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The Cucciolo goes to America

The Cucciolo on the streets of New York - the skyline is unmistakable

The Cucciolo applied on the frame of a normal bicycle

The Cucciolo engine

The Cucciolo on a Nettunia frame

The first advertising photo of Cucciolo, dated 1945

 
 

The Cucciolo arrived in New York in 1947, a miracle of technical and creative skills from a country that had just emerged from the tragedy of war. Here is how the Ducati engineer, Aldo Loria, described its entry, as he passed through New York customs in 1947:

"Have you ever tried to modernize proverbs? The day I left for New York I thought about how the famous saying of 'bringing ice cubes to Eskimos' could be converted into the more modern ‘bringing Cucciolos to New Yorkers', and I had a rather melancholy view about of the whole thing - you must agree, there's no room to envy a man charged with selling motorcycles to the Land of Motorcycles! But oh, I was wrong! Boy was I wrong!
I had the first glimpse of my fortunate mistake the day I went through customs.
At first the customs officials had a rather imposing air about them: if you've never spent at least two minutes under the steely gaze of a customs inspector, you don't know what 'feeling guilty' really means! And that's what happened to me,

while the inspection involved my personal luggage and the various samples I'd brought with me for work.
But then the scene suddenly changed: the Cucciolo had emerged from the mountain of my personal effects.

Immediately, all customs rates, export prices, oaths, everything was forgotten, and the four very serious customs officials gazed at my motorcycle with more or less the same expression as a woman seeing a cute baby. Then came the explosion of questions and exclamations, which I gladly met.
I felt like a big man at that point, and thought: "You really are a cucciolo, a puppy, and everyone loves you: you've got puppy power!"

And so it was that the Cucciolo made its entrance into the City.
We Italians are so used to this spunky little mechanical miracle that, without giving it much thought, on Easter Sunday I went for a ride around Central Park.
Imagine a sunny afternoon in one of the world's most beautiful parks, about as big

as Biella, to give you an idea of its vastness. Now imagine that you see 10,000 automobiles driving at you, and around you on a magnificent four-lane highway.
You've done the hard part: now, anywhere in this orderly procession, all you have to do is place a little red Cucciolo and his/her driver. That was us! Everything was going smoothly, when I saw a magnificent automobile pull up alongside me, carrying two gentlemen who were pacing themselves to me and obviously making comments.
I was pretty resigned about the matter.

I could have told you what those men were about to ask me, and I had my answers ready, gathered through long experience beginning that day in customs. "Yes, it's foreign, Italian"; "What? Oh, yes, 48..., four-stage..., two plus neutral, 240 miles to the gallon." "Positive, if you don't believe me... try it." "You're welcome. 'Bye." But they waved to me to pull over, and the conversation didn't proceed as I'd expected! The bigger one started off: "Please show me your driver's license," followed immediately by "Police!" "License? I haven't got one! Why not? Can't you see it's a bicycle?" "Yes, but it has an engine, and if you hit someone you could kill them."

I started to feel guilty again, and the mere thought that a Cucciolo could kill someone managed to make me smile. It ended well. Within a few seconds there had formed such an assembly of curious onlookers, and such an improvised concert of automobiles (definitely!) that the kind Officers decided to flee and left me to deal with my admirers, to whom I was finally obliged to explain every detail of the Cucciolo."

Taken from "Mondo Ducati", issue January 1999 - reproduced with kind permission of the publisher.

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