Ducati is known for building expensive, performance-oriented motorcycles; it’s the Lamborghini of the bike world, in a way. However, like many high-end brands Ducati has occasionally branched out into more humble segments of the market over the course of its history.
The Cruiser was Ducati’s first and only scooter. It was introduced in Italy in 1952 in order to take on the ever-popular Piaggio Vespa and similarly-priced two-wheelers manufactured by Lambretta, among others. The Cruiser was more innovative than its main rivals because it was the first mass-produced Italian scooter fitted with a four-stroke engine and an automatic transmission.
Power for the Cruiser came from a 175cc air-cooled two-cylinder engine that generated 8 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, enough to send the 330-pound (175-kilo) scooter on to a top speed of 52 mph (85 km/h). It turns out that the average scooter buyer in post-war Italy wasn’t terribly interested in technical innovations, so the Cruiser failed to catch on while the Vespa — and, to a lesser extent, members of the Lambretta lineup — soared in popularity. Ducati shelved the project in 1954, and it has focused on building motorcycles ever since.
I photographed the like-new Ducati Cruiser you see above earlier today in Autostadt, a massive car-themed complex located right next to the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. As you can imagine, opening the display case to get glare-free pictures wasn’t an option.