Project Ducati 998 Superbike Part 1: Getting a Basket Case Running With a 999 Engine Swap!

Once the engine was serviced and in the chassis, it was time to tie up some loose ends. Firstly, this was going to be a track-only machine and therefore the instruments would be slimmed down by removing the speedometer and cable assembly along with the warning lights. While this is a simple unbolt type of removal, it also eliminates the red oil dummy light. The 998 never came with an actual oil pressure gauge. I wanted a working oil pressure gauge. The stock position oil pressure switches are known to fail from excessive vibration. Later Ducati models during the 848/1198 production run moved the switch to the oil cooler hose to reduce failures. Why reinvent the wheel? I stole this idea.

The updated oil cooler hose with a provision for an oil pressure switch. By mounting the switch onto the hose instead of directly to the engine, some of the engine vibrations are damped. This eliminates vibration-induced failures, a common problem on Ducati Superbikes.

I sourced a 52mm STACK electronic gauge but when it arrived, I discovered the sending unit was huge. Not only did it weigh almost a pound, but it was too bulky to package neatly on a motorcycle. STACK also makes a fancier, more expensive gauge that basically does the same thing, but with a smaller, more modern sending unit much like the OEM switch. It’s even the same thread pitch, M10 x 1.0mm. Perfect.

The STACK 52mm instrument and sending unit. This sending unit was way too bulky to fit neatly on such a tightly packaged machine.

 

The smaller unit that was actually installed on the bike shown here. The sending unit is actually an Autometer part that came in the STACK packaging.

14 comments

  1. FYI check to be sure the rear nut keeper spring for the swingarm is threaded correctly and undamaged. My friend has an 748s and 998s said over time those parts will become a serious PITA. good luck on the swap. If your cluster super dim too go with led swap. Cheers 2-wheels,

    1. The wheel side and axle side have been lock wired just to be sure. Great tip though! My cluster is pretty dim, but given that this is a track only machine, it’ll only be ridden during the day and I’m not bothered.

  2. Man…I don’t ride motorcycles, but I love Ducatis…I saw some guy who had to call a tow truck just outside a Starbucks in Azusa, after coming down from a ride on the HWY39…it was a brand new bike…and he had to wait a few hours with his GF. I felt bad for the guy…such a beautiful bike. But, that’s why I put in the work to learn about this stuff…I don’t know what I would do without ‘mechanics specials.’

  3. Great write-up! It’s interesting how the world of motorcycles can be so foreign and intimidating to people who have no problem wrenching on their cars.

    1. I’ve always found that really odd too. My ‘car friends’ aren’t into motorcycles and my ‘motorcycle friends’ aren’t really into cars. I think a lot of that comes from accessibility to cars at a young age. Most parents won’t let their kids buy motorcycles when they’re 16-17yrs old.

    1. You’re dating yourself there Khiem! The 916 and is amazing, but after working on those old desmoquattro engines, the testastrettas found in the 998s all the way up to 1198s (and still in use in other model lines) are so much better. Raced desmoquattros can be finicky to say the very least.

  4. I am very excited for this project, and want to see it progress!

    Personally love wrenching on cars and bikes. (havent mastered the bicycle yet) Ive often wondered how challenging ducati timing systems are for the average person of this era to maintain but it seem straight forward.

    I missed out on my dream specd yellow 748 at auction for a measly $1000 Canadian maple dollars last year. probably a $1/cc USD but perhaps the engine was toast like this one!

    cheers

    1. The funny thing about Ducati camshaft belts is, coming from car guys’ perspective, they’re completely ordinary. They’re only ‘different’ in the motorcycle world because EVERY other modern motorcycle engine uses chain driven camshafts that don’t require tension adjustment or replacement normally.

      The 998 and 999 ECUs are physically the same, but their operation is very different. The 998 is very unique in the regard that it was still the original 916 derived chassis and electronic layout configuration, but with a much more modern EPROM-less ECU. I maintained all the stock 998 electrical system and wiring because the engines are fundamentally the same.

        1. This is the general consensus but I must admit I’ve never had problems with he CAN BUS systems on 1098 and newer Ducs. I just kept it for simplicity’s sake.

    1. A thorough flushing and inspection should ease your mind. Ducati’s of this vintage also use roller bearing crankshafts. So if the bearings do fail, the chunks are much too large to make it past the oil pump pickup filter. Rod bearing material could be a concern, but after cleaning and inspecting I’m satisfied enough to use it.

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