In 2012, a piece of news came out on the wires and hit the headlines, attracting the attention of many motorbike enthusiasts: on 29 April, the world's "only Ferrari motorbike" was sold by Bonhams auction house in Stafford, UK.
We're talking about the Ferrari 900 cc, which carries the signature of David Kay Engineering.
The history of the motorcycle, which is unique for a variety of reasons, is particularly intriguing and also enjoyable. It begins in 1990, the year when the British designer David Kay (known for being in charge of designing the most well known motorcycles of MV Agusta, the company where he had worked in as an engineer) made headlines when he made an official request to the Scuderia Ferrari for permission to put the Prancing Horse logo on the body of the racing motorbike he was planning. A few days later, on 23 May 1990, Piero Ferrari, the son of the popular racer Enzo Ferrari and at that time the president of the company, gave a positive response, giving his personal and official approval to the request with a handwritten letter. And so Kay was authorised to make the first ever (and until now...the only) Ferrari motorbike in history.
The bike (as we said, the only one ever made with the official logo of Ferrari) was designed and made with clear inspiration from Enzo Ferrari, the legendary founder of the company of the Prancing Horse, directly referencing the old two-speed Scott engine which the young Enzo had used to begin his own racing career. Let's not forget that in the 1930s the future "Drake" had managed a team of racing motorcycles.
The motorcycle was handmade from scratch and completed after four years of sweat and almost obsessive crafting, which by the end amounted to some 3,000 hours of work (all of it, we repeat, done by hand).
To power it a four cylinder air-cooled motor was chosen, made from magnesium and aluminium, 900cc, 16-valve and with a five speed gear box. The tubular bodywork of the bike was aluminium (making it much lighter than most) and made from Reynolds 531 tubes, upside down forks (provided by Forcelle Italia), Brembo calipers with powerful disk brakes, handmade 17-inch Astralite wheels and custom made WPS shock absorbers. Both the bodywork and the engine carry the mark SF-01M.
The finished motorbike had 105 horsepower at a rate of some 8,800 rotations a minute, and can count on a dry weight of 172kg: using these details it has been calculated that the Ferrari motorbike can reach speeds of up to 159 mph (256 kph). All in all though, its performance isn't quite as good as you'd expect from a motorbike which was bestowed the honour of having the Ferrari logo on the tank. It should be said, however, that the vehicle has never had the chance to fulfil its potential, having seen very little action on either track or road.
To the untrained eye, the motorcycle, with that unmistakeable red colour and equipped with handlebars and four vents (two for each side), has something of a dated look (with a style and bearing which recall motorbikes from the 1970s, while other elements and certain curves are a take-off of the legendary Ferrari Testarossa of the 1980s), but all this is offset by a series of rather advanced features, including a dashboard which is part analogue and part digital, an electronic ignition and a rear tyre which boasts remarkable ground coverage.
And on the tank stands the famous logo of the Prancing Horse, also found on a couple of parts of the engine. Experts have also noted certain details of the bodywork which clearly reference the history of Italian design in relation to motorcycles and cars: among them a series of slits which open up on the sides and at the end of the tail.
The only motorcycle model ever made by the Modena company had already been put up for auction in 2008 with a minimum price of £180,000 (approx. €220,000), but failed to find a buyer willing to take it home. It was then put on sale on E-Bay at a price of £250,000 (approx €306,000) but with the same unfortunate result. The explanation for these two failed attempts is probably found in the relatively modest technical specifications of the bike, which more than a few critics have considered to have failed to live up to the standards of the Ferrari brand. On the other hand, spending half a million on a motorcycle is evidently thought of as folly by the majority of possible buyers.
We have already mentioned that this bike is the only one in history to be adorned with the Ferrari trademark, and if we are talking about the famous Italian company itself this is certainly true. There have, however, been a few other times when the Ferrari name has been linked with a motorcycle. The first of these goes back to the 1950s when a series of motorbikes were made by another producer in Emilia in Italy, called... Ferrari (a common surname in the region).
The second is much more famous: the Cagiva F4, the F a clear sign that the engine had been made by the company HPE, one of the founders of which was Piero Ferrari, and which had initially been destined to compete in the Superbike World Championship (even if it was in practice a Cagiva C594 from MotoGP). The Cagiva project was extremely ambitious and had been created to produce a truly revolutionary motorbike, capable of competing at the top level among other Superbikes but equipped with a four-cylinder engine: precisely because of the importance of the project, Cagiva had decided to work with Ferrari, the most influential sporting brand in the world. The result was an in-line four-cylinder 750cc engine with radial valves, removable transmission and central chain distribution, a series of technologies taken directly from Formula 1®. Its track debut for initial testing in 1995 was a huge event: there had even been photos published fro a strange spy on a Ducatti 851. But after the track trials, the motorcycle was withdrawn and left stuck in the prototype phase, due to both the financial problems of the Varese company, founded by the Castiglioni brothers (the exorbitant investments in MotoGP had brought the company to the brink of ruin), and issues regarding engine development (Ferrari took a step back after being dissatisfied with the results coming out of the first tests and refused to let its name be associated with the bike). Just when all seemed lost and with the dream about to vanish after so many expectations had built up, the Castiglioni owners had an ingenious idea: Cagiva had recently acquired the prestigious MV Agusta brand. The director of the Cagiva research centre, Massimo Tamburini, got to work, and after two years gave life to the MV Agusta F4 Serie Oro, almost unanimously considered to be one of the most beautiful racing motorcycles of all time.
The third and last motorcycle linked to the Ferrari name has remained in the planning stage and was developed entirely in 3D: it was designed by the Israeli Amir Glink, who thought up this technological masterpiece with engines taken from Ferrari and also drawing inspiration from a military air plane. This latest concept was planning a carbon fiber suspension like all modern vehicles and gears at a high level of performance.
From a commercial point of view, the Ferrari 900 seemed to represent an example of diversification of a brand which had historically been directed towards the production of luxury cars, and racing cars competing in grand sporting competitions. It was logical, therefore, to think that from that moment on it would go down the path of producing a range of motorcycles(if only a strictly limited number), all of them bearing the prestigious trademark of the Prancing Horse. These rumours then later intensified due to a curious event: a series of design plans were found for a Ferrari patent from the designer Fabrizio Favaretto, who had attached (albeit in demo form) the design of cruiser motorcycles: these designs were then published on the official website of EPO, the European Patent Office.
At this point, it was Ferrari which put a stop to the rumours at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, with the following announcement "To put it simply, we have absolutely no intention of building a motorbike and there is no future in motorcycling for Ferrari. With every one of our patents, the intention is to protect any technology worthy of safeguarding, now and in the future, but this doesn't mean that the technology itself is imminent. The person who applied to patent this technology, which Ferrari decided to protect, chose to use a motorbike because it was the simplest way to demonstrate that the patent offers something new compared to existing technology. The patent is for a new balancing technology which eliminates the need for a balance shaft. This will have an advantage in terms of weight and dimensions, and to illustrate the project a plan of a V-twin was used as it has the minimum number of cylinders that can be used for demonstration, without entering into the merit of the amount of cylinders to be used in possible future engine. What works on a V dual-cylinder can also work for a V4, V6, V8 or V12."
On the other hand, detractors of the Ferrari 900 motorcycle would argue that the overall aesthetic style of the bike in question would have already been enough to discourage every possible development project in the industry. In other words, they had started off on the wrong foot, beginning with a design that was already a long way away from the tastes of the market.
Looking at the final result from another perspective, and for intellectual honesty, it should be acknowledged that we are talking about a handmade model, never intended for production (not even in limited numbers). As a result, the uniqueness of the bike (to repeat, definitely of a completely different category to those on the market) was certainly one of the factors which led to the raising of the auction price to the levels we mentioned.
Of course, if we just think of the interest that would result from all motorcycle enthusiasts if a full range of motorbikes were released featuring the Prancing Horse logo, we realise that we would have been talking about a momentous occasion. And from a commercial point of view, it would have given rise to a fierce contest between the two automotive giants, the German Volkswagen and the Italian Fiat, the respective owners of Ducati (through the Audi brand, part of the VW group) and Ferrari, who would have done battle to present the public with the most attractive and highest-performing motorbike possible.
All of this, however, for the moment remains simply the dream of many whose ears doubtless pricked up at the news that Ferrari would be getting into the world of motorcycles, a rumour then revealed as false.
The biggest dreamers may still hope that this kind of event might become reality, hoping it will happen in a not too distant future. Yet at the same time, the intense specialisation necessary to compete in today's market may make this kind of project counter-productive. In any case, hope costs nothing and helps keep alive an idea that otherwise would perhaps otherwise be dismissed as a piece of news which has nothing to do with reality.
As for the Ferrari 900, it's an ideal motorbike for enthusiastic collectors who want to take home a unique model, not just from an engineering perspective (as we said, entirely handmade), but also from a historical point of view. Having the only motorcycle in the world in your garage with the official logo of Ferrari isn't something that happens every day, but a dream which could come reality! It could be a great opportunity to enlarge your collection or…imagine a future of motorcycle racing with perfect Ferrari bikes, with the same class and top speed of the Prancing Horse cars, and riders driving fast along the speedways to win the Grand Prix and many other popular races to make the Ferrari logo a champion also with motorcycles, in one of the most popular sports in the World.