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Ducati Darmah SSD Resurection

Discussion in 'Modifications and Projects' started by Ged, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. Look what Santa bought me!

    Despite what all my ex wives and girlfriends have to say, Santa agreed with me that I have indeed been very very GOOD this year!


    Actually, I've been asking Santa for a 900 Ducati every christmas since I sold my last one over 25 years ago, so I guess you could also say he was a wee bit late. Anyway, nice work big fella.

    So, what is it you ask? It is the remaining elements of a 1980 Ducati 900 Darmah SSD. The SSD was basically an SS'ified Darmah or a Darmah'fied SS, whichever way you want to look at it. Sort of halfway between the two.They have the SS spec motor, but with electric start, clip on bars, rear set pegs and the SS shorty fairing but with the Darmah ducktail seat and built on the Darmah frame. I'm sure I'll get to expalaining the differences as we go along, but the SSD's all came in a beautiful 2 tone ice blue/dark blue that still looks gorgeous today.

    But of course, mine doesnt look anything like that. It has been rebuilt at some point as an NCR replica. All of the SSD bodywork has been junked and it currently has an NCR fairing (from '78) and Imola tank (from '74) and an MHR sidecovers, seat and ducktail (from '82), so not particularly SSD at the moment...... or so you would think.




    The beast was last registered in Qld 10 years ago (without indicators!) was then sold through Reds Ducati in Western Sydney to a collector in Melbourne who has had her collecting dust for just a little too long. 8 years since she was started in fact, so he recognised it was probably time to pass it on before it deteriorated too significantly and I guess i just happened to be standing in the wrong spot. I actually wanted to build a TT2 600/650, but that is likely to take a while, so this will be an interesting interlude no doubt.

    The PO was a lovely bloke and i went down to Melbourne to meet him and to check the bike out. He has a fantastic collection of motorcycles and has owned everything from SS Ducati's to Manx Nortons and an 8 valve Triton, so he certainly has good taste in motorcycles. He bought this SSD sight unseen, had it shpped to Melbourne, rode it up the road and back and then parked it. Apparently it was strong, no noises and ran well. he started it regulalry for the first 2 years and then the battery went flat and it has been sitting ever since.



    So it turned up late on christmas eve and i've had a few days to do a few bits and pieces and generally have a bit of a pick around it. It actually isnt too bad, so far.

    The good points. it still has all of its SSD specific bits, bar the bodywork (which is basically shared with the Darmah SD, so easily obtainable). The SSD has special raised and forward clip on bars, specific gear and brake linkages, 6 bolt alloy mounted brake discs and wheels, specific rear shocks and a few other little oddities which are all still there. Good. The SSD was actually the rarest of all that era's 900's so this one can easliy convert back to that spec if required at some time.

    But I aint gonna do that just yet......

    The bad points: Its an SSD! Despite the looks of these things, they were more Darmah than SS. The frame carries the motor higher (for ground clearance), is an inch lower in the seat area, has a 30 degree steering head (28 on the SS) longer forks and shocks and carries an extra 30 odd kg including the starter. They look the part, but they will never be an SS. Other issues so far are what the frame is painted with? No idea. Some sort of clear over metal finish I think. Polished then cleared? Dunno. Hasnt lasted too well though. Thats an issue.

    I have no idea yet and I'm being optomistic but, I think it might run and I think it might even be alright. Big punt isnt it!? We will find out soon enough I'm sure.

    All going to plan, I should have it running at some point in the next few days and that will be the right time to make a decision about its future, but the plan is (at this point) to run it as it is, at least until it shows signs of needing attention. If and when the motor wants doing, I will get it done, but if I can get mileage out of the current motor, then it makes sense to run it out for a while. if it aint broke, dont fix it. The Pantah I have recently finished and documented on this forum is a beautiful little bike, but its too shiny for me! I'm a rider not a polisher, so this might suit me as is for a little while I'm hoping. Will see how we go.

    Anyway, I've already made some progress over the past couple of days and will post another update in a day or two. Cheers.

  2. NICE
    I'm still riding a '78 Darmah =D>
    Have manuals etc and over 25yrs "experience" with it PM if need be :)
  3. Thats awesome, will be watching the thread with interest for sure :)
  4. If me the first thing I would do is line the tank if its a glass one.It wont last with the soup we call fuel thes days.If your in Sydney one of the Classic Italian Motocycle Assoc blokes does a great job of this,he can save the paint even.Thats a good port of call for classic rego if your going that way as well.We need more riders and not collectors
  5. #5 Ged, Dec 29, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2015
    Cheers guys. Got a question for you in a second Ducfreak.

    Zim, I'm up on the North Coast so Sydney is a little far. I drained the tank of old fuel the other day and yeah, there was haeps of gunk in there but that was 10 year old fuel. I dont know that it had that much ethanol in it back then? i will certainly reline the tank over the next week or so as I get to it.

    So I have managed to find a few hours to throw at it over the past few days and have some good progress. I drained the oil and it looked pretty good. Still had a browny translucence rather than being sooty black and there was nothing untoward in the bottom of the drain tray. I checked the oil filter and I could still see the yellow of the element, so Im failrly confident it was done before it was laid up. I want to run the new oil though the system for an hour or so and then flush that and give it a new filter at that point.

    The bike came with the dash panel/ignition wiring bundled up in bubble wrap with loose wires and bollocks everywhere, so that was the next job.


    Thankfully it is almost the same set up as the Pantah so I kind of knew my way through it. I downloaded the wiring diagram and soon enough had most of the connections sorted and resoldered into place except for 2 wires that belonged in the ignition switch which should be connected with these special 3mm bullet connectors. Uh huh, Theyre gonna be hard to find...... thinkin thinkin. Then I remembered! The idiot lights on these things have been unobtainable for years and I needed a couple for the Pantah to finish the dash on that. So a month or so ago i imported the remnats of an SSD dash from Germany in order to pirate the idiot lights for the Pantah!


    So after my head stopped spinning form the fact that I had already bought the bit I needed for a bike I didnt own yet!, i pinched the appropriate bullets out of the German unit and we have ignition! The dash panel is in better nick than mine too, so it will go on eventualy as well. Bloody incredible.

    I picked up a new sealed battery for it which is the size of a Falcon battery and one of the reasons an SSD weighs 30kg more than an SS. i hate paying that much money to go slower.....


    I dropped the carbies which are 40mm Dellorto's (thankfully - I believe the earlier ones came with 32's) and the rear carb was full of green goo while the front one was full of grey dust. Yum. The green goo was easy enough to melt away with vile hideous carcinogenic carb cleaner, but the pilot jet was completely blocked and took a bit of persitance to clear. The grey dust in the front carb was the remains of the in line fuel filter which had disintergated. Thankfully it hadnt been run, so all the dust was still sitting in the float bowl.

    i wouldnt recommend these filters if you are storing a bike.




    I drained the stale fuel from the tank and gave it a good flush with fresh fuel. I pulled both taps and cleaned the screens and checked the sealing washers which were ok, but I have since had one of the taps out twice trying to solve a leak but I can see the stain on the case where it has been leaking forever, so I think the tap is cactus. It looks like a replacement fuel tap anyway, and its lever positions dont match the other side which is a PITA. I think it should be a Paoli tap as on the Pantah? Anyone know a source for these?

    Late yesterday I got to dropping a little oil down the bores and cranking the starter for a while to circulate some oil and then left it overnight.

    I picked up some fresh plugs today, BP6HS rather than the BP7HS's that were in it. BP7HS's are a hotter plug than standard. I wonder if it has had some work done to it?

    Anyway, fresh load of fuel in it, (tap still leaks!) set the throttle stops to 1 turn out, pilot air jets to 2 turns out, flooded the ticklers, hit the button and bingo! Fired up first prod. Runs like a bird. Beautiful.

    There was a little whiff of smoke from the front pot after about a minute of warming, but I figure that was the oil down the bores burning away through the exhaust tract and it disappeared almost immediatly. I ran it for 3 or 4 minutes and it sounded sweet, no smoke, no noises. Brilliant.

    Youtube video for the bored:


    So, Ducfreak, what is the story with the Gen light on these things? I've read somewhere they only go out when the baterry isnt charging? Is that right?

    So far, so good. What to do then? I think it is quite likely to be a good runner, as it was represented to be. It looks like it will be worth the effort of putting plates on it and seeing how it goes. Issues? No rear gurad or front or rear indicators for a start! Not real sure how it managed to get registered 10 years ago without any? all the wiring looks to be still in place so it is just a matter of sourcing the bits. i've found an NOS rear guard in Holland for about $90 posted, (cheap because they're stainless so nobody has had to replace rusty ones!) but I might have to search a little for the other bits. I would like to source original SSD bits so that it is a step closer to going back to its original form, which it where it will proably end up one day.

    it wont be too hard to find the correct bodywork bits and return it to the two tone blue, but I kinda like the look of the mish mash of bits it is at the moment! so I might leave it like that for the time being.

    I am trying to avoid 'restoring' this bike. I really dont want to rip it to bits if it doesnt need it, so I will go ahead and sort the brakes next which are, well... like the electrics "need work".

    Bugga of a week to try and track down bits because everyone is closed, but next week should see some more progress. Here's hoping. Cheers, ged.
  6. Nice one Ged - glad to see the bike made it over to you in good nick and in time for Christmas.

    Another thread for me to follow on Ducati's - closest I will ever get to owning one - just watching you play with yours.
  7. wowsers, you guys with your projects, don't let anyone tell you blokes can't be patient (especially with early Italian electrics!)

    I'd reckon the Contis would be worth half the total value of the bike, wouldn't they?
  8. MAN GED your having some fun =D>

    The Gen light is supposed to go out when the battery IS charging, with the standard reg/rec and headlight on usually about 2k rpm or more ](*,).

    I rebuilt mine 20 odd yrs ago, to my design and it charges virtuallly form idle :angel: but it is a prototype taped to the frame and still working :).

    There is a little red box just near the reg called a "voltimeter" that turns the light on and off it may be stuffed (accounted for it in my design, so I could piss it off) best bet is to run the motor without lights and pop a multimeter on the battery and check voltage, anywhere from 13.5V at about 1500RPM and your sweet, it'll go up more with revs.

    Fuel taps can be rebuilt, RoadandRace at Berkely Vale near here (PHIL) is great with this old stuff, hes been looking after me for 30 yrs.
    Also Bevel Heaven in the States has lots of bits and a forum attached to the site with help form all over the world.

    Keep us up to date.
  9. You may only need a new seal in your fuel tap. As ducfreak points out Phil Hitchcock may have these. Exciting project!
  10. YUP he has, i replaced both mine =D>
    drill out rivets , replace seal, use 3mm screws to hold it all together again :)
  11. Cheers guys.

    I dont know that my eyesight is up to drilling those rivets out! Their tiny.

    i am hoping Arthur at Desmo HQ in Byron is back next week and I will pop down and collect a list of bits and I think we should be looking at getting the wheels rolling hopefully. Whoohoo.
  12. Good read mate. Will watch out for further installments,

  13. Ok, bit of a progress update.

    I made it down to DesmoHQ earlier in the week and Arthur fixed me up with some master cylinder kits, brake pads, fuel lines, filters and his last 3 CEV indicators as well as a new fuel tap of course which was the first item to go in. Good news is that the tank now holds fuel and all the brakes are rebuilt and ready to rock.

    I have started her up each day so far and it fires first prod each time. A couple of days ago i gave it a good warm up and then started increasing the revs to around 4000RPM at which point it starts to misfire, burp and puff out a little smoke on the rear pot. Uh oh......

    It might well be a carb issue and the smoke is unburnt fuel - it is pretty light - but then it could well be more sinister.

    This photo shows (poorly) a leak at the cylinder head joint on the rear pot. I noticed this when I first looked at the bike and didnt think much of it, but now I'm not so sure.


    I guess it could be a loose head stud, poorly sealing O ring, warped head?????? Anybody seen this before in a Ducati bevel?

    I am thinking at this point to just load it onto a ute and transport it down to Arthur at DesmoHQ and get him to have little look before it deteriorates any further. These things have habit of getting very expensive very quickly if something lets go and it has to go down to have valve clearances checked anyway before it can go on the road, so I may as well do it sooner rather than later.

    In the meantime I will run a compression test on it today and see what that says. Anybody know what reading a good 900 SSD motor should show?
  14. Yep oil leak is familiar :), from the looks an o'ring, theres only 2 there I think from memory, plus thers no head gaskets at all just a nice tight fit.

    The miss at 4k could well be ignition related, 4 stage ignition timing
    900 rpm - 6deg
    at 1800 step to 16 to 18 deg
    at 2800 step to 28 deg
    at 4000 fully advanced
    SPECIALLy if it kicks in at 4k every time regardless of throttl position.
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  15. Thanks Ducfreak. Hmmm. Could be a few issues. The O ring looks suss for sure and I wouldnt be surprised if a valve stem seal has let go after sitting for too long. Either way, its a rear head off job which means dropping the motor doesnt it?

    "Nothing $hits Me" is one of my motto's, but so is "discretion is the better part of valour", so having a desmo maestro like Arthur an hour down the road I guess it makes sense to run it down and get the doctors diagnosis. If he drops the motor and pops the heads it will be a good opportunity to check the bores for wear as well as a chance to assess the bottom end. A top end freshen up wont be cheap, (if it needs it) but its money well spent i suspect.

    I ran it again today and it seemed a little better. i still need to put carb kits through it to eliminate that potential as well. It starts to roughen out ( a little, sometimes not) around 3500 to 4000. i havent tested it under load either and I havent really reved it beyond 4000.

    I have my pantah booked in for valve clearances this week so I will be down there for half the day anyway so I can arrange to get her down to Arthur and we can come up with a battle plan while I wait for guards and tail lights etc to turn up.
  16. For just head removal, you can remove top rear engine mount bolt and front engine mount bolt, then rotate motor forward on the bottom rear bolt =D>.

    You'll need a "special" 16mm ringie ground thinner so you can remove it from the head stud after loosening each bolt a little at a time to get heads off

    valve clearances usually about $100/head or so.
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