Buying a 1974 Ducati 750SS green frame

Buying a 1974 Ducati 750SS green frame is not as easy as many people believe, if you want your example to be investment grade. There are many more than the 401 examples made by the factory to buy and ride the wheels off of, but they are not investment grade green frames. Very few of the 401 produced by the factory are investment grade examples and those that are inevitably get sold off market. This machine was only ever made for one year only and was built to compete in racing, requiring 401 road going machines to be built to homologate them to race. This was a race bike for the road with lights and was dripping with one off parts made only for this machine. The green frame was cobbled together using many GT750 and 750 Sport parts, but so many of the rest of the parts for this machine were unique to it and didn’t appear on any other Ducati.

Unique parts

The unique parts which adorned the green frame were made in very small numbers and have become irreplaceable today, or if you can find them, then the cost is prohibitive. For example the carbs; Ducati only made 450 sets for 401 machines as they are 38mm, unique items that were re-machined to 40mm at the factory. It is pretty much impossible to fake these items as you would have to cast a completely different carb to anything used on other motorcycles. In 1975 the 900SS square case came out with proper 40mm Dellorto carbs which were much better than the green frame items, so the original carbs were replaced with later items and discarded. The inlet manifolds were unique and just cannot be found today. Wheel rims were made for this machine only and didn’t appear on any others. They used similar ones on other Ducatis, but not these particular ones. The entire body work was unique to the green frame, the forks and many, many small details all over the motorcycle. The frame itself was a very particular GT750 frame. The engine was the only round case motor to receive desmodromic valves and had billet-milled from chrome molybdenum steel polished con rods. These never appeared on any other machine and were unique to the green frame. There are other parts and details which differ from other Ducatis which all need to be present if you want an investment grade green frame. 

Wheel rim green frame
These are not green frame wheel rims.

Investment grade green frame

Finding an investment grade green frame is like finding a snow leopard in Brasil. Most of these machines have had a seriously tough life, as people who bought them did so to ride them very fast indeed. They went through a period where they weren’t worth much at all, one of my mechanics sold his for £1,600 in 1986! No one worried if it had the unique, one-off carbs when the later 40mm Dellortos were better. So why does it matter that they have all these little fiddly bits, they’re a great looking bike and they’re still fast and enjoyable to ride? Because these are the pinnacle of classic motorcycle investment and they will go into the millions of pounds over the next ten years. We have made such predictions in the past in our blogs, go back and read them all to find out, and they have all come true and been conservative. The world is looking for tangible assets to invest in which are very rare and classic motorcycles fit that demand perfectly. When these bikes reach the millions of pounds, you can be sure the only examples that make those sums will be the ones that are right and have all of those impossible to get parts. The other issue is that there has long been an industry of faking and cloning green frames.

Buyer beware!

Buyer beware! There has been an industry throughout the world of faking green frames. Many bikes have been split in two, an original motor put in a Verlicci frame and a converted GT750 motor re-stamped with the green frame number and hey presto! One green frame becomes two green frames. There are probably more fake green frames than originals and I have seen plenty of very impressive fakes. The 1974 Ducati 750SS green frame is very cost effective to fake today and some people are very good at it. The bikes which have been split in two have no value, because neither is a green frame, they’re both old bistas. Finding genuine and investment grade examples at auction is now almost impossible, as they are sold very discretely off market. If a machine goes to auction and does not reach its reserve, or no one bids on it, it becomes toxic and buyers think that there is something wrong with it. There’s a public record that it never achieved its reserve and anyone can access this information, it’s all over the internet. Many owners don’t want anyone to know that their pinnacle of classic motorcycle investment is on the open market. Investment grade 1974 Ducati 750SS have to be prized away from their owners and you have to pay what the owner wants.

Buying a 1974 Ducati 750SS green frame
this is what an investment grade green frame looks like.

Green frame prices

Green frame prices have been steadily rising since Ian Falloon published his book about them and raised awareness of the existence of such a machine in 2011. They had increased in value a lot prior to then, but such a raising of the machine’s profile really lit a fire under values and heat rises. Prices never go down for investment grade examples, they only ever increase and there are no bargains when it comes to these machines. Hunting for bargain green frames has always been the undoing of hawk-eyed classic motorcycle investors. Owners of these machines know what they are worth which is why they own one, they’re not stupid or naïve. There are no bargains on the planet for investment grade green frames and investigating their authenticity is an expensive and time consuming process. This is not a motorcycle that can be assessed by photos alone, it requires someone on the ground who is trustworthy and with the machine. One very particular machine, I can’t give away too much because it is other people’s data, sold in 2022 for well over US$500,000. It was a unique and exceptional example for many reasons I can’t go into, but it indicates where prices are going for investment grade examples. This sale is also an indication that prices will go well into seven figures over the next decade. The price of an investment grade green frame is the price that the seller wants for it and no less, they don’t have to sell them. They then all need going through thoroughly in a workshop that understands these machines and who will generate a proper due diligence report for them.

Bonhams Stafford green frame sale copy
But is it an investment grade example? If it was then it was a bargain.

Why was the Stafford green frame so cheap?

Why was the Stafford green frame so cheap? If the buyer had carbs, wheel rims and many, many other unique parts in their shed at home, then the Stafford machine which sold at Bonhams was very cheap indeed and they got a bargain. However, I think it highly unlikely they do have those parts and finding them will be unimaginably expensive and extremely difficult, if not impossible. It’s always cheaper to buy the right bike than try to add to a machine like this later on because the availability and cost of parts is just too challenging. The machine was sold as seen on site, with paint de-laminating from the frame, many, many unique parts missing and no due diligence. It would concern me that the machine was not registered when new for the road, so was it raced? What is the small chunk out of the top of the right hand engine case about? There are signs that just don’t add up to a machine which has had a well cared for life on the road, but it’s not for me to judge. If this is what is found with a cursory glance, then I wonder what else would be found once investigated. Every time we have investigated machines that have been restored in the manner this machine was restored, the flaws you first see are vastly outnumbered by the flaws you find when you investigate them. Whoever bought that machine, it left the country, will have their work cut out, but maybe they enjoy the challenge, who knows? When buying at auction, remember the terms and condition and that the machine is bought not running. These are the terms and conditions “All lots are sold ‘as is/where is’ and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.” No one has done anything wrong or misleading by selling this machine, you have to do your own due diligence. Someone paying £172,500 for such a machine has certainly increased the value of investment grade green frames. You can see the Bonhams listing here.

Where to buy an investment grade green frame

Where to buy an investment grade green frame is very challenging indeed, as many which aren’t investment grade. They look incredibly tempting are being offered by lots of very nice people who will tell you theirs is an investment grade example. Can you really tell if the frame is a replica been perfectly stamped? Can you tell if the motor has had its old numbers filled with ally weld, been dressed and re-stamped? Do you have vast data about which machines engine and chassis numbers are where from experience, rather than a list? Do you know every detail about which parts are correct for the green frame and which aren’t and will you recognise them when you see them? Are you connected to the owners of the genuine green frames so you can have sensible discussions about their machines? If the answer to all of those questions is yes then you are qualified to buy yourself an investment grade green frame. If you can’t answer yes to those questions, then get on to The Motorcycle Broker, as we specialise in investment grade classic motorcycles sourced directly from the owner. These machines require an enormous amount of investigation and due diligence and those in the public domain are usually there for a reason. Investment grade green frames get sold of market. When buying a green frame, you need proof it’s genuine, be impartial and never be taken in by the dazzling beauty of these machines alone. There is a lot more to buying one of these fantastic machines than people realise.

Paul Jayson

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