[A version of this article originally appeared in Cycle World magazine]
Legendary motorcycle designer Miguel Galluzzi is as refreshingly direct as his most famous creation, the Ducati M900 ‘Monster’.  When it was released in 1993, the bare-bones Monster was considered revolutionary, which speaks more about 1990s sportbike design than its status as the ‘first naked bike’.  Regardless that motorcycle history was, like Eden, pretty much all naked, the mantra of ‘90s sporting motorcycles was all-plastic-everything, and Galluzzi landed in the thick of it, after a stint designing cars at GM/Opel in Germany.  “I was getting fed up with the car business; each project took 10 years to develop – just too long.  My boss Hideo Kodama heard that Soichiro Honda wanted a Honda motorcycle design studio in Milan, to understand how things were done in Italy. They hired me to start the studio in 1987”.

Miguel Galluzzi in Venice, 2018. [Paul d’Orléans]
Honda might have been interested in the Italian process, but not so much in Galluzzi’s designs. He developed sketches and models that exposed the motorcycle’s engine, but there was no steering Honda away from the current idiom. “I was working on the Honda CB600F2, and it was all this plastic crap covering everything up.” His sketches for minimal bodywork were routinely rejected, and he grew frustrated after two years; so much for Italian design!  By then he’d met the Castiglioni brothers of Cagiva, owners of Ducati and Husqvarna, and was hired to develop the new-generation 900SS in 1990.  “I had ideas for bikes, and convinced my boss to build a half-fairing 900SS for the big Cologne show.  Four days before the show, Cagiva’s commercial guys said ‘we have to have a full fairing’!  We built it, but it was covered in Bondo, and after 10 days under hot lights at Cologne, the Bondo shrank and the bike’s shape went flat.”  Still, the full-fairing 900SS was a huge hit, and became Ducati’s #1 seller.

The 1990 Ducati 900SS was a huge hit for the factory, but Miguel Galluzzi felt that plastic covering everything was missing the point of a motorcycle. [Ducati]
To demonstrate a smaller fairing could work, Galuzzi hacksawed the bodywork on his ‘87 Ducati 750 Sport. “I cut the fairing in half and showed the bosses – ‘this is the bike we should build’.  So at the Bologna show in December 1990 we showed a 750SS with the half-fairing.  That was the beginning of the changes.”  Galuzzi never actually worked for or at Ducati, but was installed at the Cagiva HQ in Varese.  He prefers to keep his design studio away from the factory; “Usually around 5 or 6 in the afternoon, the factory guys got bored and would come to my office to ‘help’ design bikes, as design is the fun part – everyone wanted to hang out.  But they’d alter drawings, give unwanted advice, and change projects. It was a mess! So I put a padlock on the studio, and I had the only key! They had to ring a bell to get in.”

Artists have been messing around with Xerox machines since they were invented, so it’s only appropriate a legendary motorcycle design was developed on Xerox too.   Enjoy ‘Photocopy Cha Cha’ (2001) by Chel White, a film made entirely from sheets of color Xerox paper. [Bent Image Lab]

The Monster’s birth was midwifed by an early ‘90s high tech device  – a color copier. “We had the first color Xerox machine at our office, so I copied magazine photos of a bare chassis, and drew some simple lines with minimal bodywork, like bikes had been since the beginning of time.  The form of what a bike should be; just enough to enjoy the ride.”  In the summer of 1990 Galluzzi asked his boss if he could pick up some parts at Ducati.  The 851 had just come out, and it was blowing people’s minds – the first twin-cylinder sportbike that could rev to 10,000 RPM.  “I built a raw special using all factory parts, but the 4V engine was too expensive for my project.  But we had plenty of 900ss motors lying around; it was affordable stuff, which meant a bike could be much cheaper.  That was the beginning of the Monster”.

Monsters have always been popular with kids! A brilliant name. [Facebook]
The code-named M900 project developed rapidly once the 900ss motor was chosen, and Galluzzi devoted considerable time to its creation. “My boss called from Bologna and asked, ‘what’s the name of this project?’  At the time my two sons loved these cute rubber toys at the grocery store, little monsters that came two to a packet, and every day they asked me ‘did you buy me a monster?’  I suggested we call the bike Monster, and they did!  It was just a throwaway.”  Cagiva’s marketing arm didn’t like the name, but French importer Marcel Seurat thought it perfect, and it stuck. “People said ‘this is extremely futuristic’, and I said, have you been looking at bikes from 50 or 60 years ago?  All the shapes in the ‘90s were soft in cars and bikes, soapy.  To me it wasn’t radical, it was just going back to basics.”

The original concept drawing by Miguel Galluzzi for the Monster: and enduring classic still in production, and still popular, because how could it go out of style? [Miguel Galluzzi]
In being so basic, the Monster was a blank canvas for customization, something Italian motorcycles had never been.  “People enjoy transforming bikes, personalizing them, painting and stuff. If you know the history of motorcycles, most of the fun part is there; choppers, café racers, everything like that, forever!”  Galluzzi considers the Monster itself a ‘custom’ build, as he used the frame from one bike, the motor from another, and added a custom tank.  It’s simplicity and use of existing parts made the M900 “the fastest and cheapest bike to put into production in modern history.”  It also became Ducati’s biggest seller for years on end, and a legendary design that changed the course of the industry.

Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.
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