Ducati 1200 V4 Apollo


Make Model

Ducati 1200 V4 Apollo




Four stroke, 90o V-4, 2 valves


1252 cc / 76.4 cu in
Bore x Stroke 84.5 x56 mm
Compression Ratio 8.0:1
Cooling System Air cooled
Lubrication System Wet sump


4 x SS1 32 mm carburetors


12V 32Ah


Electric and kick

Max Power

73.5 kW / 100hp @ 7000rpm, or
58.8 kW / 80 hp @ 6000 rpm


5 Speed

Final Drive


Front Suspension

Telescopic forks

Rear Suspension

Swinging arm

Front Brakes


Rear Brakes


Front Tyre

5.00 -16, Ribbed

Rear Tyre

5.00 -16, Block tread


Width: 750 mm / 29.5 in

Ground Clearance

170 mm / 6.7 in


1550 mm / 61 in


210 kg / 463 lb

Though Ducati is celebrated for its sporting V-twins, in 1948 the degree project of Ducati's technical director, Fabio Taglioni, had been a 250cc V4. In 1958 he created the smallest in-line four of its day, a racing 125; though it never ran under the Ducati name, it was revived in 1965 and raced under the colors of Ducati's Spanish subsidiary Mototrans.

Europe's Biggest Post-1945 Bike

The idea for a new four cylinder Ducati came from Joe Berliner, the marque's American importer, in 1959. His brainstorm was to tender for the supply of motorbikes to the American police, who were constrained by anti-trust legislation to consider alternatives to the Harley-Davidson. The specifications called for a displacement of at least 1200cc and 5.00 x 15 in tires. Berliner partly financed the project and dictated its conditions. It was a tremendous challenge for Ducati, whose biggest models had previously never exceeded 200cc.

A Simple Layout

Taglioni chose simplicity, following the philosophy of big American V8 automobiles in opting for a V4 with overhead valves operated by a single camshaft mounted between the cylinders. It took two years in build the prototype, which was finished in 1963. Two engines were built: a touring version with twin 24mm carburetors, developing 80hp @ 6000rpm, and a performance version with 32mm carburetors, whose 100hp @ 7000rpm translated into a top speed close to 100mph.

Source Bike Review

In 1959, the Berliner Motor Corporation approached Ducati about creating a rival to the Harley-Davidson to sell to police departments around the US. Author Greg Field, based on interviews with Mike Berliner, contends that Berliner went so far as to ship two Harley-Davidsons to Italy as examples (one was for Moto Guzzi), and that Ducati, rather than any Japanese company, was the first Harley-Davidson imitator.

The Berliner brothers were enthusiastic. Ducati's government management was not. It was only when Berliner agreed to underwrite a portion of the development costs in 1961, that the project went ahead. They decided to call it the Apollo, in honor of the moon mission series of the time.

Ducati was to produce two prototypes and two extra engines as spares. Today only one survives.

Fabio Taglioni was to develop a bike that conformed to US police specifications, and was bigger than any current model Harley-Davidson. Taglioni decided on an air-cooled 1257 cc 90° two-valve head V4 using a 180-degree crankshaft with roller bearing big ends. That crankshaft fitted into a horizontally split wet sump crankcase with a center main bearing support. The bore was 84.5 mm, and the stroke 56 mm. Valve actuation was by pushrods and rocker arms.

The engine was a stressed member of the heavy duty open cradle frame with a central box section front downtube between the forward cylinders. A small car-sized starter motor and generator were fitted. It had a five-speed transmission, at a time when most motorcycles had four. Ceriani developed the suspension package, but riders today would be alarmed by the inadequate front and rear single leading shoe 8.675 in (220.3 mm) drum brakes. The stopping distance was huge, and had to be allowed for. It had a 61.2 in (1,550 mm) wheelbase, and weighed 596 lb (270 kg) dry. Taglioni dismissed the Berliners' suggestion of shaft drive, and chose chain final drive. The police specification stipulated 16-inch tyres, so there was little choice in that.

Initially it was putting out 100 bhp (75 kW) @ 7000 rpm, and could exceed 120 mph (190 km/h). The Harley of the time made 55 bhp. The first test rider Franco Farne came back from his first ride, and said it “handles like a truck.” Farne normally rode small racers. It soon became evident that even specially made tyres were not up to the power of the engine. A tyre disintegrated at speed on the Autostrada, and the test rider rated his survival “a miracle”. The engine was detuned to give 80 bhp (60 kW). Tyres continued to disintegrate. The engine was brought down to 65 bhp (48 kW), and the survival rate of the tyres became acceptable. This was late 1963. In comparison, in 1958 Moto Guzzi had used a 20-inch rear tyre on the Grand Prix 500 cc V8, and they had worn rapidly with 78 bhp (58 kW)

In March 1964 a gold-painted prototype was handed over in a formal ceremony.

The reduction in power meant that the Apollo could now be outperformed by the British and BMW twins, which restricted the anticipated market to police forces. Berliner was printing advertising, demonstrating the prototype to Police Chiefs, and genuinely preparing to market the Apollo.

It was never put into production, but did influence other production Ducatis that followed. Both Ducati and their United States distributor, Berliner Motor Corporation, were experiencing declining sales of existing small-capacity single-cylinder models, and sought to create a bike to compete with Harley-Davidson. Berliner Motor was keen to have a model that could win lucrative police motorcycle supply contracts, and that could also sell as a civilian touring bike.

Source: Wikipedia