It's been fashionable to knock the Mototrans Ducati 24 Horas for years, ever since a disgruntled buyer camped outside importer's Vic Camp's shop to protest at an inability to sort some teething problems. Motorcycle News ran a "24 Horrors" headline, and Ducati's reputation as a manufacturer of fast but flawed motorcycles was born.
But here's the thing - I think the 24 Horas is beautiful. Some of the details are better than Ducati’s own singles, especially the front brake – useful when she’s coming down the mountain. And they haven't (yet) breached the £10,000 price point that 250cc+ singles built in Bologna crossed some time ago.Plus I still have an itch to do a fifth Motogiro, even though I'm told it's not a patch on the Dream Engine days. There's no way I'd want to do it on a sprung saddle 175, nor on a bevel twin - been there, got the bruises. My 450 was perfect but had to be sold, and there's no way I've got the money to buy and prep one for the Giro.
And by prep I don't mean new tyres and oil - the Giro can be tough, and if you've a slightly dodgy bottom end or filled sludge trap, 1000 miles in the mountains at 30 degrees plus will find them. Knock, knock - who's there? The recovery truck.
So when I saw an old race Horas on John Fallon's Made inItaly Motorcycle's website a plan was hatched. Get good friend and spanner man (to five Ducati world championships, no less) Pat Slinn to go through it, pop some lights on and away. If only...
First issue was finding bits, and luckily Pat's Spanish is better than mine (er, I know Hola... and Horas... and that's it), so eventually everything was found. But then it turned out someone must've used a metre bar to try and unwind the cam drive rather than look at direction of rotation - righty tight is wrong, but clearly a previous owner had never thought to question it. Nigel Lacey fixed the problem, but by now the budget was well and truly busted. And I've discovered that crankcases and crankshafts are simply unobtainable if it should blow up on the Futa Pass. It also seems that Spanish castings and alloy aren't up to Bolognese standards, making oil tightness frustratingly evasive, even for Pat. Eventually Debbie Wiggins of Ducati UK came to the rescue with a miracle goo the Superbike boys use.
So months of frustration and sleepless nights that are the stock in trade of restorers passed, before finally Chas Mortimer’s appropriately named Mototrans truck returned it to me. Never again and all that (partly because Pat's wife insists his next project is the kitchen).
So was it worth it? Look at the pictures and decide for yourself. But I think it's one on the most beautiful Ducatis of all time, so yes - it was worth it.