For years, motorcycles that looked suspiciously like a brand new Ducati were being offered for sale in China, but the price, specs and closer inspection gave the game away. But rather than scream trademark violation, the big Italian brand saw an opportunity, and knew that the world’s second-largest consumer market clearly had an appetite for their wares. It wasn’t long before the Bologna brand opened dealerships around the country and now they’ve sought to capture the hearts of the country’s customisers. Enter Luo Hao, the owner of Mandrill Garage, the nation’s most well known bike builder, who Ducati sought out to build them a stunning machine to be given away in an online lottery to one lucky rider. And from the bones of a modern Scrambler Icon, Luo has used a host of Bologna parts bin pieces, to create a tribute to the race-winning “Old Blue” Daytona special.

It’s been ten years since we first published a custom to roll out of the Mandrill Garage, and ever since, China’s top builder has been producing all manner of stunning machines using donors from just about any manufacturer you care to name. But Luo has always been a fan of Italian design, and having built a number of Bologna bullets and owning a Desert Sled himself, the chance to work hand in hand with the company was a big honour. “My thought is that the Scrambler is Ducati’s last air-cooled engine. I looked for some inspiration in the history of air-cooled engines from the past and ended up choosing this blue racer. Because for Ducati, China is still a relatively new market, and most Chinese fans don’t know much about many historical models.”

Given the bike was going to be torn to pieces, a pre-facelift Scrambler was sent over and Luo stripped it back to the bare frame and engine before considering his design. “At the time of the Sport Classic 1000, NCR launched a new blue based on the Sport 1000. It continued the style of the Modern classic. When I was doing it, I wanted more elements close to the old race bike, like the windshield, tank, number plate etc I’m closer to the No.31 race bike as the proportions allow,” Luo explains. Like NCR his inspiration is Cook Neilson’s 1977 Daytona-winning Ducati 750SS, and like that machine, many a part has been taken from the Ducati parts bin.

Working on his computer to create a digital design, Luo decided that the only Scrambler parts that he’d keep were the main chassis frame, the engine and the electrics, absolutely everything else would be handmade or taken from another Bologna beast. The first of these parts is the stunning single-sided swingarm from the Ductati S4RS. It is arguably the most beautiful the company has ever made, and even though the engine is a semi-stressed member, to Luo’s pleasant surprise, it was a near bolt-on modification. The only change required was to the lower shock mounting point, and the gold spring gives the game away, that is indeed an Ohlins damper.

To give the front end the same level of high-end fit and finish, Luo had Ducati send him over a front end from a new V4. And again to his surprise, there was almost nothing that needed changing to allow the epic Ohlins and Brembo package to slot onto the Scrambler. The Italian company clearly uses very similar headstocks on all their bikes, as one spacer and things all lined up! A set of S4RS Marchesini forged aluminium wheels all wrapped up in premium Pirelli rubber and the roller was spot on. Then to create the bodywork, Luo printed off pictures of classic Ducs and plastered them around the bike and his workshop, allowing the inspiration to flow.

The tank he decided would need to have that real race bike look, the high top and bulging sides, designed to give as much fuel capacity as possible. To build his own, he placed a large piece of foam over the backbone and began shaping, cutting and filing away material, drawing lines and slowly whittling out the final form. This then gave him the perfect template from which he could reproduce the part in metal, knowing the fit would be spot on. The side covers were fashioned in a slightly different way, first drawn on the computer, the image traced onto alloy and then out with the sheer to cut the shape.

But with a desire to create a more 3D finish, he bashed the metal piece over the sandbag and cut in the neatly shaped speed holes. The front fairing design draws heavily on that made famous by the 750SS racers of the ’70s, but before one could be built, a full front aluminium subframe had to be constructed to hold it into place. The fairing then bolts on neatly, with almost all the mounts hidden and a brilliant LED headlight from Ducati recessed into the front, for a smoother overall finish. The tail section again, as Luo desired, is clearly classically inspired and the big number boards with the 31 numerals, perfectly mimic the originals of “Old Blue”.

But there is nothing dated about the paintwork, this is a stunning modern interpretation, with the silver using a fine flake to add depth and that blue simply pops off the page. The extra effort to paint the frame and swingarm, combined with the classic graphics delivers a truly breathtaking result. More parts have been added from the Ducati catalogue, like the raised Monster foot pegs. And even the exhaust headers are from a different model, with Hypermotard items blended into a custom system that finishes out of a barking mad Arrow cone-style muffler. So sure, go buy a knockoff ‘Ducati’ version, but parked next to the real thing – let alone this Mandrill masterpiece – and it’s you that will be left with the fake smile.

[ Mandrill Garage ]