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Mr Frank Scurria
* AFM Champion - Ducati Racer *

Some background info
ZDS Motors, in Glendale, California, was the sub-distributor for Berliner Motor Corp products for the eleven western United States. ZDS stood for Zundapp, Ducati and Sachs, the motorcycles distributed by BMC at that time---the late 1950s. ZDS was owned by Bob and Erolyn Blair. Bob had been a speedway racer before and after WW2, so he understood about racing and hungry young racers. Bob and I quickly hit it off and he helped me with my racing from the very beginning.

I grew up in Glendale and was a California hot rodder type, who liked working on cars and motorcycles, and loved racing anything with wheels; anywhere, any time. There are some very nice canyon roads in the Glendale area, including the well known, Angeles Crest Highway. I bought my first Ducati from ZDS in late 1958, a 200 Super Sport, which I began racing in Feb 1959, with the American Federation of Motorcyclists. The AFM specialized in European style road racing using FIM international rules. Unlike the AMA, any brand, any model was OK---you could even build a one-off motorcycle from scratch. It didn't have to be a production model. There was an atmosphere that encouraged creativity. If it was safe, it was OK to race with the AFM. In the late 1950s and into the 1960s, the AFM had many more road races than any other motorcycle organization in the U.S., including the AMA. For anyone who wanted to specialize in road racing, the AFM was the place to be.

The history of the first 350 Ducati actually started with a 200cc Ducati in 1961. With a bore of 67mm and a stroke of 57.8mm, this was the largest engine Ducati made at that time. Basically a 175 with a bigger bore. Allan d'Alo, master machinist and manufacturer of ARD Magnetos was racing a modified 200cc Ducati in the California desert at the same time I was road racing my 200 Ducati with the AFM. Allan wanted a full 250cc bike, so he used his abilities as a machinist to stroke his crankshaft to 68mm. With a bore of 68mm and a stroke of 68mm the new capacity was 247cc. He offered to do a crankshaft for me. I accepted the offer with enthusiasm. An aluminum plate, approximately .200 inch thick, had to be made to fit between the crankcases and the base of the cylinder to raise the head and cylinder to compensate for the increase in stroke. It was a straight forward job to make a full 250 out of a 200 using Allan's modified crankshaft. I won the AFM 250 Championship on one of these bikes in 1961.

In the early 1960s, the California Sportscar Club and the AFM had some joint events. The motorcycles had one race for bikes up to 250cc and one race for bikes 251cc and over, broken down into the normal FIM international classes, and also included an open class for bikes larger than 500cc and up to 1,000cc. At times, all the bikes would practice together and it was clear I could run with many of the 350s. So I did the only logical thing a guy hungry to race could do---I tried to enter the same bike in the 250 and 350 races. But I was refused. I was told the 350 class was for bikes 251cc to 350cc, so my 247cc engine was too small for the 350 race. For a future event, I borrowed the cylinder (bored to 69mm) and piston from Bob's personal desert/cow trailer/play-bike and exchanged them with my piston and cylinder between races at the Santa Barbara event on, Sept 3, 1961. That made my bike 254cc for the 350 race. I finished a close second in the 350 class behind an AJS 7R. The 305 Honda Super Hawks were about 80 pounds heavier than my Ducati, so they weren't much of a threat, although the potential was there for much more power. It was just a matter of time. After that, the plan was to build a second 254cc bike for the 350 races. That didn't happen, but the idea was still there---to build a 350 racer by making the engine in a small light motorcycle bigger, instead of making the engine in a big heavy bike smaller.

In late 1961, Ducati came out with an over square 250, with a bore of 74mm and with the same 57.8mm stroke as the 175/200 bikes. For 1962, I would be racing a new 250 Formula 3 Ducati for Berliner and ZDS, which only had to be maintained, so I had time to think about building a 350 again, using the new over-square 250 engine as a starting point.

At the first opportunity, I disassembled one of the new over square engines. After measuring everything relevant, I knew a full size 350 Ducati was possible. The biggest bore I could have without making the cylinder liner too thin was 76mm. With a bore of 76mm and a stroke of 76mm I would have a 344cc engine.

Strengths and weaknesses of the proposed 350
It was time for a reality check before the project was actually started. Some guys are company men and they close their eyes to the weaknesses of their favorite brand. This is not wise. As Clint Eastwood (as Dirty Harry) once said, "A man's got to know his limitations." It's the same for a man's favorite brand of motorcycle. If the weaknesses aren't acknowledged, they won't be corrected. And for an ambitious undertaking like this, clear thinking was necessary---flag waving was not. The obvious plus for a 350 Ducati was lighter weight than a 350 Manx or a 7R. Both the Manx and the 7R weigh about 300 pounds. I was sure I could build a 350 Ducati that was 60 to 70 pounds lighter than a 7R. I did foresee a few potential problems such as, the rod length to stroke ratio could be considered marginal and could result in piston failure. Piston speed and piston acceleration were going to be really fast. There was also the four speed transmission which was originally intended for a 175cc road bike, and I was planning on doubling the engine capacity, and with that, a big increase in torque. Could the 175 transmission handle the strain? One way to find out. To be as easy as possible on the gearbox, I decided there would be no clutchless or kill-switch gear changes, even though the careful, with clutch, gear changes would make for slower shifts. I wanted to avoid the possibility of showering competitors and spectators with metal bits as much as possible. I had to accept the weaknesses, but the hotrodder mentality won out---NOTHING VENTURED, NOTHING GAINED. If the project turned out to be a spectacular failure, I could always make the engine back into a 250.

I acquired a complete new 1961 250 Diana, took the crank to Allen and had him change the stroke to 76mm. Allan also made an extension for the cam drive shaft, which was too short in standard 250 form.

Drawing for cam drive shaft coupling

A cylinder spacer and a spacer for the base of the cam drive shaft cover, approximately .360 inch thick, were also necessary.

This plate is to raise the cylinder and head to one half of the stroke increase.

It was also necessary to raise the base of the cam drive shaft cover tube. The part on the left does that. The item on the right is the standard Ducati base.

The cam drive shaft cover spacer when assembled with the Ducati base.

Bob had Borgo Piston, in Italy, make a batch of 76mm pistons. Twenty five was their minimum order. He gave me one and put the others in the ZDS parts department. Unfortunately they were cast pistons, not forged, and there was a piston failure. But that came much later; after testing and more than a full season of racing. That piston failure was a blessing in disguise, or the restored bike wouldn't even exist today.

I found out about the most important non-reliability short coming of any Ducati of the bevel period---the cylinder head ports. I took the bare head to my friend, C.R. Axtell. When it came to engines, he was the smartest guy around. Ax designed and built his own flow-bench in the 1950s and became the absolute master of air flow. I handed him the bare head and asked how I could make it really, really good. He looked at the head from all angles and said, "My friend, I'm sorry to tell you this, you can make this a little better, but you'll never make it really good. I think our Italian cousins all went to the same school and they all learned how to make bad ports; and to make things impossible, this head doesn't have enough material around the ports to correct the mistakes." I did what Ax suggested I do to make the head better, and the head was very good, for a Ducati, but not really, really good. Certainly not near as good as a 7R. Some things you just can't fix. Trying to match a 7R or 350 Manx for horsepower was probably not going to happen, but a much lighter bike could make up for that---it's the whole package, not just horsepower that counts. Luckily, the 1961 Ducatis, even the Diana, came with small, unmolested ports, small valves, and small carburetors so they weren't completely ruined when they left the factory and there was enough material to improve the shape.

Engine Modifications
The engine mounting bolt holes in the crankcases were drilled and reamed to .375 inch, and ground shank aircraft 12 point bolts were used for a push fit in the crankcases and engine mounts. The standard engine mount bolts are a very loose fit in the engine and engine mounts as made by Ducati. The tight fitting bolts would make the engine and frame a more ridged unit. The outer surfaces of all engine cases, cylinder and cylinder head were sandblasted and anodized black for better heat transfer. I thought the very thin anodized flat black surface would be better than having a coat of black paint on the engine. The cylinder was bored to 76mm and the crankshaft was stroked to 76mm. The connecting rod was x-rayed, polished and shot-peened. The piston was lightened where ever possible and the bottom of the skirt was knife-edged. An internally tapered, and lighter, 250 F3 wrist pin was used. The squish clearance was set at .038 inch. The compression ratio was 10.5 to 1.

The intake port angle was changed, which took considerable work and some welding. A thick wedge shaped flange, tapered in two planes, for the carburetor spigot mount, was fabricated and welded to the head before the porting was started.

This drawing shows the changes to the intake port angle and the shape of the port around the valve guide.

Not the original 350 head, but a head recently done for another 350 racer with the same modifications as the original. This shows the wedge welded to the head.

After the wedge is welded in place, but before any porting is done, this is what the port looks like.

The port angle was reduced to 3 degrees from 9 degrees which may seem counter intuitive. Down draft is not the most important thing. The important thing is the shape of the port and the angle of the port in relation to the valve, not the horizon. Very little material came off the floor of the port near the valve---just enough to remove the irregularities. The material supporting the valve guides, both intake and exhaust, was not removed from the roof of the ports, and the valve guides were not cut off flush with the top of the port. This gave much more support to the valves, and reduced the chance of the top of the port cracking and sucking oil through the intake port and into the combustion chamber. A lot of hand work with riffler files was necessary to shape the port around the valve guide boss. Because the carburetor used was bigger externally as well as internally than the smaller Dellortos, it was angled more to the right side to clear the frame. This was a benefit as the new angle gave more swirl. A knee guard had to be made or the rider's knee would interfere with air entering the carburetor.

This unfinished port shows the hump around the valve guide. This material is necessary to add support for the valve guide and to leave material for the spot-faced surface at the coil valve spring base.

The recently completed 350 head copied from the original 350 Ducati. Also with an Amal GP2 carburetor.

Two extra oil drains were put on the left side of the head. They, along with one of the existing drains from the right side, drained into a one-off baffled air/oil separator and breather combination. This air/oil separator is fitted to the threaded hole in the case that is normally used for the alternator/magneto cable on the standard engine. The original breather tube is also used for a second crankcase breather.

The combination air/oil separator and breather for the oil drains from the head.

A 32mm Dellorto SSI carburetor with a large SS1 remote float bowl was used; later being replaced by a 1-3/8" Amal GP2, with an Amal matchbox float bowl. Intake valve, 1.590 inch diam. (40.4mm) with a 7mm stem. Exhaust valve, 1.450 inch diam. (36.8mm) with an 8mm stem. S&W (Art Sparks & Tim Witham) coil valve springs were used. They were the best available at the time and I had used them in my 200 and 250 Ducatis. Dual spark plugs and single spark plug were tried. That was about a toss-up.

Race cams for Ducatis were very hard to come by in those days. The first race cam I used was a standard camshaft with welded lobes and reground to Formula 3 specs. Bob just walked up to me in the shop one day, handed me a cam and said it was for my 350 engine. He said it came from a dealer in Florida. I can't be sure as it's been a very long time ago, but I think his name was, Kulan. A later and much better cam was the Ducati "kit cam" or Daytona cam. It was similar to the F3 cam timing, but with more lift. Constant loss battery ignition was used, so the stater and flywheel were removed. Only the steel flywheel center was used, as a spacer for the crankshaft primary gear. Without the flywheel, engine acceleration speed was very quick, but miss a shift and the engine could die equally fast.

Numerous exhaust pipe and megaphone combinations were tried. I didn't know where to start with the exhaust because there was never a 350 Ducati before this---so who could I ask? The only way would be trial and error. Exhaust pipe diameters of 1-5/8" and 1-3/4" were tried---the final being a 1 5/8" pipe as it came out of the head, and then steps up to 1-3/4". The length of the various exhaust pipes without megaphone was about 32 to 34 inches. For the first race I used a 500 Manx megaphone that I had in the shop. What a sound. Unfortunately, it had a big flat spot in the mid-range. A five speed transmission would have helped but since the engine is from a 1961 Ducati, it only had four speeds. Aftermarket, close ratio transmissions weren't available at the time. The Manx megaphone was only used for the first race. It made great sounds, but the engine didn't like it. Other megaphones used were, AJS 7R, BSA Gold Star, a couple of accessory megaphones and various long tapered Ducati megaphones.

The timing gear/oil pump cover was modified so the oil pump would feed directly through an external AN steel braided pressure line to a one-off, cam bearing housing on the left side of the head. The standard oil pressure line to the head through the cases and cylinder was not used.

The left side cam bearing housing for the external top end oil feed.

Smiths tach drive
I wanted to use a Smiths ball bearing tachometer drive and a Smiths ATRC magnetic competition tachometer. They were generally regarded as the best. They were used on Manx Nortons, Matchless G-50s and AJS 7Rs, as well as the 250 GP Morini. In 1962 no one that I knew of made a tach drive plate to fit a Smiths drive to a Ducati head so I made my own. I made a simple casting pattern, had a local foundry cast the part and then I machined it to fit the head. The tach drive was as far as I got. I never got the Smiths tachometer, so that's the reason the bike still has a Veglia competition tach coupled to the Smiths drive. There were a few ideas that never got completed---this was just one.

The special plate to mount the Smiths ball bearing tach drive.

The simple casting pattern for the Smiths tach drive plate.

Some of the engine testing was done on the street and the service road next to the Los Angeles River, and next to the Interstate 5 Freeway where it goes through Glendale, just a mile or so from ZDS. There was room to get the bike around the locked service road gate, which was there to keep unauthorized cars off the service road. But a motorcycle with clip-on bars could be squeezed through the gap at the gate and onto the service road. I could make a couple of high speed passes and then scoot before the police came. I would be passing cars on the freeway and I'd be going a lot faster. A small motorcycle at over 100mph, passing cars next to the freeway caused quite a few double takes. One was a CHP officer giving me a wide-eyed stare. Fortunately, the L.A. River was between us and I had time to escape back to ZDS.

Most testing was done at Willow Springs Raceway. In those days, Willow Springs was just 2.5 miles of race track in the middle of the desert, without fences or barriers. We could drive out there in the middle of the week and test all day. There wasn't anyone to stop us. But there wasn't an ambulance at the track when there wasn't an official event. And in the early '60s there were no cell phones; so we had to be very careful or a trip to the hospital would be in the back of a pickup truck.

From the beginning, the engine was strong and got progressively stronger. Also, from the beginning it was obvious the standard front brake was not going to make it---not even close. It was OK for the street, but not for racing and was never used in a race. Development of the bike was continual, both engine and chassis, and a lot of different chassis combinations were tried, as well as engine modifications. The bike was changed, and in most cases improved, almost continually from race to race.

First race chassis
For the first race, the engine was fitted into a 125 Formula 3 chassis, but with 18 inch wheels instead of the 125's 17 inch rims. A large Amadoro four shoe front brake was used---same as an early 250 F3. The rear brake was a small Amadoro, as used on the 125 Gran Sport and 125 F3; it was OK, but nothing to rave about. Good points---the engine was strong, the bike was light, and the front brake was great. Bad point---the handling was awful. Someone described it to me as a crash in progress that never quite made it all the way to the ground. It seemed both wheels were never going in the same direction at the same time. It was a real test of reflexes. For the first couple of races I was overwhelmed by the CB-77, 305 Hondas with the new 350cc race kits; (Harmon & Collins cam, bigger valves, S&W valve springs, Forged True 350 pistons, bigger carbs and megaphone exhaust) as well as AJS 7Rs and a 350 Manx. I was offered a ride on a 350 Honda but I refused and stuck with my Ducati. It was just the beginning for my Ducati. Things could only get better.

Second race chassis
I acquired a late 250 F3 chassis with Oldani brakes and 19 inch wheels. It had a special Marzocchi front fork with fabricated sheet metal triple clamps that I've only seen on F3 250 Ducatis. It was a little heavier than the 125 F3 chassis, but it handled so much better. Big improvement in lap times. I learned to love the 230mm Oldani front brake. With that big Oldani on such a light bike, I was always the last guy on the brakes. The front tire was the limiting factor--no stoppies were possible with even the best race tires of the time. It just had to be precisely controlled or the wheel could skid at any speed. But never any fade. With this new chassis I could beat most of the 350 Hondas and run with the best 7R and 350 Manx.

The final and best chassis
For the final chassis I went back to the original '61 250 Ducati road frame, but highly modified and much lighter, with an all new one-off rectangular cross section swing arm. The only Ducati parts of the original frame are the backbone, front down tube, and steering head. The front down tube was heated and moved forward about 5/8 inch at the bottom. I had planned on experimenting with moving the engine forward to change weight distribution, but that was one of my plans that was never tried. The flat plate gusset that supported the steering head and was the mount for the coil was replaced with a large diameter, thin wall tube. The complete rear section is made of, 7/8 inch diameter, .065 inch wall, 4130 chromoly tubing.

My original idea for the swing arm was to make it out of oval tubing, but I couldn't find a source for it. An employee of the metal supply house where I bought most of my materials suggested using rectangular tubing. It proved to be a good idea and it was easy to jig for welding. The swing arm looks massive, is stiffer, but weighs the same as a standard Ducati swing arm. It's also a half inch longer than the standard Ducati swing arm. That was an attempt at changing weight distribution.

The bare frame after paint. The actual color is silver. The lighting in my garage must have made it look green.

The swing arm looks heavy but is actually the same weight as a standard Ducati swing arm.

The swing arm pivot is 10 1/4 inch long---2 3/8 inch longer than standard, and has outriggers on the rear down tubes as part of the rear frame design. The swing arm pivot is machined from 4130 steel tubing.

The lengthened swing arm pivot with outside support from the rear down tubes.

At that time, I didn't have access to a TIG welder and didn't even know how to TIG weld. So as I fabricated the steel parts I tacked them together with an oxy-acetylene torch, and then took them to a welder a few miles from ZDS who finished the job with TIG welding. This took numerous trips, but eventually the frame and swing arm were completed.

The frame, with swing arm, is 10 pounds lighter than a standard F3 250 Ducati frame with swing arm---about a 25% weight loss. Ceriani 35mm road race forks were state of the art at that time, so they were used on the final chassis. Eighteen inch wheels, front and rear, with a 230mm Oldani front brake. The rear brake is a standard Ducati road hub with a one-off backing plate, cast with an air scoop to keep it cool, and made to interlock with the new swing arm. The rear backing plate resembles the Amadoro rear brake backing plate used on many 1950s Italian GP bikes.

The rear wheel has a standard Ducati hub with a one-off brake backing plate.

The rear backing plate. It's made to interlock with the special swing arm.

Part of a standard backing plate was used to make the casting pattern with air scoop added. As a bit of vanity, I put my name on the casting pattern.

A fiberglass seat and splash guard were made to fit the new frame. The dry weight of the complete bike in its final form, is, 217 pounds (98.4 kg). A considerable weight loss, and much lighter than I had expected when the project was started.

I wish I could say I won the 1963, 350 Championship; but no I didn't. I finished third, behind the fastest Honda and the fastest 7R. But that wasn't too bad since the races were also used for development and testing, and I did fall off a couple of times.

The only part that stayed the same for the entire project was the fairing. Made by Dick Kilgroe, of Cupless Plastics, in Hayward, California. It was a modified Peel fairing for a Manx; sectioned, shortened, and narrowed to fit a 250 Ducati. I used that same type of fairing on my 250 bikes as well as the 350. I think it was the best fairing available at the time, both for aerodynamics and to protect the bike in a crash. In a low-side fall, the clip-ons and levers didn't even get scratched. A bit of filler and paint on the fairing and maybe a new foot peg and it was as good as new. Cupless has been out of business for decades and I couldn't find one of the old fairings for the restoration. So I made a buck for a new Peel type fairing that looks like the original, gave it to AirTech, in Vista, California, and they made a new, old style Peel fairing. AirTech will sell these new Peel type fairings to anyone who wants one. Perfect for vintage racing and for Bonneville.

Engine failures
I had one major failure that did come as a surprise. The standard 250 primary gears were not both made of steel. The driving gear at the end of the crankshaft was steel, but the driven gear, which is also part of the clutch housing, was made of cast iron. I guess that was OK for a 250 but it proved to be a trouble spot for my 350.

In 1963, after the Berliners took over the U.S. distributorship for AMC/Norton motorcycles, we had a visit from the Berliner brothers, along with Heinz Kegler, Berliners Norton specialist, and some management and designers from AMC.

Heinz was a very interesting man. He had escaped from East Germany as a young man, made his way to England, and worked in Norton's race department. When the Berliners took over the distributorship of AMC motorcycles here in America, they also hired Heinz to be their Norton specialist. They couldn't have chosen a better man, for both character and knowledge.

Their visit coincided with a race at Willow Springs Raceway over the weekend, so I invited Heinz to come with me. Better that, than spending the weekend with a bunch of stuffy business men. Saturday was practice day, with races on Sunday. During practice, I shifted from 3rd to top gear and the engine revved but the bike didn't accelerate. I thought I had missed a shift and hit 4th gear again. Again, the engine revved but the bike was slowing. I pitted thinking the key on the end of the crankshaft had sheared. I took off the primary cover and saw the real problem. The teeth on the clutch gear were sheared off and were on the bottom of the primary cover and crankcase. We checked into a nearby motel and put the bike in the room. It was a room with a kitchen, a nice table and pots for cooking---it became my workshop. As soon as we got the bike and my tools in the room, I gave Heinz the keys for the pickup and my key to ZDS. While I disassembled the engine and washed every part in the biggest pot I could find, Heinz drove all the way back to ZDS, got a new set of primary gears from the parts department, and drove back to the motel. By the time he returned, I had completely reassembled the engine, and put it back in the chassis. The only thing left was to put in the new primary gears, the clutch, primary cover and fairing. Then, a thorough cleaning of the kitchen and the pot I used as my parts washer, and a nights sleep. The next day I won the 350 race. The first win for a 350 Ducati anywhere in the world. After all, it was the only 350 Ducati single in the world. Thank you Heinz.

The engine had gone through a lot of testing in 1962 and a full season of racing in 1963. Up to that point, other than the primary gear failure, there weren't any problems with reliability. Surprisingly, the gearbox had been completely trouble free. I started the 1964 season thinking I was riding a bullet proof bike. But my bubble burst on the Willow Springs back straight.

The next engine failure was the last. At maximum revs (9,000 rpm), the top half of the piston came off at the pin, hit and bent both valves and ruined the valve guides. The cylinder had deep gouges in the liner from the piston pin, and the rod was bent. But the worse thing was that the crankshaft was broken beyond repair. The big end had pulled partly out of one of the flywheels.

The broken piston that ended the 350 project. It was used for years as an ashtray for my friends who smoked.

Because of the level of damage, unavailable parts, and my move into the 500 class with a new Norton Manx, the engine was never rebuilt. The disassembled engine was packed away; just a couple of boxes of parts stored and forgotten for decades in my parents garage---waiting to be resurrected.

The Ducati factory was notified about the primary gear failure and the piston failure. When the production 350 was built it had a forged piston, and all steel primary gears rather than the cast iron clutch gear. And the production 350, the Sebring, also came with a five speed gearbox. Oh, how I wish I had that five speed gearbox in the original 350.

The chassis, minus the front wheel, was sold to someone from northern California who walked into ZDS with plans to build a lightweight Ducati for AMA short track racing. This was the lightest chassis I ever had and he bought it on the spot. With the exploded engine and the sale of the chassis, the 350 project was officially over.


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How the chassis was found by Steve Allen of Bevel Heaven
In 2002, I met Steve Allen, of the bevel Ducati specialist website, Bevel Heaven. He said he wanted to do a page on me, and about racing in the early days of Ducati's appearance in America. I did a quick bio and sent some photos to him which he put on the web-page he made about me. I also asked if he would mention that I'd like to find the whereabouts of a couple of my old bikes. He did include that on my web page, but nothing came of it---at least not for a few years. Then Steve forwarded an email to me that he received from someone who wanted to make contact because he had a Ducati chassis that might be from one of the old bikes I was looking for. The owner described what he had right down to the odd swing arm. He said he wanted to put together a Ducati scrambler to ride on his extended vacations in Mexico, but so much of the bottom of the frame had been cut away there wasn't any way to mount foot pegs suitable for a dirt bike. When I saw what he had, I knew instantly it was the original 350 chassis. I traded a stock Ducati Scrambler chassis for everything he had. There were some small parts missing, but all the most important parts were there. The frame, swing arm, rear brake, seat, splash guard and fork stem with triple clamps. The fork legs were gone, but they weren't anything special---just standard road race 35mm Ceriani. I found replacements at a swap meet in southern California. The frame and swing arm were rusted and the fiberglass seat and splash guard were cracked and broken; but no big deal, fiberglass is easy to patch. As ugly as it looked, I was so happy to see it again.

I didn't want to put the bike together with an empty, non-running engine, for display only. It was important to me to have it running again. To restore the engine, I used new Axtell valves, valve guides and coil springs I got from Mike Libby, Ax's business partner of many years. I used the first racing cam Bob had given me, the Kulan cam. Even though it wasn't the best, it was the first cam I used in a race. A forged Borgo racing piston was used with a new cylinder liner. The old crankshaft was completely destroyed and had been scrapped many years ago, so I took the most logical action and replaced it with a Sebring crank. Obviously, a perfect fit.

For the restoration of the chassis, I had to make assorted small parts, and a big one. I had to make a new fuel tank because none of the various tanks I had used in 1963 were available. I made a new, one-off, aluminum tank to fit the chassis in approximately the same size and shape as one of the tanks I used in 1963. It's made of, .065 inch, 3003 H14 aluminum.

Roughed out fuel tank panels before welding.

The shell for the new tank before the filler neck was welded in place and the bottom was put on.

A friend and Ducati collector, who attends the big Imola swap meet in Italy every year, found another 230mm Oldani front brake for me. A little at a time, parts were collected or made and the chassis was slowly restored.

Paint work
The restoration paint job is the work of Geoff Giammarco, a southern California painter who keeps busy doing vintage motorcycles. The color is right, and I have to admit the bike never looked this good when I was racing it. In fact, this is the only time it ever had a professional paint job. When I was racing the bike it was always painted using spray cans. If anything had to be welded on, or cut off, or modified, spray cans were quick and easy. Functional, yes. Pretty? Not so much.

The "Alley Cat" greeting card showed the true character of the bike.

What's with the cat? While I was assembling the 350 in its final guise, Kim, my best friend/roommate/traveling companion, and fellow girl chaser, came to the shop to see my progress on the final chassis. He was impressed and said, "Oh man, that'll be a real thoroughbred." I replied, "No, a Manx or a 7R is a thoroughbred, this is more like an alley cat---like the critters that live in the alley behind the shop." There were some feral cats in the neighborhood that were feisty, mean and nasty, and definitely didn't have a pedigree. One day I had picked up one of the little black kittens and it instantly turned into an explosion of teeth and claws. It didn't pay to mess with the alley cats. After that Kim and I always referred to the bike as, 'The Alley Cat'. One day Kim came home and said he saw a picture of my 'Alley Cat' in a greeting card shop while he was buying a birthday card for his girlfriend. We went back to the card shop and I bought one. It was my alley cat---no question about it---mean and scruffy. Kim stopped by the shop one day when I had the engine all apart. He said he wanted to borrow the seat for a few days---he wouldn't tell me why. When he brought the seat back, he had had a relative, who was an artist, paint the cat on the back of the seat. It was perfect---the true character of the bike. When I got the chassis back, the seat was broken and chipped, and the cat was mostly gone. I still have the original greeting card, so with the magic of a computer, it was easy to have a new decal made to look like the hand painted cat.

My 350 was never intended to be anything but my personal one-off racer. But BMC was getting requests for a 350 Ducati, which, with the exception of my bike, didn't exist. Demand for 350 bikes was growing with phone calls to BMC. Some, on the hostile side because potential customers were being told there was no such thing as a 350 Ducati, even though there was one being raced in AFM events in California. Mike Berliner called Bob to find out why he was being told there was a 350 Ducati in California. Bob explained what I had done to make my own 350. The Berliner brothers, the biggest Ducati distributor in the world at the time, saw the possibilities, and wanted a production 350 from Ducati. After all, if the guy from California can build one in the ZDS workshop, why not the factory? Mike asked me to send a letter, containing all specs and drawings to Dr Giuseppe Montano, the head man at the Ducati factory. On December 3rd 1963, I sent drawings and all the specs on my bike to Dr. Montano, thinking nothing would come of it, as most of the Europeans thought of Americans as the barbarians from the west. I received a thank you letter dated, December 10th, 1963, from Dr Montano, saying he was turning the information over to the Ducati Studies Office for examination.

This is the thank you letter sent by Dr Montano, the director of Ducati, for the information and drawings for the original 350.

About a year later, Bob came into the workshop and said the factory was going to make a production version of my 350. He also said Ducati was going to send me the first 350 racer they made. I don't know what happened to that bike---it never arrived. Maybe it was on one of the ships high-jacked by Somali pirates.

When Bob told me Ducati was going to copy my 350 and make a production version, I told him I had a better idea. The reason my engine was square, 76mm by 76mm, was because I started with an existing 250 and I was limited as to how big I could make the bore---I couldn't go bigger than 76mm. I would have preferred an over square, big bore, short stroke 350, with a bore of 86mm and a stroke of 60mm---348.5cc. I suggested starting with new castings. New crankcases for a big bore, short stroke 350, with the crankshaft moved forward, and away from the transmission, and larger diameter flywheels. I thought the bike would be better if more of the engine weight was moved forward---moving the crankshaft forward would have helped. And very, very important---the most important---a new head casting with Axtell designed ports. Bob just chuckled and said Ducati wasn't going to do anything like that. All they had to do was copy my engine and they'd have a 350 with a minimum of expense. He said the design was already decided. There would be no changes; especially a complete redesign as I was suggesting.

Ducati cleaned up the design of the production 350. They didn't need a spacer under the cylinder---they just made the cylinder taller with nine fins instead of eight, and a longer cam drive shaft to compensate because the engine had to be taller. The production bike also had a steel clutch housing/primary gear, rather than cast iron. A great idea, and no more primary gear failures. And all the production 350s have five speed transmissions. But small valves, small ports, small carburetor, low compression ratio, and a mild cam resulted in a mediocre performing bike. I was told by a few Ducati dealers that the bike was a good seller, even though no one favored the "square styling" of the American bikes.

What could have been
I wish they would have done the new 350 as I suggested. An over-square, 86mm X 60mm, 350 would have been much better. With an Axtell designed head it would have been a great motorcycle. Axtell would have solved the biggest performance problem Ducati had---the poorly designed head, which remained the same from the 175 all the way up to the 450, and then on to the bevel twins. Moving the crankshaft forward would have helped weight distribution. A big bore 350 could have possibly led to an 86mm X 86mm, light weight, 500cc racer and street bike---about the size and weight of my 350. Oh well.

In 1967, on my way from Daytona back to England to race, I stopped at Berliners in New Jersey. Mike showed me the new 350 wide case production engine which would replace the Sebring. He asked how big I thought the engine could be made. I removed the top end of the engine, and after a short time I told him if they spread the head bolt pattern, and used a bigger bore, they could probably get about 430cc without changing the stroke. That's about the real size of a 450 Ducati engine. I think a much better bike could have been made if they would have started with the big bore, over square 350 that I suggested; but that train had left the station.

The 350 Ducati wasn't the only prototype to come out of ZDS Motors. Bob Blair and Steve Zabaro, Bob's right hand man and parts manager, built the prototype of the P-11 Norton right there at ZDS. The bike was built and tested and then shipped to the Norton factory and duplicated. It became a very successful desert racer and street bike. It was the winner of the 1968 California Desert Racing Championship. We weren't trained engineers, just California hot rodders. But we didn't know what we couldn't do---so we just did it.

Frank Scurria  [email protected]

Frank Scurria at WSIR in 1960 on the 175 F3 he raced for ZDS Motors to win the AFM175 Championship

Paul Smart and Frank Scurria

Paul Ritter & Frank Scurria

Frank Scurria and Doug Polin signing autographs on Ducati Island at Laguna Seca in 2005

The following is Frank Scurria's bio, in his own words which he wrote for me to post on Bevel Heaven more than a decade ago.

Hi Steve.

Here is the bio you asked for.  It covers 1958 to 1974.  I hope it’s what you wanted.

Well, where do I start?  I guess back in 1958.  That’s when I got interested in motorcycle road racing. My first job after graduating from high school was working for Mustang Motor Corp, in Glendale, California, assembling and testing Mustang motorcycles.

Back in the old days, there were no racing schools.  You bought, begged or borrowed what you needed and entered races---sink or swim.  I was very fortunate in that I lived in Southern California, the hotbed of the American Federation of Motorcyclist.  They used European rules.  Nothing was banned.  You could run anything as long as it was safe.  There were Manx Nortons, AJS 7Rs, ex-works lightweights and odd machines that nobody in America had ever seen before.  I bought a Ducati 200 Super Sport, from Bob Blair (owner of ZDS Motors, Ducati distributor for the 11 western states), leathers, helmet, etc., and a single rail trailer with a fits-all trailer hitch.  I didn’t have a car, just the bike that I rode to work and raced on weekends.  I would ask my friends if they would like to go to the motorcycle races.  When I got an affirmative answer, I would put my hitch on their car (in those days, cars had real bumpers) hook my trailer to their car and we’d be off to the races.

My first race was at Willow Springs, in February of ‘59, where I finished second in the 250 race.  I was lucky there was a second race.  With 40-psi tire pressure, it was a very “loose” race.  I took advice from someone who didn’t know any more than I did, although there is the chance he meant 20 psi in each tire, for a total of 40 psi.  Oh well.  As the year went on, I got some good results, generally finishing in the top four.  I made every race I could.  I think I only missed one; the result of a broken leg from a road accident.

The Good Ol Daze.  Above is former Ducati racer and AFM 175 & 250 Champion in 1960 - Frank Scurria - sitting atop his 175 F3 in 1960 and then again on a virtually identical bike he helped restore in 2005 at the Ducati Island Museo at Laguna Seca.  Frank was on hand this year to sign autographs and tell stories....

At that time there was no such thing as a Ducati workshop manual.  Bob gave me a parts book with exploded views of the engine and that’s what I used as a guide the first time I took a Ducati engine apart.  It was quite a learning experience.  I still have that parts book.  I also attended a dealer school where the instructor was the famous Franco Farne.  He used my engine to demonstrate how to hop up a Ducati for racing.

Near the end of the year, Bob got a 175 Formula 3 engine from Berliner.  He grafted it into a standard frame and asked if I would like to ride it.  Wanna guess what my answer was?  In my first race on this bike I finish second to John McLaughlin on a Parilla Gran Sport and equaled the 175 lap record.  That was the start of my sponsored connection with Berliner/ZDS that lasted for years.

1960 proved to be a good year, except for the start of the season.  I was sent on my first trip to Daytona, where I crashed after hitting the motorcycle of a rider that had fallen in front of me.  Other than my pride, and losing a lot of skin, I wasn’t hurt, but the bike was a total loss.  I felt terrible about destroying Bob’s bike.  I was trying to explain about what had happened and Bob just said, “Don’t worry about it.  If you never fall off, you’re not going fast enough.  As long as you’re ok we can always get another bike.”  By the time I returned to California, Bob had acquired a new, complete, 175 Formula 3.  It was the most beautiful thing.  Fast, nimble, with great brakes.  Good enough for me to win some races and the AFM 175 Championship.

1961 was also a good year.  I built an exceptional bike for that year.  It was known around the shop as the “square 250”.  Alan D’Alo, master machinist and maker of ARD magnetos, stroked a 200 Ducati crankshaft to 68mm for his desert racer and made one for me too.  I built a 68mm x 68mm, 250cc Ducati engine.  It ran so well I was protested at one race.  There was quite a crowd as the officials measured the engine---of course they found it legal.  This was also the year of the “350 experiment”.  The officials wouldn’t let me run my 250 in the 350 races because they said the class was for 251cc to 350cc.  So I ran one 350 race, at Santa Barbara, California with a 69mm piston in this bike, making it 254cc.  This was a “one off” race because the cylinder and piston were borrowed from a ZDS scrambler dirt bike.  After the 250 race, I pulled into the pits and changed the piston and cylinder while a friend stalled the start of the 350 race.  I got to the starting line just in time, and the engine was still warm from the 250 race.  I beat all the 350s, except one, and finished 2nd just a few feet behind an AJS 7R.  That got me thinking of building another 254cc bike for the 350 races, but that didn’t happen.  I won some races and the AFM 250 Championship, but there was gloom on the horizon for the Ducatisti.  It was during this year that the famous Parilla tuner, Orin Hall, showed up on the scene with the machine known as the “Gadget”, the world’s fastest Parilla and the scourge of all Ducatis.  Near the end of the year, Orin got this machine so fast, and so reliable, that none of us could touch it.  A few years later, I would have the opportunity to race this bike for Orin and find out just how good it really was.  1961 was also the year of the introduction of the Diana.  This was a great step forward with the new over-square 250 engine and we thought we might be able to build a Ducati using this engine to beat the “Gadget”.  But we didn’t have to build one---Berliner sent a new bike for me to race; a Formula 3, 250.

For 1962 I raced the 250 Formula 3 for Berliner/ZDS.  I was quick enough for a couple of wins and a number of second place finishes and second in the 250 Championship, but the “Gadget” dominated and won the Championship.  I took a lot of heat because the Ducati people didn’t believe there was a Parilla that could go that fast.  I suggested they send one of their works bikes and their best rider to California and find out for themselves.  They never did, but they would find out a couple of years later when Orin took the “Gadget” to Daytona.  1962 was also the start of my most ambitious Ducati project---the first 350 Ducati.  350s at that time were 500 size motorcycles with smaller capacity engines (Norton Manx, AJS 7R, BSA Gold Star).  My idea was to go in a different direction and make a 250 size motorcycle with a 350cc engine.  I went to see Alan D’Alo again, and asked if he would stroke a Diana crank to 76mm.  He did.  Borgo made the 76mm piston.  The head on this machine was also the first to have the altered intake port angles that really made a big difference in performance.  This machine was the most extensively modified Ducati I ever built and was ready for the start of the 1963 season.

The first race of the ‘63 season (Daytona FIM race) started out with good news and bad news.  The good news was that I raced a works Tohatsu 50cc bike in the first International race for this size machine.  I was running third behind two works Hondas and fell trying to keep up.  I got up and managed to finish fifth, which I thought was pretty good considering that I didn’t care much for bikes that small.  I was offered a ride by the factory to race works 50s and 125s in Japan.  Unfortunately, the factory went belly up and I still have never been to Japan.  The bad news was in the 250 race.  I was riding the Formula 3 Ducati.  At the end of the infield straight, just a heartbeat away from the braking point, the engine seized and shot me over the high side.  The first step was about twenty yards long and I spent the next couple of weeks on crutches.  That was also the end of the F3 250.  The engine went back to Berliner, to be sent back to the factory for new cases and never returned.  I ran the 350 for the rest of the season.  After initial teething problems, it turned out to be the fastest Ducati I ever raced.  I won two races, the first being at Willow Springs on June 9th ‘63.  As near as I have been able to determine, this was the first time a 350 Ducati won a race anywhere in the world.  I finished in the top two or three places in most of the other 350 races, and finished third in the 350 Championship.  By the end of the season, it was as quick as any 350, and quick enough to beat most of the 500s, except the very well ridden ones by such riders as, Tony Murphy, Buddy Parriott, Don Vesco, etc.  At the request of Dr. Montano, then the managing director at Ducati, I sent drawings and specs of my 350 to the Ducati factory.  Ducati came out with a production version of this machine in 1965, the Sebring.  Unfortunately, it was a very low performance bike and never lived up to its potential in standard form, although many have been made into good racers.  

1963 was also the year I started racing 500s.  I got a brand new 500 Manx Norton.  It was fabulous.  The first time I rode it, at Willow Springs, I finished third.

1964 started very well, but ended in disaster.  I rode a works Norton Domi Racer in the Junior race at Daytona.  That was a 500 twin in a Manx chassis.  It wasn’t all that quick but the handling and brakes were really good.  I blew the start and by the time I got going the whole field was gone.  Fortunately, the race was a 100 miler and that gave me the time to get to serious work.  The engine developed a nasty vibration because the top engine mount broke, but didn’t slow very much until about half way through the race.  I worked my way up to second place and was catching the leader.  Then the bike got slower and oil leaking on the rear tire stopped my progress.  I lost second place to Swede Savage and finished third.  I rode a works Ducati in the 250 race.  It quickly became obvious that the Ducatis weren’t competitive.  The “Gadget” was there as well as works H-D/Aermacchis and works Yamahas.  My engine seized a piston in practice.  I volunteered to work on my bike while the factory mechanics worked on the rest.  When I put mine back together, I put the head from my 350 on it.  The works mechanics were furious, saying that these Ducatis could race for 24 hours in Spain.  When I replied that the Daytona race was 100 miles and we didn’t have 24 hours they refused to have anything to do with me.  An ignition wire broke a few laps from the end of the race while I was the only Ducati on the same lap as the winner.  That was my last ride on a works Ducati.  The next week I won the Sebring race on my Manx.  ‘64 was a mixed season.  I raced a 125 Bultaco for the Bultaco distributor, 500 and 750 Nortons for Berliner/ZDS, and a 250 Parilla---Orin Hall’s famous “Gadget”.  Orin entered two bikes for the race at Cotati, one for me, and the other for Ron Grant.  I won---first time on the bike.  That Parilla was so good.  The last race of the season was at Willow Springs.  In the 250 race, a minor problem stopped the Parilla.  In the big bike race, disaster struck.  I rode Bob Blair’s 750 Norton.  Well-known American tuner, Tim Witham, built the engine and it was really fast.  Unfortunately, I crashed it in the sweeper at the end of the back straight, at about 135 mph.  I broke my back and my left leg, and wrote off Bob’s Norton.  I would be in a cast and back brace for about four months---Just in time for the first race of 1965; Daytona.

The first race of 1965, Daytona, was also my last race of ‘65.  I was riding the Parilla in the 250 race.  Early in the race I clipped another rider and crashed.  I broke my left leg again.  This time it was really bad.  The doctor told me my leg looked like a bag full of marbles and he would have to amputate.  After three days of arguing and refusing to sign the amputation papers, the doctor agreed to try to fix the leg.  It’s not beautiful, but I still have both legs.  All of ‘65 was spent in California, healing and designing new racers.  A friend and I made the casting pattern to cast an aluminum cylinder for a, short rod, 500 Norton twin.  The bike was quite fast and I hope to get this machine running again, someday.

For 1966 I moved to England.  I took my 500 Manx and a 350 Ducati SC.  I wish I could say I won some races in England, but the best I finished was a third at Snetterton, a forth and a fifth at Lydden and a fifth at Brands Hatch.  Racing in England was great---everything but the weather.  For a California boy, English weather leaves a lot to be desired.

1967 started at Daytona where I rode a 350 SC for Berliner, in the 200 miler.  It was way to slow to be competitive, but absolutely reliable.  I finished, but well down in the field.  This was to be the last time I ever raced a Ducati, although I did try one of Vic Camps 250s at a practice session at Brands Hatch.  After Daytona I returned to England with two Kawasaki A1Rs.  I was supposed to get 350 barrels, pistons and heads to make one into a 350, but the parts never arrived so I had to ride one 250 as a 350.  These bikes were beautiful, but they were the worst handling bikes I had ever ridden.  They had a built in wiggle I could never get rid of.  Tank-slappers were not uncommon.  In fact I got in one at Brands Hatch, at the first turn of the Hutchinson Hundred that was really wild.  It happened just as Mike Hailwood went by on the Honda 6.  After the race he said he was surprised I saved it.  When he went by the only part of my body that was still attached to the bike was my left hand.  My right hand went through the windscreen and a piece of it hit Mike.  I told him I didn’t save it---it was just pure luck that I didn’t crash.  I never won on these bikes, but I got a couple of seconds and thirds and some fourths and fifths.

In 1968 I went back to England, got married and bought a racecar---a Formula 2 Lola.  I brought the Lola and the wife back to California.  Both are gone now, but I did win my first car race.  It was at the old Ontario Motor Speedway in 1969.

I was concentrating on car racing in 1970, but I did ride the Ontario motorcycle race on a very badly prepared Norton.  It broke and I didn’t finish.  I also raced a beautiful, and very red, 100cc Aermacchi road racer for Jack Krissman, the inventor of the Filtron air cleaner and the man who ran the H-D desert racing team.  I won some races on it in the early 70s.  The color photos I sent to you are of the Aermacchi.

At the end of 1972 I returned to England to race cars.  I raced a Formula 3 Ensign in 1973 and 1974.  The racecar photo I sent to you was me racing the Formula 3 car at Brands Hatch.

Well, that’s about it for my racing career.  I hope this info is what you wanted. 

Frank Scarria  <[email protected]

Frank is living in Southern California enjoying the good life...... Thanks Frank!


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