Stepping inside the mind of an artist can be a wild and wacky place, anything can be an inspiration and everything a canvas. A piece of melting cheese for Dali, a suicide and beautiful women for Picasso. Others find their inspiration closer to home and for French artist and designer Emmanuel Dietrich, his faithful dog Otto became his muse and his Ducati 900SS the perfect canvas. But now living in Zurich, Switzerland, his remarkable creativity would also have to comply with the world’s toughest customisation laws and thus a journey was born where expression and adherence would have to find a happy medium. The result is ‘Ottolino’, a striking Bologna Super Sport with a design language all of its own.
Very few designers have come to us with the resume which underpins Emmanuel’s credentials. He graduated from The École Boulle school of fine art, has gone on to design a watch for Hermes as well as his own stunning collection of timepieces, and worked with the world’s most famous high-end brands to give them the ideas to set new trends and stay at the top of the game. But even with such a busy schedule, his mind is always ticking over. “Rethinking my beloved items is something I cannot, never could, resist. As long as I can remember, I have redesigned or re-fabricated all of my things,” he smiles.
So, turning to his Ducati 900SS, “it was naturally not spared,” he laughs. But his intention was never to create something that would please every eye, nor follow convention. With his muse picked, Otto his Whippet has a small, lean, frame and a curved rear end that is built purely for speed. He also had those strict Swiss rules constantly at the back of his mind, as the bike had to be practical as a daily rider and not incur the wrath of the boys in blue. “Above all these considerations, the shape is naturally the main characteristic of the beast. I took inspiration from the period I prefer, the glorious 50s and 60s, definitely the pinnacle of sensuous curves in automotive and motorcycle design.”
Gazing across his desk toward the Ducati, Emmanuel knew that the bodywork he created needed to appear as if it was one with the frame. So he set about the arduous task of designing into his plans, hidden mounting points, fixtures and fittings, wherever it was possible. But with his background in product development, these hidden mounts couldn’t impact the ease with which the motorcycle could be worked on, in fact, vital components had to be even more accessible. Talk about a challenge! But he managed to achieve his goal and then had the design 3D printed to bring it to life.
Now with a full-sized mould, and working as if a world-class boat builder, the fibreglass lamination process could begin, which would produce the final product. The monocoque body has simply beautiful flowing lines, the transition from tip to tail is absolutely seamless both in form and function. Underneath a custom alloy gas tank was designed and fabricated, which helps to lower the centre of gravity and distribute the fuel evenly. The filler then emerges out of the tail section and an added bonus is that the large airbox has been retained to feed the beast below.
On the underside of the tail section is also a built-in hidden fender, vital for passing those pesky laws and also provides the perfect place for a neat tail light and a beautifully designed number plate holder. At the other end, in front of the triple trees, the artist’s mind really comes to life, and the cowl with a single projector headlight is like few pieces we have ever seen before.
Inspired by the unmistakable lines of the SS fuel tank’s shoulders, it not only serves as a mask but neatly houses the single instrument that provides all of the vitals to the rider. The front fender is also a one-off piece, the stock item is frankly, horrible, whereas the new minimalist approach perfectly hits the mark.
The colour of course could only ever be one hue, the stunning Ducati Red which has adorned so many of the world’s most beautiful motorcycles. But Emmanuel has also displayed great restraint, this is a naked bike that wears its mechanical components with pride and he’s avoided the temptation to add touches of red anywhere but on the bodywork. The top of the tank however does wear a solid black stripe, and this is done to balance out the trim colour of the seat, itself a work of art. The foam has been expertly shaped, sitting within the panels and truly making the rider one with his machine.
The mechanicals themselves, however, didn’t go untouched. “Many details, like the engine belt covers, are re-designed to simplify the aesthetic and enhance the beautiful geometry of the V-twin,” he tells us. And it is a gorgeous engine, this flat slide carb equipped unit kept even more simple than its injected siblings.
On the exhaust side, the stock headers have remarkably flowing lines, so a change to the mid-pipes allows for a fresh set of twin carbon mufflers to bolt straight up. But the hangers have come in for a redesign, styled to match the file-finished look of the corresponding belt covers.
The finished piece is both automotive sculpture at its finest and one hell of a way to ride to work, and should serve as an example to others, that limiting your imagination to the mainstream will often also limit your success.