The Berliner brothers were very much interested in building a Harley Davidson competitor for the American market. As the sales were going down and they saw an opportunity to sell the motorcycles to police departments of America, for which they approached the Ducati in 1959. A joint venture of Ducati with the Berliner led to the birth of a DUCATI 1200 V4 APOLLO PROTOTYPE which was their first four cylinder in V motorcycle in 1964. Only four engines were built after, though it was never put into regular production, the Apollo V4 had a massive 1257cc air-cooled 90-degree V4 that produced 100bhp and had a top speed of 190km/h. This was back in the 60s when the ton up boys were famously known for boasting their motorcycle escapades with the highlight being 100mph “a full ton” of speed. The Ducati was in a different league all together, as a result the Apollo V4 attracted many viewers when it was first showcased at the Earl’s Court London in November 1964.
Why didn’t it work out the first time?
Due to lack of proper technology and required tools for making it a production line motorcycle made the Ducati to take one more step towards dropping the plan. The tyre technology was not up to the marks to handle the massive torque from the 1257cc engine. The tyres would would regularly blow out during testing even after the power was reduced. This combined with a projection for a very small market demand marked Ducati’s first V4 engine efforts as too ahead of the time. Soon, Ducati decided to put an end to the project. Today only one Ducati 1200 V4 Apollo survives which was last seen at the 2002 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Would it work this time?
Today, tyre and brake technology has progressed to an extent where a large capacity V4 engine and it’s torque can be easily handled by the motorcycle and its components. The Aprillia RSV4 is a example of this, while Honda has been doing it for quite some time too with their VFR1200. Combine this with Ducati’s near-century old expertise in making motorcycles and their current global recognition and demand, a V4 Ducati motorcycle would not only be very much possible, but would also flourish. The company could easily tout their new four-cylinder flagship product as the one with true MotoGP genes, derived from the racetrack for the most dedicated of riders.
The Italian motorcycle firm recently announced that ‘the sound of the new era’ is coming on September 7th, hinting towards the launch of their latest, much-anticipated V4 road motorcycle. Would Borgo Panigale’s upcoming machine replace the 1299 Panigale or would it create it’s own segment remains yet to be seen.