The History of the Ducati Scrambler

Did you know that a new Ducati Scrambler is coming out this year?  Of course you do as Ducati seems to have taken a page out of Apple’s hype machine and turned it up to 11.  We’ve seen silhouettes, ‘leaked’ spy photos and an opportunity for visitors to the Ducati Week in Misano, Italy to see the finished bike inside a shipping container.  In fact, Ducati has hyped up the Scrambler so much that no one will probably care when it is released (or be disappointed at what results).  But given there has been so much news and speculation about the forthcoming Ducati Scrambler, we thought we’d wind back the clock and take a look at where it all started back in 1962.

The term scrambler in relation to motorcycles was originally associated with motocross or dirt bikes.  That term has evolved over the decades to come to mean a bike that’s predominantly built for the road, but has some off road capabilities (i.e. spoked wheels and high exhaust), is easy to repair and fairly durable.  In that regard, the highly successful ‘wide case’ Ducati Scrambler’s was probably well ahead of its time, as it was designed more as a road bike than something to take off-road.

But the first Ducati Scrambler in 1962 did have off-road abilities and was in fact designed primarily for that purpose.  The original series of Scramblers were actually a modification of Ducati Diana road bikes.  Produced at the behest of Joe Berliner (of Berliner Motor Corporation), the first 250 Scrambler came out in America in 1964.  Berliner encouraged Ducati to make an all-purpose bike that would appeal to young people but also revive the youth of the not-so-young.  It was an instant success both in the United States and Europe. They became possibly the first road legal bike capable of winning at the racetrack without any modifications.  These ‘narrow case’ Scrambler’s were produced until 1967 and were followed by the second series of the bike, which went onto even more success.

The ‘wide case’ Ducati Scrambler was first released in 1968 and became a future classic.  To this day, it is one of the most collectible bikes, some of them in even better condition than when they left the Ducati factory (which at the time was not known for fantastic quality control or build quality).  Initially available in 250 cc and 350 cc models, a 450 cc model came out the following year.  A small capacity 125 cc bike was released for the European market as well. Unlike the first series, the newer version of the Ducati Scrambler wasn’t made to go off-road.

It was a piece of art, but a very ride-able one.  It featured a wonderfully centered riding position, a smooth engine and a superb frame.  In keeping with it being ahead of its time, it was available in bright colors (such as bright yellow, which has been confirmed as a color on the new Ducati Scramber) and perfectly fused together both European and American bike styling.  It stayed in production until 1974.

So while Ducati has certainly been milking the name of the soon to be released modern Ducati Scrambler, keep in mind that it does have a rich heritage and its main success was derived from a bike that was just as much about form as it was function.

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