I stupidly picked up this dilapidated Ducati 998 Superbike as a birthday gift to myself in October of 2017. My wife said it was stupid to buy another motorcycle a month before the birth of our first child. Nonsense. Perfect timing.
The idea was to ‘rescue’ this poor thing and turn it into a fun track day/race bike to race in the ‘Modern Classic’ classes that are becoming quite popular as new sportbike prices continue to rise. A 15-year-old Ducati with no service history is something to be approached with trepidation. The real problem started by not setting myself a proper budget, timeline or actual detailed do’s and don’ts. So down the Craigslist rabbit hole, I went…
First things were to strip the bike, check over everything and service the engine. The previous owner had gotten it on trade from someone who couldn’t pay him for some automotive work he did. Always a good starting point. Pro-tip: don’t buy motorcycles at night. You can’t see things, even when you bring flashlights. I ‘knew’ what I was getting into and was prepared to deal with whatever would come given how cheap this thing was. It ran, didn’t spew oil everywhere or rod knock itself to death, so I bought it.
A week or two goes by as I await service parts to arrive. Walking into the garage with all my shiny new parts, anxiously turning the key, it won’t start. Not hugely surprising given my experience with Ducatis.
The battery goes onto the charger and another attempt to start is made. Nothing, but this time it coughs through the intake. Odd. I remove the tank and try squirting some starting fluid down the intake and try cranking it again. Nearly burn my eyebrows off. Dammit. The stupid thing sounds like the timing is way off. Weird, it ran a week ago when I bought it. Unplug the fuel injectors and spark plugs and turn the engine over. I can see a horizontal intake valve hung open and never fully closing. That’s not good. Removed the radiator and valve cover to get a better look. An intake valve is definitely bent. I didn’t bend it. Time to start taking things apart to find out how bad my problems really are.
Removed the horizontal cylinder, surprise surprise, total carnage. The Horizontal cylinder, piston, and head are all toast. I’m still not 100% sure on what happened here, but it looks like someone did some port work and it didn’t run long after it was put back together. All the ports and valves are really clean as are the piston tops. But someone definitely dropped something, maybe a valve retainer, into the cylinder and mashed everything up. It’s a miracle that it ran the night I checked it out. The valve retainer was never found, maybe it made its way out of the exhaust. Either way, the cost of repairing this engine means it’s not going to work for this project.