1959 Ducati 200SS

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As the saying goes, Art imitates life, but with the unveiling of the 1959 Ducati 200SS, art came to life. By the late 1950s, Italy was enjoying a rise in economic conditions and the public began wanting more than just basic transportation. In response to these changes, Ducati and newly hired designer and engineer Fabio Taglioni created new models to meet the growing motorcycle demand of the European markets. Ducati presented a perfect combination of performance and required fuel efficiency with the 175 Sport in 1957.

Meeting the needs of the Italian market was one thing but gaining a foothold in the United States was another story. Early American importers of Ducati realized that although the 175 Sport was a success in Europe, the American market would require a larger displacement and better performance to be accepted. Ducati wasted no time in meeting this challenge.

Beginning production in 1959, Ducati bored the cylinders of a 175cc engine to slightly over 203cc to give it the necessary increase in horsepower from 14hp up to 18hp. The higher output, single overhead cam engine, coupled with a light and stiff single downtube frame would make the new 200SS ideal for the American market. As an added bonus, buyers could opt for the racing kit which consisted of a hotter cam and megaphone exhaust. In later years of production, 1961 until the line was discontinued, the engine was a smaller version of the 250cc rather than a larger version of the 175cc.

Making the 200SS light and fast meant making the rider as much a part of the motorcycle as possible. To this end, Ducati used the distinctive “jelly mold” fuel tank that incorporated recesses in the side of the tank for streamlined handlebar clearance, a raised forward section that allowed the rider to lay forward, thus, reducing wind drag, and attachment points for a pad which meant greater comfort and rider endurance. For the Italian maker, this now iconic fuel tank design made a unique selling point for the Ducati 200SS. For some, the tank design was odd and unpleasant, but to others, it was a functional work of art that that gave character to the Italian single-cylinder. Either way, the garnet and chrome-scalloped tank stood out amongst the bikes of the day.

In the end, economic success for most sectors of the Italian population meant more cars on the road, and competition from the up-and-coming Japanese motorcycle industry, meant change for the single-cylinder, small displacement Ducati. Following the trends of the market, Ducati began to move towards the larger v-twin displacements the world clamored for. The 200 Series was discontinued in 1965.


  • Country: Italy
  • Engine: Air-cooled, single cylinder, four-stroke
  • Ignition: Battery and Coil
  • Power Rating: 18 bhp @ 7,800 rpm
  • Bore x Stroke: 67 x 57.8mm
  • Displacement: 203cc
  • Valves: Single overhead cam, bevel driven
  • Fuel System: Single Dell'Orto 24mm carburetor
  • Transmission: Four Speed
  • Suspension: Front telescopic forks, rear twin shock
  • Brakes: Front and rear drum
  • Weight: 240 lbs
  • Top Speed: 85 mph