A very special Ducati 175cc G.P. racer

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Cucciolo - the Lil Pup
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 10:42 am
Location: Oregon

A very special Ducati 175cc G.P. racer

Post by billc_sbio »

Hello Everybody,

I'll use this post to both introduce myself and describe a little about this bike (as I best understand its history).

About me: my name is Bill Cleghorn and I raced in California's American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) back in the late '60s and early 70s.

At that time the AFM was a leading Road Racing club in the U.S. and often supplied top road racing riders to many National races at that time.

Names that are recognizable even today of riders who rode in AFM races back then (over a period of years) include Ed Kretz Jr., Don Vesco, John McLaughlin, Ron Grant, Art Bauman, Jody Nicolas, Ron Pierce, Don Emde, richard Hammer, Geo. Kerker, Wes Cooley Jr., Ralph White, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Randy Mamola to name a few.

This bike: I first saw this bike race in June 1963 at the first Northern California "All AFM" race (prior to this, the AFM in Northern California had been racing at SCCA Sports Car races, during their noon intermission) held at Vaca Valley Raceway in Vacaville. I was still a senior in High School, but loved watching the bike races.

This bike was one of several Ducati Formula III bikes that were racing at that time. In that class there were several Ducatis as well as a few Parilla 175cc Gransport bikes some faired and modified to run as full on "Grand Prix" bikes and some basically left stock.

At those races this bike was raced by its original owner and builder who was a fellow named Peter Schwerke who worked for a shop in Sacramento named Sarkees' Motorcycles.

As the story was related, Peter (a German) worked at the Ducati factory in the summer of 1960 and built this racer up starting with a Formula III 175 and used other parts from Ducati's race shop to modify it into a G.P. racer.

I guess this would include the 2 piece fiberglass fairing, the long G.P. aluminum tank, the suede racing seat, the megaphone exhaust, constant-loss battery supplied ignition AND the special 5-speed CR Gearset, which on this bike was somewhat unusual as it had the 5th speed gear located outside the crankcase and under the sidecover.

Other than this, Formula IIIs were pretty "trick" bikes, ready to race, as they came.

The photo I took below was taken at a AFM race at Willow Springs in 1964. I was in the Marines and stationed at Camp Pendleton and managed to work my way over to Willow Springs Racetrack (no small ordeal, when all done via public transportation -buses- back then!)

My stint in the Marines took me to Vietnam and thus I was gone from any racing for ~a year plus, and thus I was somewhat out of the loop for awhile.

When I got back and out of the service and back watching races this little racer (along with most of the Ducs and Parilla racers) had disappeared!

I got into racing myself and my roomate at that time somehow got wind of this neat little 175 Ducati racer that was for sale.

I remember going with him over to look it over and perhaps buy it.

It had been bought by a fairly well known amateur sports car racer and racing garage owner named Steve Griswold who had a race shop in Berkeley, Cal. I guess (as I recall him saying) Steve had bought it with the idea of racing it and I think he rode it a few times at a couple of racetracks (this being before the days of "Track Days", as we know them now).

Anyway, it was for sale and my roomate bought it.

We didn't have any "history" on the bike, other than what I knew and have posted above. We didn't have any manuals, instructions, nada, zip!

My friend just took it and ran it "as it came".

At that time the AFM was experimenting (for a couple of seasons) with "Junior" riders, riders who were "new"/novices. This would be my roomate, as he'd just returned from a stint in RVN as a Special Forces Medic.

So seeing that the bike was "available" for the "main" (non-Junior) races I was offered a ride on it.

This was really fun for me as this was one of those "great bikes" I'd watched race just 4-5 years previously and I was going to compete against some of my AFM "Heroes" who were also racing 175cc bikes at the time.

As mentioned, at this time most of the 175 Ducatis and Parillas had disappeared and had been replaced by a gaggle of highly modified CB160 Hondas built into G.P. bikes.

I remember in one race having a real duel with one of my High School racing heroes a fellow named Bob Knott, who'd been a premier Norton Manx pilot, back when there were typically 8-10 Manxes racing by top flight racers like Buddy Parriot, Tony Murphy, Stan Brassey, John McLaughlin and of course Don Vesco on his G50 Matchless.

Bob was on a really tricked out CB160 and was really fast. I had a great duel with him, and it was fun to run around the outside of Don Emde on his very fast little 100cc Hodaka G.P. bike that Mel Dinesen had prepared for him. Winning that race was pretty memorable to me as these other guys were the racers to beat!

That little Duc really flew and it handled really well for a bike of that vintage. I wish I had other photos of it, preferably with me on it. I've seen some but never got any copies for myself.

So this is the only photo I have of this little racer, and it probably still exists out there somewhere in someone's collection. I wonder where?

Bill C.


Cucciolo - the Lil Pup
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:05 pm
Location: South Ontario

Post by mgill »

What a great story! Thanks for taking the time to share it.
A bike that special is surely still tucked away somewhere...

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