I must be on some type of Ducati kick as of late, because everywhere I look some radical build seems to catch my eye. This time it is an out of this world Ducati 860GT, which if I’m honest has been on my radar for a little while. I was fortunate enough to see this bike in person at the Revival Hand Built Motorcycle Showdown in Austin Texas. Let me tell you, pictures do not do it justice.
The Ducati 860GT is slowly starting to get its moment in the spotlight, but it has always been overshadowed by the historic 750GT. We did a whole piece on ‘Bevel drive‘ Ducatis, and it’s worth a read if you aren’t familiar with these motorcycles. The crazy thing about this build is not many people would ever consider using an 860GT as a donor bike, especially as prices are currently appreciating. But alas the folks down at Hazan Motorwork’s had a customer that wanted just that.
Max Hazan is the founder of Hazan Motorworks and one of the primary builders. Think of any top builder in the world and I guarantee Hazan’s work is right on par. So cutting into a mint 78′ Ducati 860GT was not really something that phased him much. The build was simple and straightforward, that is until Max received a phone call that changed the direction of the 860GT for good.
Halfway through the build the bike’s owner decided he wanted not just a custom 860, but instead the boldest 860GT he could think of. For Hazan’s customer the answer was simple, he wanted it to be turbocharged. Bold indeed. It took one phone call and all of 6 seconds to convince Max that this needed to happen, to which he enthusiastically agreed. A new challenge for Hazan was set, and man was it daunting.
Turbocharging a bike from the 70’s isn’t the easiest job in the world. Factor in the unique nature of the ‘Bevel Drive’ engine and you now have the odds stacked firmly against you. One aspect that presented itself as a challenge early on was the fact that this Ducati was on its way to being converted to kick start only, a trait of the truly hardcore. Hazan had to get creative with the turbo, creating a blow through system that made it much easier to start the 860GT with the added boost.
But before we dive too much further into the engine, we want to discuss the frame. Normally on something of this sort I would be screaming from the rooftops with disgust. But I’m not, and there is a very simple reason. The team over at Hazan Motorworks didn’t defile a working 860GT’s frame just for the hell of it. Instead, Maz Hazan elected to construct an entirely new frame from chromoly steel. The final results are hair-raising. Instead of copying Ducati’s trellis design Max elected to build a sleeker frame that stays true to the original body lines, yet shows off that beautiful artistry that has gotten him this far.
There are several variables that led Max to build his own frame, but the biggest is definitely the fact that he needed more room for the turbo piping. The new frame allowed him to design the turbo system first, and then make the frame fit around it and the engine. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it obviously worked. The final product is now 2 inches shorter than the original, thanks to a tweak to the steering angle. In the rear Max landed on a single Works Performance shock to help the new frame cope with the absurdly unique engine.
Speaking of the engine, let’s get back into the nitty gritty. Hazan worked tirelessly to get the 860GT to play nice with its new forced induction add on. After 3 engine rebuilds and 2 seized turbos, the 860 was starting to come together. The trial and error continued well past the initial setup and deep into different tuning configurations. Max went on to say, “We tried three oil system configurations, four different boost reference float bowl setups, two ignition systems and about 30 jetting combinations until I was finally able to sign off on it.” Yet he’s optimistic about what he was able to learn. “If I had to do it again I could probably tune it in about half an hour!”
With a Garrett GT15 turbo the Ducati now comes equipped with a blow off valve, kind of like the one on your neighbor’s obnoxious STI. And while we can all agree to hate your neighbor, when it comes to a turbocharged Ducati I am all ears. I for one can’t wait to hear it chirping away with every gear shift, sounds like an absolutely divine combination.
It’s easy to get sucked into the go fast parts like the turbo. Yet we wouldn’t be doing this bike justice if we didn’t mention the bodywork. Not only is the color combination perfect, but the unique styling that goes with it is like no Ducati I have ever seen before. The front bubble fairing is a masterpiece by itself, yet once paired with the likes of the square tank and pointy tail section it allows the entire bike to pop. It’s so captivating you can’t help but stare at it like it’s a magician about to reveal his deepest secret. The integrated gauges into the gas tank keep the 860GT sleek and slender while the custom tachometer residing under the bubble windscreen turns the 860GT into a gentlemen’s bike. Pure class. And the cherry on top? The hand fabricated exhaust that blends perfectly into the tail section. So much in fact that when I saw this bike in person it wasn’t until the second day that I realized where the exhaust was going. That my friends, is the sign of a sleek build.
I never in a million years would have condoned chopping up a bevel drive Ducati, yet here we are. Just goes to show how far hard work and a vision can take you. Now if we could just hear that turbo run, I think we would all be happier people. Regardless this 860GT is gorgeous enough to be wall art. It is just fitting that this 860GT happens to be equally enjoyable to ride as it is to just sit and look at. A claim that not many bikes can make anymore.