Nobody ever thinks about motorcycles when Ferrari is ever mentioned. Exotic super cars and racing is what comes to mind when most of us think of the Prancing Horse. Ferrari has been doing what it does best since 1947, so it’s interesting to hear that a Prancing Horse insignia exists on a vehicle that’s not a luxurious car. In fact, there exists a Ferrari motorcycle that somehow slipped through the cracks of the mainstream and stayed somewhat of a dream. It’s definitely a dream for the rest of the world, as there’s only one Ferrari motorcycle—not one model, but exactly one motorcycle.
Short history of the Ferrari motorcycle
Ferrari has never been in the market to create and/or produce motorcycles. The Italian manufacturer has always had its eyes set on speedy four-wheel transportation, and that kind of focus has become an advantage all these years. The company knows its clients and knows its brand enough to be able to draw the line somewhere. What happened in 1990 was a series of converging events that actually had its start way back in the 1919, when one young Enzo Ferrari started his racing career. Unbeknownst to many, Enzo—the founder of the Ferrari Company—actually started racing on a 2-speed Scott engine and also managed a team of motorcycle racers in the 1930s. These two separate events would help inspire the creation of the Ferrari motorcycle decades later.
The inspiration came to British designer David Kay in May 1990. David Kay is most known for his engineering work for MV Agusta, and of course, his work on the only Ferrari motorcycle in the world. During that time, Kay had a conversation with a fellow motorcycle engineer, Rodney Milson, who suggested an opportunity for Kay to demonstrate his engineering prowess. The idea was to create one motorcycle that was to be its own kind. Kay took the opportunity and ran with it, but he also took it to a different level. Kay wrote a letter to Piero Ferrari, the late Enzo’s second and only living son. In the letter, Kay sought permission to create a motorcycle that honors Enzo Ferrari and one that was worthy enough to carry the Prancing Horse on its body . Just a few days later on May 23, 1990, Kay received a response that would set the creation process in motion. Piero sent Kay a handwritten letter stating his personal and official approval of the project—being that Piero was President of Ferrari at the time. The letter became the green signal for Kay to start building the world’s first and only Ferrari 900 motorcycle.
Building the machine
It’s important to note that Kay and his team built the Ferrari motorcycle entirely from scratch and entirely by hand. Every single part and every single component of this machine was hand built. The work was so detailed and elaborate that it took Kay and his team 4 years and over 3,000 hours of work by hand to finish the motorcycle. The process of creating the motorcycle was already impressive on its own, but the result—which had to be approved by Ferrari—was also astounding on its own.
Powered by a 4-cylinder air-cooled 900cc 16-valve engine, the Ferrari motorcycle can produce 105bhp at 8,800 rpm and had the capability of going 60mph in just 3 seconds. The motor is made out of magnesium and aluminum, and it features a 5-speed gearbox. This incredible speed achievement is likely due to the build of the tubular bodywork, which is made entirely out of aluminum—a substantially lighter material compared to the other typical materials including steel. This bodywork was painstakingly hand-beaten to perfection. The engine and the bodywork of this motorcycle carry the SF-01M mark, which is the official Ferrari chassis number. Upon closer inspection of the motorcycle, you’ll also find upside down forks, Reynolds 531 tubes, custom WPS shock absorbers, Brembo calipers, and powerful disk brakes. There are a few elements on this motorcycle that are also unique to the machine: the bike’s magnesium casing, handmade 17-inch Astralite wheels, carbon fiber mudguards, and also a one-off digital instrument panel that was developed specifically for the Ferrari motorcycle. This incredible work of engineering is reported to reach top speeds of up to 159mph.
The motorcycle is likely modeled after the 1970s to 1980s Testarossa, which is made evident by the strakes on the side panels and curves on certain places. Looking at it today, the Ferrari 900 motorcycle seems to radiate an outdated look. However, you can immediately see the modern touches on the bike as soon as you sit on it. The dashboard has digital parts and an electronic ignition. In addition, the rear tire is fairly advanced in the way it offers remarkable ground coverage.
You get outdated and modern on this bike, but one thing is unmistakably classic in its features: the unmistakable red Ferrari color. If this striking red doesn’t convince you of this motorcycle’s worthiness and authenticity, maybe the Prancing Horse on the tank will convince you. This Prancing Horse is a mark of Ferrari-level ingenuity, and you can find it in more than one place on this Ferrari 900 motorcycle.
The Ferrari 900 was finished in 1995. Soon after, a British collector that was sensible enough to keep this one-of-a-kind piece of historical engineering out of the streets acquired the motorcycle. It stayed in this collector’s drawing room for 17 years. After that, the Ferrari 900 saw a couple of auction houses before finding its temporary home at Bonham’s and getting auctioned off in 2008. The asking price at the time was £180,000, and it did not sell. After this auction, the Ferrari 900 was put up on eBay for £250,000, but it didn’t sell there either. On April 29, 2012, the Ferrari motorcycle finally found a buyer for the price of £85,000 or $110,481. It’s a meager price considering that no other vehicle of its kind existed before or will ever exist again and also because Piero Ferrari’s original letter of approval to David Kay was also included in the sale. Ferrari has made it explicit that it has no intentions of ever creating a motorcycle again, so let’s just hope that the latest buyer is more of a collector rather than a rider. It seems this motorcycle belongs in a museum more than it does on the open road.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith