There’s a lot of jibber jabber on teh Internets right now about Ducati’s director of marketing supposedly saying the company was developing a scooter. The thinking goes, that in the post-Diavel era, the possibilities for Ducati’s brand prostitution are limitless. They’re not making a scooter, but they once did. This Ducati Cruiser 175 debuted at the 1952 Milan motorcycle show and was the most sophisticated twist-and-go of its era.
The quote that’s prompting the rumors was made a year ago by Diego Sgorbati, “Ducati is looking at many segments, scooters, custom, enduro, off-road, it’s a normal expansion. Before going down one road though we look at all the potential barriers, technological and distribution related. For example, how many of our dealers can sell a superbike, as well as a motocross bike? Also, does it match the “soul” of the brand, does it make sense. What worked 20 years ago might not make sense today”
It sounds like he’s merely illustrating the expanse of Ducati’s vision with the scooter thing, not saying they’re actually looking at making one.
The first scooter to be equipped with a four-stroke engine and a continuously variable transmission, the Cruiser was ahead of its time in an era of two-stroke, manual shift Vespas and Lambrettas.
Like Ducatis of today, the Cruiser attempted to differentiate itself with image and features without offering a tangible performance benefit over cheaper competitors. it may have had an electric start and styling by Ghia, but the engine that was originally targeted to achieve 12bhp was limited to 7.5 in order to comply with Italy’s old 50kmh speed limit for scooters.
Other than the features list, the Cruiser was strikingly similar to other Italian competitors, most notably in the trailing-link front suspension and side-mounted spare tire contained within the rocket ship bodywork.
Perhaps because the Italian market preferred the proletarianism of cheaper rivals, the Cruiser never caught on and production was stopped in 1954 after only 1,000 units were produced.
Reading the brochure that’s included in the gallery below, Ducati’s approach to the Cruiser was strikingly similar to its pursuit of the premium market today. “The Ducati Cruiser is a two-wheeled vehicle that combines the results of cutting-edge technology and refined taste,” said Ducati. “The character is sporting, the engine powerful and the road holding perfect. The Cruiser is not a scooter and not a motorcycle, but a new type of vehicle.”
Actually, come to think of it, if Ducati ever does utterly lose its mind and decide to make a scooter, this Cruiser probably does offer a decent preview of the approach that will be taken. Performance and handling would likely be excellent, but a more expensive package would offer marginal added utility over vehicles like the Yamaha TMAX.