Amongst the modern Ducati collector scene the Ducati Pantah 500, 600 and 650 often get overlooked in favour of the awesome Ducati 916 and later variants due to the huge world superbike success during the 1990s. The Ducati Pantah only had a short production run between 1980 and 1986, however it was an important technical move forward for Ducati’s v-twins. The Pantah moved away from previous bevel gear driven camshafts to belt driven camshafts, which paved the way for the 851, 888, 900 and 916.
The used market is starting to wake up to the importance of the Ducati Pantah in Ducati’s history and prices are rising accordingly. Fortunately there does appear to be plenty of nice examples available on the used market, some very nice original survivor bikes and others that have received a full nut and bolt restoration.
Ducati Pantah performance
The Pantah 500 SL produces a modest 50 horsepower, whereas the later 650 and slightly more interesting 63 horsepower. The Isle of Mann TT homologation model received a stroked motor to fit within the 750cc F2 class. Tony Rutter is often cited as the racer who saved Ducati’s fortunes with his Pantah 600 racer.
Buying a used Ducati Pantah
The first rule of buying a used Ducati Pantah is receipts and service history to prove you are not buying something built from various scrap bikes and parts. The survival of the Ducati motor is heavily dependant on regular maintenance intervals, especially servicing and replacing the camshaft drive belts, dolly wheels and bearings. Lots of owners found this to be a tricky task and something that was usually very expensive at a Ducati dealer, requiring camshaft locking and holding tools to maintain the camshaft timing alignments.
As a consequence many Ducati engines ended up detonating due to cambelt and valve failure, usually beyond economic repair. I you are looking at a bike which doesn’t include boxes of receipts or service history don’t pay top money unless you or someone who knows engines has given a thorough check over.
Ducati 500 SL Pantah 1982 on ebay
Whilst surfing ebay for interesting bikes you often notice a few hidden gems, and this Ducati 500 SL from 1982 is a real survivor in unrestored original condition. Original bikes of this quality are very rare, and something collectors quickly snap-up for private collections. This example has some age related wear and marks, however I do prefer a bike which has been ridden and unrestored. The only aftermarket part appears to be the Hagon rear shock absorbers, probably a good improvement over the originals by Paioli.
Overhaul service and maintenance
If you are handy with the spanners and confident you shouldn’t be afraid to tackle restoring a Ducati, however do your homework and seek out experts who can provide advice, and the right tools to undertake the more complex engine work. A mistake could be costly given the scarcity of spares and suitable donor bikes. A modern Ducati dealer may have some old school technicians who know their way around one of these, however with most modern bikes being fuel injected with sensors everywhere, the nuances of carburettor setup for one of these could be beyond their skills. An old school specialist is probably a safer bet.
if you are looking to get with the spanners you may want to check out our workshop tools article for some inspiration and ideas for your garage. You can never have enough tools and equipment to make life a bit easier.
Happy biding and good luck
If you are bidding on the Ducati Pantah 500 SL we wish you all the very best of luck and please let us know if you are planning to keep original (minus the Hagons) or possible go for a nut and bolt restoration. Whatever the the outcome it will always be nice to see Pantah tearing up the roads on a sunny afternoon!