When it comes to modern classics, there is arguably no bike more desirable than the Ducati 916.
As a model it has pretty much everything required for instant classic status. The 916 combined jawdroppingly good looks, an unparalleled racing heritage and a spine tingling soundtrack booming out of the super slender underseat exhaust system. It was also the model that transformed Ducati from a company perennially flirting with bankruptcy to one of the most desirable and successful motorcycle brands of modern times.
The 916 was launched in 1994 to critical acclaim. Although the 114bhp, 916cc, V-twin engine was a derivative of the earlier 888, the rest of the bike was all new. For many, it was love at first sight. The Massimo Tamburini penned design made for a bike with small proportions and an extreme riding position that came straight from the race track. In an era where fairings were relatively bulky and slabsided, the 916 wore lithe and angular bodywork, with tiny twin headlamps and elegant underseat exhausts that had previously only been seen on Honda’s ultra rare NR750. It’s styling elements would go on to influence a number of other machines in the years that followed, most notably the third generation Yamaha YZF-R1 and the Triumph Daytona 675.
But it was on the race track that the 916 family created its legend. A certain Carl Fogarty won the world superbike championship in its debut year and took all four of his world titles on 916 series machines. Australians Troy Corser and Troy Bayliss also gave Ducati world titles on the 916, with the likes of Bayliss, Neil Hodgson, John Reynolds, Steve Hislop and Shane Byrne winning the British superbike championship on this dominant machine.
Racing also created a plethora of special edition versions with higher end components designed to give Ducati a competitive edge on the race track. These SP (Sport Production) versions are highly desirable on the secondhand market these days, although all 916s hold their values well.
Over the years, the 916 line became more powerful and more refined. A massive number of models appeared in a 10 year run. The 916 evolved into the bigger engined 996 and onto the 998, while the smaller capacity 748 had less power but gave all of the looks for less money.
The image of the 916, combined with the sales success of the more affordable Monster range, helped revive Ducati’s fortunes. Today, the 916 looks as good as ever. It’s successor, the 999, looked cumbersome at launch and was never a big hit with the Ducatisti, even if it was technically a better machine (and just as successful on the race circuits). It was quickly replaced by the 1098, with a design more in line with the iconic 916.
Those timeless looks and the racing heritage mean that 916s are as much in demand today as they ever were. Good bikes generally change hands for around £15,000 but the limited run, homologation specials, can go for three times that. The good thing for those looking for a special bike for not much money is that the base 748 Biposto can be had for £3-4000.
What’s stopping you?
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