Bruno Cavalieri Ducati

Bruno Cavalieri Ducati

Hard work and ingeniousness may be one of the recipes for a long life. It certainly was for Bruno Cavalieri Ducati, the last of the three brothers who founded the famous motorcycle manufacturing company bearing their name. He died at 96 on May 14, 2001.   Adriano Ducati, Bruno's

Thu 13 Nov 2008 1:00 AM

Hard work and ingeniousness may be one of the recipes for a long life.
It certainly was for Bruno Cavalieri Ducati, the last of the three brothers who
founded the famous motorcycle manufacturing company bearing their name. He died
at 96 on May 14, 2001.


Adriano Ducati, Bruno’s elder brother, was a brilliant physicist who, in
1924, invented a radio apparatus that linked his home in Bologna to the United
States. Unlike Marconi’s earlier invention, Adriano’s relied on low wattage,
making it suitable for domestic use. Perceiving the potential of this
discovery, their engineer father helped his three sons, Adriano (born in 1903),
Bruno (1904) and Marcello (1912) to set up the Societa Scientifica Radio
Brevetti Ducati in 1926. The company’s first product, a condenser for radio
equipment, was an instant success and allowed the company to expand rapidly. It
soon opened branches in London, Paris, New York, Sydney and Caracas.


In 1935, Bruno Ducati, by now an architect, designed and built a
state-of-the-art factory in Borgo Panigale, near Bologna. Just before World War
II, the factory was requisitioned for wartime production. In this period, about
11,000 people worked there. They were unpleasantly surprised one morning in
September 1943 when the factory was surrounded by 20 tanks and occupied by
machine-gun toting German soldiers. To prevent the precision instruments
falling into enemy hands, the workers, putting their lives at risk, smuggled
them out of the factory at night. This was fortunate because in October 1944 a
massive Allied bombardment razed the factory. The rescued instruments were sent
to a network of over 70 underground plants throughout the country, known as
Post (or postwar) laboratories. Their job was to plan future production that
would help Italy to rebuild once the war had ended.


Immediately after the war, the Ducati brothers were arrested for
collaboration with the Fascists. Only minutes before they were to be shot by
firing squad, their execution was suspended. They were later cleared of all


During Italy’s reconstruction, the brothers diversified, manufacturing a
variety of products including a modern electric razor, an inter-phone and a
calculator as well as cameras, jukeboxes and refrigerators. But, in a country
moving from an agricultural to an industrialised economy where transport for
the workforce would be fundamental, Bruno Ducati’s greatest innovation was to
acquire the patents for a micro-engine that could motorise a bicycle. And so,
in 1946, one of the earliest Italian motorcycles was born. Named the Cucciolo
(‘puppy’) because of the noise the engine’s exhaust made, the motor was initially
sold in a kit to be fitted to a bicycle, but it was soon sold as a complete
moped. Hundreds of thousands of the motorbikes were sold between 1946 and 1958,
establishing the Ducati name.


Fabio Taglioni, a brilliant and unorthodox engineer, joined Ducati in
1954. Known to everyone in the factory as Doctor T, he would become a myth in
the motorcycle world. Up until the early 80s, he designed Ducati’s racing
bikes, the prototypes for many of the company’s mass-produced bikes. In 1958,
he perfected his desmodromic system for a twin cylinder engine, and by 1959 it
made Ducati the undisputed champion of world motorbike racing. Taglione himself
competed in many races, including the Giro d’Italia and the Milan-Taranto. At
the end of the 1960s, when the market called for maxi-bikes, Taglioni was still
there to lead the way. In honor of Francesco Baracca, a heroic World War I
fighter pilot, Taglioni used the prancing horse logo like the one used by
Ferrari on all his bright red bikes. As fate would have it, he died the same
year as Bruno Ducati.


Control of the Ducati company left family hands in the early 80s and
passed to the Cagiva Group, which, in turn, was taken over in the mid 90s by
the Texas Pacific Group. Nonetheless, throughout his long life, Bruno Ducati
kept close contacts with the company, in 1991 publishing a book of memories
called Storia della Ducati (‘Ducati’s History’). How happy he would have
been when, in 2007, the Australian rider, Casey Stoner, won the Moto Grand Prix
for the Ducati team whilst, in this year’s championship, the duel between
Stoner and his great rival, Valentino Rossi, who rides for Yamaha, made
nail-biting entertainment.


Today’s motorbike enthusiasts can visit the Ducati Museum in Borgo
Panigale, where, in chronological order, the 26 Ducati motorbikes, beginning
with the Cucciolo, an illuminated track.



Getting there

Ducati Factory and Museum

Cavalieri Ducati 3, in Bologna

Monday – Friday: 10am – 11am and 2pm – 4pm

tel. 051/6413343 (in English)



From the A14, A13 or A1 motorway, exit onto the
Tangenziale , and get off at exit #2, Borgo Panigale. The exit ramp will take
you to the Benedetto Croce traffic circle. Exit the traffic circle onto Viale
Alcide De Gasperi (towards Modena) and then take the first right onto Via
Cavalieri Ducati.  



Trains run frequently from Florence Santa Maria
Novella to Bologna Centrale. From the station, take bus number 36 going towards
the ‘Barca’ or the number 39 that circles the city. From either bus, get off a
the first stop on via Lame and change to bus number 13, going towards Borgo
Panigale. Get off the bus at the ‘Ducati’ stop, at the intersection between via
Marco Emilio Lepido and via Cavalieri Ducati. Take via Ducati (coming from the
centre of Bologna, it is a left turn) and you will find the entrance to the
factory on your right after approximately 100 m.




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