1985 Cagiva Alazzurra 350
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
When the Castiglione brothers took over Ducati in 1980s, they had a history of successful metalworking, and an urge to save struggling motorcycle brands. By the 1990s they had rescued Ducati, Husquvarna, Moto Morini and MV Agusta. Naturally the brands needed saving for a reason, so the energetic brothers always had to come up with new models fast.
For Ducati, they took Taglioni’s revolutionary Kevlar belt-drive desmodromic V-twin engine from the moribund 500SL and 600 SL Pantah models, and created their own Cagiva Alazzura (which means “blue wing”, though the bikes were red). The bikes were a cross between Italian and Japanese styling and they carried the name Cagiva, (which nobody could pronounce without a hard “g”), instead of the more marketable Ducati tag.
In an effort to make the Alazzurra more user-friendly than the long-stretch Pantah, the Castigliones modified the layout, keeping the excellent trellis frame but using it as the basis for a mild sports-tourer. The bars were high, the half-fairing decorative, and actually prone to break the support bracket due to the front overhang.
In search of a gentler non-Ducati ride, the Marzocchi forks were over-sprung and under-damped, while the gold 18-inch Oscam wheels were handsome but heavy. Triple Brembo disc brakes were fitted, but incapable of locking either wheel due to hydraulic miscalculations. The dual seat looked great, but was hard.
The red and white paint job was handsome, and fitting Conti aftermarket pipes left no doubt that the heart of the machine was a Ducati V-twin with an impressive 10,000 rpm redline. The price was a reasonable $3,350 in 1985, but the dealership network was skeletal, and parts supply casual. It was possible to fit lowers to the half-fairing – thereby solving the support bracket issue – but difficult to find panels unbroken in transit.
The Bosch ignition was a solid improvement, but the four wires that controlled the ignition were inside the left engine cover, leading to control boxes under the fuel tank. They were immersed in hot oil and the stock insulation broke down, causing misfires. The fix is simple, but the problem was frustrating.
Once again, the engine is the key. It was the basis of all future Ducati motors and was still in use as late as the 620 Monster. With some upgrades, maintenance is pretty simple, just keep track of valve settings and change the belts regularly. The best Alazzurra to buy is the 1986-87 black and white 650 SS version, with full fairing and improved dry clutch .The SS also has larger Brembo F08 brake calipers, and a wider back wheel for a larger 130 section rear tire.
The Alazzurra is the cheapest way to get into just about any Ducati and prices have remained modest. Repairs are relatively easy, parts are cheap and anybody who hears you take off with Conti pipes will know this really is a Ducati.