Italdesign’s Ducati 860-E Pulls an Icon to a Neo-Retro Electric Future

Electric motorcycles aren’t as prevalent as electric cars yet, but several brands are starting to get involved. That being said, not every bike company has started thinking about EVs—for example, Ducati. True, the Italian brand does have an electric bicycle, but no official electric motorcycle plans. But that hasn’t stopped Italian design firm Italdesign from imagining an electric Ducati. And the end result, the Italdesign Ducati 860-E, takes inspiration from another of the firms’ joint projects: the Ducati 860 GT.

Italdesign founder Giorgetto Giugiaro shaped the classic Ducati 860 GT’s unconventional lines

The side view of an orange 1975 Ducati 860 GT on a grassy dirt road
1975 Ducati 860 GT side | Mecum

Even if you don’t know Italdesign, you probably know the work of its founder, Giorgetto Giugiaro. He’s penned some iconic machines, including the original Volkswagen Golf, the Lotus Esprit, and the DeLorean. And Italdesign recently worked on a special-edition Nissan GT-R. However, Giugiaro hasn’t only worked on cars. Among his notable industrial projects, he’s also designed a handful of motorcycles. One was the rotary-powered Suzuki RE-5. And before that came the 1974 Ducati 860 GT.

While it’s a successful motorcycle company today, in the 1970s Ducati was in financial straits. To try and turn things around, Ducati simplified and enlarged its 748cc L-twin engine to appeal to American buyers, Rider explains. And the company asked Giugiaro to style the new grand-touring-focused bike that would use this engine.

But while the Ducati 860 GT isn’t a bad bike per se, its arrival had a mixed reception. On the one hand, contemporary reviewers found the 60-hp 864cc air-cooled V-twin refined and offering “’endless torque,’” Motorcycle Classics reports. As a result, the bike accelerates well at low and high RPM. Ditching the brand’s desmodromic valves also simplified maintenance and setup significantly. And the Ducati 860 GT is a true sport-touring bike, meaning it can handle long distances and curving roads. Plus, it has Brembo disc brakes.

However, Giugiaro’s design didn’t sit well with riders accustomed to more ‘conventional’ motorcycles. Plus, the too-high and too-wide handlebars caused some high-speed instability. So, Ducati redesigned the bike in 1976 with a rounder look and different handlebars. Also, despite being a post-Honda-CB750 design, an electric start wasn’t standard until 1975.

The Italdesign Ducati 860-E Concept re-imagines the 860 GT as a rad electric motorcycle

The red Italdesign Ducati 860-E Concept
Italdesign Ducati 860-E | Italdesign via YouTube

But times and tastes change. While unconventional in 1974, the Ducati 860 GT heralded the rise of sharp-edged bikes like the original Suzuki Katana, Cycle World explains. And today, to quote Italdesign itself, the 860 GT is considered a bike “way too ahead of its time.” That’s why the firm re-imagined and refreshed it into an electric motorcycle: the Italdesign Ducati 860-E.

To be sure, the Italdesign Ducati 860-E isn’t an 860 GT converted into an electric motorcycle. Instead, the 860-E is an homage to the classic bike that also includes modern Ducati style elements, RideApart explains. For example, I see a bit of the Streetfighter V4 in the lower bodywork. Plus, the Italdesign Ducati 860-E has LED lighting, an upside-down fork, and a single-sided swingarm—all things the original lacks, Cycle World notes.

As of this writing, Italdesign hasn’t released any technical details about the Ducati 860-E. And it likely never will for soon-to-be-explained reasons.

Can you buy it?

Unfortunately for potential buyers, the Italdesign Ducati 860-E isn’t a production bike. Although the design firm collaborated with Ducati on a folding e-bike, Ducati didn’t commission the electric motorcycle concept. It’s a styling exercise and nothing more.

It’s worth noting, though, that the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is now its own sub-brand. So, Ducati could use this concept as inspiration for a future LiveWire competitor, Jalopnik muses. But even if the 860-E remains a digital render, it’s undoubtedly a sharp and stylish look at the future. Just like the original was.

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