Ducati Elite 204cc


    As mentioned in some first principles, I'd had a hankering after a Ducati Elite ever since my apprenticeship. In 1990, there was an ad. in Old Bike Mart for an Elite, all there (it said!), engine out of frame, for £200. This was in Birmingham, I was in Southport, and it was hammering down with rain that evening, but Christine and I arranged to go anyway.  When we arrived, there it was, half covered, outside in the passageway between houses. The two small triangular toolboxes were missing, but otherwise it was fairly complete.  I could see why the engine had been removed from the frame - it was seized solid and full of water. The owner said it was like that when he got it!  The head had been removed without damage, but the barrel was another story - there were barely any fins left from the repeated blows to try to shift the barrel from the stuck piston.  Why do people wreck stuff like that?

    I bought it anyway as I still felt that the rest of it was worth most of the money.  I laid it carefully on its side in the trailer I had taken with me, padding and propping whatever I could in the pouring rain, to protect it from any further damage on its return journey.

    When I got it home and into the dry, I surveyed the whole thing;  It had at some time been repainted (well, sort of), the frame was wedgewood blue, and the tank a much darker base red than standard.  

Under the paint on the frame with light scratching, the original metallic copper-bronze was still visible. Very little had been removed or modified, but the clip-ons had been moved to below the top fork shrouds, Café Racer style.  The speedo showed under 5000 miles and going on the condition of the footrest rubbers and sprockets, this could well be fairly accurate.  It still had its original Ceat tyres too, although naturally of no use now.

    Careful consideration was needed now to try to salvage as much of the engine as possible.  Parts are still available (at a price!) but I find it really satisfying to see what can be saved.  My first task was to remove the two side cases from the engine, followed by the clutch and any other parts which would prevent me from separating the crankcases.  I made an extractor to remove the rotor from the crank end (and have used that a number of times on other similar sized Ducatis).

             The tool for removing the rotor 

(the small piece is to protect the end of the crank)  

By separating the cases with the piston seized in the barrel,  you end up with the crank, rod, piston, barrel assembly.  It is still not really feasible to mount the barrel in the press to force the piston out, as the crank kind of gets in the way.  The easiest way forward is to split the crank from the crank-pin and just push the piston and rod out from the bore.  Only now can the piston be separated from the rod.  If only the Alloy Butcher had left it alone, this would have been quite a good motor.  As it is there is not so much to replace.  One word of caution though, regarding Ducati engines - there are a myriad shims, which must be taken note of when dismantling - or you will have a devil of a job when it comes to re-assembly.


Here are a few more shots of the assembled bike without any restoration - just collecting the missing parts


Just to spur me on, here are a few pics of other Elites from a variety of sources

Friday 6th April 2007

    Having recently finished my Honda 350 Four, I have, at last, turned my attentions to the plight of the Elite.  Over the last few years,  I have been collecting many of the difficult to find parts which were missing when I bought it all those years ago.  I found a pair of the small triangular toolboxes, which have now been blasted ready for very minor repairs and refinishing.  I had bought a genuine  new Silentium silencer some years back from Mick Walker and a carb and a few small parts from his brother Rick.  Since the original purchase, eBay has come along, making it far more likely for the amateur restorer to find those otherwise elusive parts.  In my case I got a new, replica exhaust pipe from Italy, which is a perfect fit and a very good finish, a gear lever from a chap in England and a front hub cover/speedo drive plate from the States - all at very reasonable prices. 

    I could not imagine ever finding a SAFA battery (I have tried though), or even a redundant rubber case in which to house a modern Yuasa type, so I spent may a happy hour poring over Mick Walkers excellent book on restoration of these lovely little bikes, to find as much detail as possible so that I could construct a replica casing.  The battery is such a prominent feature of the narrowcase singles, that I felt it would spoil the whole thing without a suitable copy in place.  I decided on a closed box of 10mm MDF, glued together with Cascamite powdered resin glue.


The top section of the casing and the lid are, from the many pictures I studied, slightly bigger in section than the main body, so I built those areas up with UPOL smooth and easy body filler. 


Once all was rubbed down and about the right shape, I set the box on a thin packing strip and band-sawed the lid off.  This method of construction ensures that the lid is an exact fit on the body of the box.



    The original has some rather bold lettering on all four vertical surfaces, which appears to be raised by a millimetre or so.  I am going to spread a pad of the UPOL filler in these areas to build up to the required thickness and then draw the lettering onto the filler before carving out the shapes.  Another feature on some surfaces is a kind of 'textured' finish.  I have experimented with various methods, but the one which gives the best result is to thinly brush paint the surface with black Japlac and when tacky, to cover in dry sand.  The excess is then shaken off and when dry, a further coat of paint produces a really good copy.  The last stage will be to finish the whole case in 2 pack satin black and highlight the lettering in yellow.  All of this might seem a bit OTT, but it's the detail that counts to me - don't get me wrong, I don't mind some deviations from standard, but this battery is such an obvious feature when the bike is viewed from almost any angle.  The other thing which will need a bit of work is the two terminals for cable attachment.  These are brass posts going through the side of the case near to the top, with a thread on the outside.  These will be a lovely little turning job on the lathe, when I am allowed out into the big workshop following my recent inguinal hernia repair, but the other bits are ideal therapy whilst sitting at the table in the summer house.








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