Du­cati Monza Jr.

Blue beauty

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story and photos Gaven Dall’Osto

This ma­chine had high ‘Western’ style han­dle­bars, chromed crash-bars car­ry­ing twin air horns, a nicely padded stepped twin seat which even in­cluded an or­nate ar­ray of chrome studs and a match­ing set of sad­dle bags as ac­ces­sories. These Amer­i­can­ised mod­els went to­tally against ev­ery­thing Du­cati had stood for. They had rac­ing in their veins and their 4 stroke mo­tor­cy­cles were all de­rived from Taglioni’s race proven Mar­i­anna, be­ing light­weight lay­down bikes with min­i­mal crea­ture com­forts. Du­cati how­ever needed to sell as many mo­tor­cy­cles as pos­si­ble to pay their bills and so be­gan the com­pro­mise. In 1959 the Amer­i­cano con­tin­ued, grow­ing to 200cc as did all Du­cati’s other mod­els to sat­isfy pres­sure for more cu­bic inches from BMC’s deal­ers. Dur­ing this pe­riod Tom Bai­ley worked for a mo­tor­cy­cle shop in the US sell­ing Du­catis and other brands. He has writ­ten about his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with BMC and the US mo­tor­cy­cle market from the late 50’s. While many sto­ries sug­gest that the Ber­lin­ers were re­spon­si­ble for de­cid­ing what Du­cati built, he sug­gested that the broth­ers were re­ally just mer­chan­dis­ers with no real idea of the Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle market. Rightly or wrongly they sim­ply re­acted to what deal­ers were telling them and then dic­tated to Du­cati what they needed to make. In the ‘60s al­most all Du­cati pro­duc­tion went to the US, so Du­cati had lit­tle op­tion but to give BMC what they asked for even though it didn’t al­ways work out well. In 1962 BMC’s drive for big­ger en­gines took an about face to tar­get the large pop­u­la­tion of young peo­ple. This market needed an in­ex­pen­sive, de­pend­able mode of trans­port, which was com­fort­able and cheap to run. Tom Bai­ley also con­firmed that old-school US deal­ers were ask­ing for light weight Du­cati cruiser mod­els in pref­er­ence to sport bikes. Tom also sug­gested that ru­mours of the forth­com­ing Honda 160 twin ver­sion of their 250cc CB-72 Hawk prompted a re­ac­tion at BMC. There may be some sub­stance to this as a Ber­liner ad­ver­tise­ment re­leased in 1966 pic­tured a Japanese look­ing gen­tle­man stand­ing be­hind a Monza Ju­nior with the large cap­tion “I’d rather have a Du­cati”. Maybe it was a com­bi­na­tion of all these rea­sons but it led to the re-in­car­na­tion of a small ca­pac­ity 4 stroke mo­tor­cy­cle named the Monza Ju­nior.

What’s in a name?

Monza was a name Du­cati first used for the 1959 UK ver­sion of their 125 Sport. This was shortly fol­lowed by an­other ver­sion (again UK only) called the 125 Su­per Monza. The Su­per Monza had a high­com­pres­sion pis­ton, mod­i­fied camshaft, a slightly larger SS1 Dell’Orto rac­ing car­bu­ret­tor, and a straight-through ex­haust. The Monza name had later grad­u­ated to a 250cc model in 1961 where it was mar­keted world-wide. The Monza was a cruise/Amer­i­can­ised ver­sion of the 250 while the Diana/Day­tona were more tra­di­tional sports ver­sions. The ori­gin of the Monza Ju­nior has a nat­u­ral link back to its orig­i­nal 125 Monza roots as it shared the same crankcases and frame. The ad­di­tion of the word “Ju­nior” also fits with the fact it was de­signed pur­posely to look like a smaller ver­sion of the then cur­rent 250cc Monza and was sold along­side its big brother. To pro­duce the Monza Ju­nior (M-Jr) Du­cati looked in their parts bin to speed up time to market and avoid spend­ing their lim­ited funds on any new tool­ing. They de­cided to up-spec the orig­i­nal bevel 125 en­gine which was smaller and cheaper rather than ‘de-spec­ing’ the cur­rent larger crank-cased 175/200cc en­gine. The only change to the orig­i­nal 125cc en­gine was the cylin­der and pis­ton. The bore was in­creased to 61mm re­sult­ing in a ca­pac­ity of 156cc. They in­serted a new 4 ringed (twin oil scraper) Borgo pis­ton pro­duc­ing 8.2:1 com­pres­sion. Car­bu­ra­tion was pro­vided by a re­mote bowl Dell’Orto UB22BS and out­put was claimed at 13bhp at 8000rpm. The small 125 crankcases lim­ited the trans­mis­sion to 4 speeds.

Ju­nior’s Framework

To meet the lowest price pos­si­ble Du­cati made some other com­pro­mises. They took the orig­i­nal 125 TS frame and fit­ted the (small peanut-shaped) Bronco tank, head­light and sus­pen­sion. It then fit­ted the large Monza seat, and other tin­ware. Like the cruiser/tour­ing Monza it had high­set ‘Western’ han­dle­bars, chromed steel rear rack and crash bars and a very deep and well-padded twin rear seat. The unique fea­ture of the Monza Ju­nior was its wheels. The rims were a smaller 16” di­am­e­ter with 2.25” wide front and 1.85” rear (yes, un­usu­ally the rear rim was nar­rower than the front). The tyres how­ever were wider than the orig­i­nal 125 mod­els which again matched the re­quested ‘cruiser’ phi­los­o­phy. The smaller di­am­e­ter wheels also brought the seat closer to the ground which was an ad­van­tage for younger rid­ers or those with short legs. 1964 saw the re­lease of the Se­ries 1 Monza Ju­nior. It weighed around 106kg and the max­i­mum speed listed var­ied be­tween 64 to 69 mph (102 to 110kph) “in the prone po­si­tion” or “in low­ered po­si­tion, race type” as quoted in printed lit­er­a­ture. Fuel con­sump­tion was quoted at a miserly 84 mpg (2.8 litres per 100 km). Bas­ing the en­gine on the diecast ver­sion of the 125cc (Mar­i­anna) made it a solid per­former. Tom Bai­ley sug­gests that there was an op­por­tu­nity to up­grade the en­gine and market a Day­tona Ju­nior (Sport ver­sion) like they did with the 125 Su­per Monza. BMC how­ever in­sisted on leav­ing the M-Jr in cheap ba­sic form to get be­gin­ners to trade up rather than hot-up. To hard­ened Du­cati fans the slow rel­a­tive speeds, com­pro­mised sus­pen­sion, bling and rid­ing po­si­tion were scorned, but some­how they sold amaz­ingly well. Tom sug­gested that in their shop they out­sold the com­bined num­ber of ev­ery other Du­cati model they stocked and all at full re­tail price. Kids be­tween 16 and 21 bought them and even­tu­ally all their mates were do­ing the same. In 1966 the M-Jr was priced at just $US229 whereas a sim­i­larly Amer­i­can­ised 125 Moto Guzzi was $US429. The other rea­son sales took off was the price of in­sur­ance. En­gine ca­pac­ity cat­e­gories were set at 200cc and over, while rider age split was 25. For ex­am­ple, a rider un­der 25 with a 200cc mo­tor­cy­cle would pay around $US330 whereas if the bike was less than 200cc he would only pay $US70. The other sell­ing fea­tures of the M-Jr was that it started first kick, was light and easy to ride around town, fast enough on the free­way, sounded great, was cheap to run and you could park it any­where.

I found an in­ter­est­ing road test by a jour­nal­ist from “Car Craft” mag­a­zine from Septem­ber 1965. Car Craft is ac­tu­ally a hot rod and drag rac­ing mag­a­zine but it ap­pears that Larry Lester was of­fered a Se­ries 1 Monza Ju­nior for a week­end. He de­cided to ride the Monza Ju­nior to the lo­cal Hot Rod Drags in River­side 75 miles away and then wrote an article ti­tled “Ital­ian Hot One”. He firstly re­ported that the Monza Ju­nior was sur­pris­ingly quick off the mark at the lights and achieved a speed of 65mph which made it free­way friendly. He then rode it around the pits mostly 2-up and even al­low­ing fel­low drag rac­ers and crew to have a ride. They all loved it and were im­pressed par­tic­u­larly with the beau­ti­ful all al­loy en­gine and that Allen bolts were used in its as­sem­bly. They par­tic­u­larly loved the bevel drive “over­head cam­mer” tech­nol­ogy which was still rare but de­sir­able in drag rac­ing at the time. My high­light was the way Lester then tested the Monza Ju­nior’s off-road ca­pa­bil­ity. At 200 lbs (91 kg) he was no spring chicken but over some un­du­lat­ing ter­rain he man­aged to get air­borne and a great photo was in­cluded. Lester was im­pressed that the sus­pen­sion did not bot­tom on land­ing. He then pro­ceeded with 2nd gear slides which he re­peated with more and more vigour un­til the foot peg dug in and both em­bar­rass­ingly parted com­pany. No dam­age apart from a skinned el­bow, he got home safely and con­cluded “I spent the most en­joy­able week­end I’ve had in a long time”. ‚

Squar­ing off

The 1965 Se­ries 2 is where the love or hate ‘square’ styling first ap­peared. Ini­tially it was just the tank only. The tool boxes were also elon­gated but the head­light and all other com­po­nents stayed the same. Tom Bai­ley quoted that he be­lieved the ‘square’ de­sign was to em­u­late the de­sign of the Japanese im­ports which had started to creep into the market. Mean­while the Japanese were ac­tu­ally de­vel­op­ing de­signs to em­u­late the Euro­peans. Ei­ther way the change didn’t gather many fans. It was not un­like the re­ac­tion from the mo­tor­cy­cling com­mu­nity to the BSA Rocket 3 or Du­cati’s re­lease of the 1974 Gi­u­giaro de­signed 860 GT. Sur­pris­ing to all, the Monza Ju­niors con­tin­ued to sell like hot cakes even against the now re­leased Honda coun­ter­part. 1966 saw the Se­ries 3 re­leased. The ‘square’ styling moved on to a new level with fur­ther squar­ing to the head­light and now the mud­guards. The seat pad­ding was made even thicker but the rest re­mained pretty much the same. Me­chan­i­cally there was a wider chain and sprock­ets. Mick Walker quotes that for an un­known rea­son the Se­ries 3 was fit­ted with a smaller 15 tooth drive sprocket which caused the en­gine to over-rev in top gear. He be­lieves it even led to a few en­gine fail­ures from un­for­giv­ing rid­ers. 1966 had the Ber­liner’s busi­ness strug­gling fi­nan­cially. They had or­dered a ship­ment from Du­cati which in­cluded 1800 M-Jrs which they had to can­cel in 1967. This left Du­cati in trou­ble and they des­per­ately had to find a buyer to pay their bills. A car-sell­ing busi­ness­man, Bill Hannah of Liver­pool (UK), took the ship­ment. This how­ever did a huge dis­ser­vice to the UK Du­cati dis­tributer Vic Camp as the market be­came flooded. It was re­ported that Hannah’s sell price was some 25% less and he was not re­ally in­ter­ested in stock­ing or sell­ing spare parts. Vic Camp was pay­ing full price for his Du­catis and was set-up to sup­port the brand and his customers. He rightly felt let down and so didn’t feel obliged to sup­port Hannah’s customers with spares. The result made Du­cati own­ers un­happy and dam­aged Du­cati’s rep­u­ta­tion in the UK. It ap­pears that not many M-Jrs made it to Aus­tralia. Ian Fal­loon has quoted that we did re­ceive a ship­ment of 32 x Se­ries 3 mod­els which must have been post 1966.

Nig­gles

It is fair to con­clude that own­ers at the Monza Ju­nior’s end of the market are not en­thu­si­asts and are re­luc­tant to spend money on ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance. It must be re­mem­bered that the 160cc and all other Du­cati bevel sin­gles were de­rived from the rac­ing Mar­i­anna. While the de­sign bodes well with high rpm race en­gines which re­ceived reg­u­lar at­ten­tion, there were a few chinks in the ar­mour when used on the street. Lug­ging the en­gine meant the low-pres­sure oil pump didn’t cir­cu­late the oil very well and the roller type bear­ing big end didn’t spin like it should ei­ther. A mea­gre strainer was the only oil fil­tra­tion and un­less the oil was changed reg­u­larly the fines from the wet clutch would even­tu­ally clog the oil ways. Un­like the race bike, a kick start mech­a­nism was re­quired for the road. The lim­ited space avail­able meant that the re­sul­tant de­sign was a lit­tle del­i­cate (more-so with the larger ca­pac­ity en­gines) and needed to be treated with re­spect to pre­vent dam­age. The big­gest is­sue was the close vicin­ity of the en­gine drive sprocket to the clutch lever. No wor­ries on a race bike where the chain is al­ways ser­viced, ad­justed and of­ten re­placed. Chain ne­glect lead­ing to ex­ces­sive play or worse, break­age, could al­low contact with the cast clutch lever lug some­times tear­ing the lug off the crank­case which was an ex­pen­sive fix. Those in the know shaped a flat steel strip around the sprocket and bolted in place as a chain guard to pro­tect the lug. Pro­duc­tion of the Se­ries 3 con­tin­ued up to late 1960s with fi­nal stocks sold by 1970 or so. To­tal ac­tual pro­duc­tion of Monza Ju­niors is un­known but fig­ures quoted range from 13,000 to over 15,000. Although not ac­knowl­edged by Du­cati en­thu­si­asts as the com­pa­nies best of­fer­ing, the pro­duc­tion fig­ures make it sig­nif­i­cant, ex­ceed­ing the to­tal num­ber of all the other Du­cati sin­gles made be­tween 1967 and 1975.

Fam­ily Heir­loom

Steve Maxwell loves mo­tor­cy­cles. He con­tin­ues to ride to work ev­ery day and then ride all day de­liv­er­ing the mail. He also has a soft spot for old bikes and ac­knowl­edges he is no spring chicken him­self. While he will con­tinue to ride un­til no longer pos­si­ble, he and his wife Sal de­cided that they would leave both off­spring a mo­tor­cy­cle when this day comes. Son Grat­ten has in­her­ited a 1954 Tri­umph Thun­der­bird Steve re­stored while he was liv­ing on Nor­folk Is­land and daugh­ter Eloise will re­ceive a shiny 1967 Monza Ju­nior that Steve found lo­cally which needed some ten­der lov­ing care. It is a se­ries 3 model and I’m think­ing that it may be one of the 32 im­ported to Aus­tralia. Steve has spent many hours restor­ing it to a beau­ti­ful state. It wasn’t an easy path, with many set­backs along the way. Steve made the con­scious de­ci­sion to change a few things from fac­tory orig­i­nal but most of the com­po­nents are cor­rect. There are even a few dents in the orig­i­nal tail­light bracket which he got as straight as pos­si­ble rather than fit a mod­ern replica. The big­gest change he made was in­creas­ing the wheels to 17” di­am­e­ter. This makes re­place­ment tyres eas­ier to find and will in­crease the top speed. The cen­tre stand also needed a lit­tle ex­ten­sion to suit. Eloise lives in Perth but re­cently spent Christ­mas with the fam­ily. This gave me the op­por­tu­nity to take a few photos. Steve had some vinyl let­ters cut and fit­ted them to the in­side of the tool box lid. It says ‘Eloise Love Dad & Mum” which was sweet and I used this to set-up my favourite photo. I ad­mire Steve and Sal’s ges­ture which en­sures that the Monza Ju­nior is now guar­an­teed to find a great home.

The en­gine from the drive side, with typ­i­cally Ital­ian rock­ing pedal gear change.

ABOVE CEN­TRE Se­ries 2 & 3 mod­els had a bent man­i­fold so the UB22 BS bowl was ver­ti­cal. ABOV RIGHT Crank­case dam­age due to loose or bro­ken chain. LEFT AND BELOW RIGHT Monza Ju­nior ads from the ‘60s.

Squared off head­light and push pull ig­ni­tion switch. Sub­stan­tial side stand make the oil filler hard to get to. Orig­i­nal num­ber plate bracket car­ries a few scars.

FAR LEFT Sal and Steve with their gift to Eloise. IN­SET LEFT A sweet touch in­side the tool­box.

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