Is it possible to make a good-looking Ducati Panigale streetfighter?
By Loz Blain
July 11, 2014
The Ducati 1199 Panigale is one of the hottest superbikes on the planet. It's also the first to come out with a gutsy, "frameless" design that, frankly, looks very odd when you pull its fairings off. But an engine like that deserves the love and attention of custom bike builders. So we ask the question: is it possible to make the Panigale look good as a naked streetfighter? Here's eight different attempts from designers around the world.
To those of us who love streetfighters, the stripped-down superbike represents the raw essence of road riding. Take a red-hot performance machine, pull off all the ugly, redundant racetrack plastics, stick a nasty headlight on and a flat bar, perfect for the street. Shred rubber.
To streetfighter lovers, there's form in the function. With the skin stripped bare, you can admire the bone and muscle. Engines and frames have their own brutal beauty when they're not draped in a harlot's rags.
Typically, the frame is the launching point for a 'fighter build, because it defines the primary lines. That's what makes the early Suzuki Bandit 1200 such a great base – that frame presents the engine and carbs like a rolling artwork. Rip the inessential away, tidy up the lines and you can make something really special, like Bad Bikes did to create "Hot Chocolate" here:
But what happens when one of the top superbikes of our era gets released with no frame at all? The Ducati 1199 Panigale has a stressed aluminium airbox/steering head, a thin subframe and the swingarm all bolted directly onto the engine without a traditional frame to speak of. We took a look at some nude shots of the 1199 back in 2012 and wondered aloud how the heck the streetfighter community, or indeed Ducati's own designers, were going to get a presentable nakedbike out of such a jam-packed, unattractive, frameless body as this:
Ducati has not yet released a naked Panigale, but a few custom shops and designers have had a crack at it. Let's take a look at how they've attacked it.
First, the designers, who are free to experiment visually without having to necessarily make the things buildable or rideable.
Gannet's founder Ulfert Janssen is a fascinating and highly productive guy with a wealth of experience designing cars, motorcycles and everything in between. He's had a couple of bites at what a naked Panigale might look like, starting with an understated cafe racer:
The hugger and smooth seat unit dominate this design, but the overall look is very clean and pleasant. Then there's his more recent "cafe fighter" concept:
The MT-03-style headlight looks fantastic and the chunky tank cover provides some flow to the bike's lines, but the giant plastic/carbon hugger seems to be more or less just there to cover up the engine – and while it works, you've got to take away some purist streetfighter points there.
Sylvain Berneron is a Motorcycle Designer at BMW Munich and in his spare time he … designs motorcycles. Here's his crack at the Panigale 899 as a cafe racer:
It's long, low, and flat. The junction between the tank and air box is nicely done and the retro taillight is a nice touch. This is probably the nicest presentation of the engine, and something about it gives the overall bike a kind of steampunk feel.
KRAX Moto / Pierobon
Frame specialists at Pierobon weren't interested in making streetfighters. They simply wanted to produce a kit for their racing customers that allowed the 1199 engine to be removed more easily and that could build a bit of torsional flex back into the design. They came up with an idea, and a product, that brought the traditional Ducati-style trellis frame back into the Panigale design:
In addition to adding a touch of flex back into the frame, it also took the sub-frame mounting points off the rear cylinder of the engine, and attached them back to a central frame piece.
Either way, they produced some beautiful product pictures of a modified naked Panigale, which allowed a designer from krax-moto.com to get his photoshop on and create this:
Now we're talking! All it took was a headlight and front end cleanup, a leather seat and a few color changes on the engine to create a tough, cafe-inspired fighter look. Still, can you really call it a successful Panigale streetfighter if you need to bring a trellis frame back into the design to give it some visual flow?
Italian designer Daidalgas has put a truly unique spin on things with this Panigale streetfighter design:
This concept creates a chunky, solid front end by extending the tank upwards and creating a downward sloping line that finishes softly at the headlight. A further chunky plastic side guard ties the headlight to the bottom of the lower radiator and the cutout from the plastics perfectly frames the 1199cc Panigale motor. The seat unit follows the angle of the tank and the taillight gives it a bit of hot-rod style flair. It's by far the most "out there" of the designs, but it's nicely done!
Moto Puro's Elite II
Finally, one that's actually been built and not just photoshopped! Moto Puro is a Dutch Ducati dealer and workshop and workshop chief Martien van Stipdonk has clearly put a lot of work into the Elite II:
Thoroughly reconceived from the engine out, the Elite II takes a very retro approach. A new trellis sub-frame unit holds up a tiny monoposto seat, dual upswept megaphones recall the look of a Paul Smart Sports Classic with Termis on, and a simple painted plastic cover deals with the ugly airbox/steering head – note the lines drawn to extend the tank as a flatter shape. Spoked wheels, a camping-bottle overflow reservoir and a bug-eye headlight complete the classic look, making the Elite II one heck of a sleeper. It wouldn't look out of place at a classic bike meet, and yet it's a 200-horsepower thoroughbred. Lovely work!
Leaving the tank and seat unit more or less unmolested, Hertrampf uses simple red covers over the airbox and behind the lower radiator in a way not dissimilar to the VAST design above. A flat bar, a set of very beautifully machined triple clamps, some miniature bar-end mirrors and an angry German-style headlight mask round it out.
Headlight and mirrors aside, this work is by far the closest to what we'd imagine coming out of the factory if Ducati was ever to make a Panigale Streetfighter of its own. But then, with the recent overhaul of the Monster range to include a water-cooled 1200, and the discontinuation of the 1098 Streetfighter model, we'd suspect that Bologna might not ever bother with the exercise.
Either way, to answer our original question, can the 1199 Panigale be made into a good looking streetfighter? On the evidence above we'd have to say yes – but it sure doesn't look like an easy task.