely prices will soar in the near future for these Italian motorcycles so the investment is found in the fun of riding one rather than any financial gain.
If you are looking for a classic 1980s motorcycle that has awesome stand out styling and a story to tell, the Ducati Paso 750 is it. Before the Panigale, the Monster, the 916, 851 or the 748 there was the Paso 750 and it was the start of a long line of successful bikes that evolved and adapted but fundamentally had Massimo Tamburini’s heart at the centre of each of them.