It seems fitting to go back to a New Years Day 22 years ago, 2000, to take a look at the the first motorcycle to be offered for sale directly by a major manufacturer via the internet – the Ducati MH900e (Mike Hailwood 900 Evoluzione).
The bike began as no more than a sketch by Pierre Terblanche, head of Ducati’s Design Dept at the time as a homage to Mike Hailwood’s 1978 IoM winning 900F1, and was shown as a prototype at the Intermot Show in 1998.
The public’s response was favourable enough that the company followed up with a questionnaire on their website to further gauge interest. As a result it was decided to go ahead with a limited production run of 1000 bikes with orders being able to be placed at 0001 on January 1st, 2000.
All 1000 were sold immediately! Subsequently it was decided to offer another 1000.
The production bike used a stock 900SS motor (fitted with an alloy imitation bevel engine sump) but installed in a new tubular steel chassis that featured a sinuous single-sided swingarm.
Terblanche’s prototype featured a number of avant-garde features such as the rear indicators being housed inside the muffler ends and a rear-view camera and display instead of mirrors that didn’t make it into production.
However the rest of the bike was remarkably close to the original sketch including the alloy headlight surround and the exquisite screen mountings.
Interestingly Ducati put the prototype up for auction at Sotheby’s in September 1999 with a US$ 1 million reserve, but while that was not met the bidding did reach $750,000!
Production was originally planned to be sub-contracted to Bimota but that changed when they entered receivership so the bikes ended up being hand built in a corner of the Ducati factory at a rate of 4-5 per day. As a result production was spread across 2001 and into 2002.
Due to the more restrictive exhaust system the MH900e’s maximum output was 4 hp down on the 900SS, 75 hp at 8,000rpm.
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