For decades, the overall appearance of Ducati’s sport motorcycles has pretty much remained the same. Sure, there are slight differences from one model to the next, as well as improvements and changes from one year to the next, but in the eye of someone unfamiliar with these bikes they all likely look pretty much the same. The layman would struggle to tell one from the other. Because of the similarity in design, most of us automatically get a specific, if not generic, visual in our minds when the name Ducati is mentioned, which is nothing more than a level of mental conditioning resulting from Ducati’s basic design consistency over the years. The thing is, this ‘tunnel vision’ effect keeps us stuck, in a sense. We don’t even consider Ducati’s early years, or what their very first bike looked like.
Regardless, there were early years, and there was indeed a very first bike, and it looked nothing like the curvy racing Ducati’s we have become so adapted to. It was a far cry from the bikes of today of course. There had to be a beginning; Ducati had to start somewhere. That start happened to be the 1946 Ducati Cucciolo
As many of us already know, Ducati really began as a manufacturer of radio parts and equipment in Bologna, Italy during World War II. Obviously, it would take time to perfect a design that not only represented their company the way they wanted, but was also in keeping with the purpose of the bike. Until then, the best thing to do for the fledgling motorcycle makers was to keep it simple.
For the Cucciolo (Italian for ‘puppy’, which was what the exhaust sounded like), simple really was simple. Founder Aldo Farinelli thought it would be easy to help his fellow Italians get from point A to point B easier by building a motor small enough to mount on a bicycle. That’s exactly what he did, and the Cucciolo was born. Simple was easy, and easy was a breeze, it seemed. Once the motor was designed Farinelli had another company produce the motors for him, and viola! He was making motorcycles. It only took the company a few years to sell 200,000 of the bikes, and the rest, shall we say, is history.
Besides a bicycle with a small motor on it, let’s see what else the 1946 Cucciolo was made of.
1946 Ducati Cucciolo Specs & Features
First released to the public in 1946 in Milan, this small-motored bicycle was part of the first of five total generations. Technically speaking, the Cucciolo was actually the engine itself, which was adapted for use on a bicycle. Initially in 1946, the manufacturer of the motors, a company called Siata, began selling the motors to the public. They easily clipped on a bicycle frame, making the conversion from bicycle to motorcycle and back again just about as quick and simple as it could get. The original price of the Cucciolo is a bit evasive, though I can tell you that one, with a bicycle, recently sold at auction for more than $5,600!
1946 Ducati Cucciolo T2 Specs, Features, and Facts:
- Classed as a motorized bicycle engine only
- Engine weight: 17 lbs (7.7 kg) (approximately 98 lbs dry weight (44 kg) when mounted on a bike)
- 180 miles per gallon (US)
- Top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h)
- 48cc single pullrod motor
- 4 Stroke
- Carbureted fuel system
- Bore & Stroke of 1.5 x 1.5 inches (38.1 x38.1 mm)
- 1.5/5500 kW (hp)/rpm
- Gear-driven 2-speed transmission
- The Cucciolo was produced from 1946 to 1958, and was then succeeded by the 98 line.
- The first year of production only 15 units were manufactured; 200,000 were sold by 1952.
- Also in 1952, Ducati began producing the motor pre-installed on a bicycle with three gears; it was called a moped, and it was also referred to as the Model 48
- Even though it wasn’t released to the public until 1946, the Cucciolo was actually being run on the street by 1944
- The motor the result of a joint effort between Aldo Farinelli and Aldo Leoni. Leoni was actually an engineer who was completely self-taught.
The Ducati Cucciolo Today
Not only are the original motors still around, but so are the units that came sold on bikes. A 1948 model was auctioned off by Bonhamas at the Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction in 2017 for $9,200. eBay also offers them now and again, so for those interested in collecting at a fair price, check out what’s available. The Cucciolo is out there, for those looking, so be sure not to miss out on the opportunities that are waiting for you!
Summing It Up…
It’s always very cool to delve into the past and check out some of the ‘firsts’ that are put out by companies who have come so far. Ducati definitely falls into this category, and one look at the Cucciolo proves it. When we compare how they began to the bikes they build today it may seem like there is no comparison, but the truth is that nothing made today would exist if not for humble beginnings, like those of the 1946 Ducati Cucciolo clip-on bicycle motor. And to think that little gadget blew the minds of the public when it was new! I have to wonder how they would react if they got a load of the Il Monstro!
So, the Cucciolo paved the way to today, and thankfully so. If it wasn’t for the patience and baby steps of Aldo Farinelli, who knows what would be available to us? Maybe we wouldn’t all be doomed to a lifetime of walking, but the motorcycle world certainly wouldn’t be as interesting…perhaps. While you’re out there riding your Ducati, or whatever motorcycle you may own, be sure to consider all of the blood, sweat, and tears of the men who made it possible. We motorcycle lovers have a lot to be thankful for…especially the fact that we don’t have to clip our motors on before we hit the open road. But what the hell…I think it would be more than worth it just to give it a try.
Have fun while you ride, but most of all, be safe.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith