1964 Ducati Bronco

Darrell Dick's Beautifully Restored Bronco. Photos Courtesy Darrell Dick.

The Ducati Bronco was a 125cc OHV single fitted with a magneto, Dell 'Orto carb with tickler, drum brakes, and Silentium mufflers. The Bronco had a fixed ignition advance, and every now and then, it would kick back violently when starting. The bike was fairly heavy for a 125, but sturdily built. I don't think it was designed by Ducati's famous Dr. T who perfected the desmo valve system used on sporting Ducatis.

At the time I bought the Bronco, I lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I bought it used around 1965 with paper route money from a high school senior who lived in Emory Valley, Oak Ridge. (I've forgotten his name.) I'm sure he bought it Greene's Cycle shop in Oak Ridge, but he may have gotten it from the Central Ave. shop in Knoxville. I recently met a fellow named Somer who used to work at that shop setting up Ducatis. There was also a big Ducati shop up in the Tri-Cities area at that time. You could even buy high performance cams for the bike.

I bought the Bronco before I had my license, so my parents (bless them) did not allow me to ride it. One day my friend Madison and I snuck the bike out and pushed it up the street to Oneida Lane. We fired it up and Madison bravely took the first turn. He got going down the Lane, and kept pushing down on what he thought was the brake, but what really was the right-hand shift lever. By the time he got to the end of the Lane, he was in fourth gear and moving at a brisk pace. With nowhere to go, he downed the bike and slid it into Mrs. Graves front yard. Neither Madison nor the bike was hurt, but Mrs. Graves came busting out her front door fairly pissed. We had dug a strip out of her yard and left a puddle of oil. (As you remember, the Bronco had a long breather tube. If you got the engine higher than the breather outlet, oil pumped out the tube.) We grunted out an apology to Mrs. Graves, and with our tails between our legs, snuck the bike back home.

Shortly thereafter I got my license, and Madison and I used the bike to deliver papers. We used to ride it and sing Otis Redding's "On the Dock of the Bay" at the top of our lungs.

Don Storing writes: "I had one identical to the one you had. I also got mine in 1965, the year before I got my license also.  But,  my dad let me drive mine until I was legal. Why? I got a job to pay for it and I guess he was so proud that I would offer to get a job at 15 and actually work for the thing he took the chance I wouldn't kill myself. I never would have done the same for my daughter. Anyway, I'm 59 now and on my 18th bike, a 2008 Yamaha FZ1.

I don't know if you experienced the same thing I did with the thing not wanting to stay in gear unless you used the shift lever to hold it in gear, but mine would have a tendency to pop out of gear a lot.  Anyway, I tore the engine entirely apart and rebuilt it with a new shift star I got from Ducati.  I didn't even have a manual but I was able to get it back together and ran it for a year or better after that. I learned a lot from that experience and probably wouldn't even attempt it today after owning 18 different bikes.  Compaired to today's machines it was pretty crude but I still have a lot of good memories from riding that bike."

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