11-12 May 2012

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Lot 123

1955 Ducati 125 Formula 3

  • Frame no. F116
  • Engine no. DM78104

Sold for €16.380

Specifications: 125 cc SOHC Desmo single, four speeds.

Fabio Taglioni’s 100-cc Gran Sport set the pattern for Ducati singles for the next 20 years. Developed in 1955 for the Motogiro d’Italia, the 100-cc SOHC bevel-drive single generated nine horsepower at 9,000 rpm and topped out at 80 mph. The engine was bored out to 125 cc that same year and proved very successful in long-distance road races, being capable of 12 horsepower at 9,800 rpm, with an impressive 93 mph top speed.

The Desmodromic valve gear, which mechanically opened and closed the valves, was developed from the Mercedes-Benz technology they used on their straight-eight W196 Grand Prix cars. Mercedes never used it in production cars at that time, but Taglioni developed it for racing. Twelve years later he also applied it to the wide-case singles. The Desmo advantage was to have no valve “float,” and the 125-cc SOHC single could produce up to 19 horsepower, winding reliably to 15,000 rpm.

The F3 bikes, which followed from 1958-62, were made available to privateers worldwide, in 125-cc, 175-cc and eventually 250-cc displacements. All gained enclosed valve springs, and the larger bikes had an improved twin-leading shoe Amadoro brake. Steering head angles and rear suspensions were altered to improve handling, and larger megaphone exhausts were fitted.

This F3 is one of a small number of bikes prepared by Ducati for privateer racers and based upon the works machines that ran in all the competitive events. Franco Villa, for example, won a supporting race at the 1958 Italian Grand Prix at Monza on a 175-cc F3.

However, the factory made a move to twin-cylinder 125-cc Desmo engines for the 1958 works bikes, which could produce 22.5 horsepower at an astounding 13,800 rpm. Amazingly these engines were safe to rev to 17,000 rpm and featured six-speed gearboxes; however, it should be noted that the singles were considerably more successful than the twins. The factory hired six top riders and campaigned single- and twin-cylinder Desmos but were dogged by ill-luck—so much so that Ducati quit works racing at the end of the 1958 season.

Despite the fitment of lights and a kick-start, F3s were built purely for racing. This example is in original unrestored condition with a factory number plate fly screen, alloy wheel rims, Dell’Orto SS1 250 carburettor, Veglia competition tachometer and an Aprilia headlight. Its present patina and character is irreplaceable and likely to attract a great deal of attention at any gathering of the cognoscenti.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more