Two-Wheeled Red Passion
Borgo Panigale, 1935: the Cavalieri Ducati brothers, Adriano, Bruno and Marcello, began building the Ducati Factory. What was just a grouping of farms and country houses, has since then become the home of the “Reds of Borgo Panigale”.
However, not everyone knows that the origins of Ducati are in the heart of Bologna. The company, Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati (Ducati’s original name), was founded on July 4th, 1926. The first headquarters were in the centre of town, on Via Collegio di Spagna 9, right next door to an institute for Spanish students in Bologna. There, the Ducati brothers rented three rooms on the ground floor to start their business, while their initial workshop was located in the basement of their family’s villa, on Viale Guidotti, 51.
Their business grew exponentially and in 1931, the three brothers had to expand their workshop to Villa Lydia, transforming it into the first Ducati factory. Eventually, Villa Lydia and the offices in the centre of Bologna were too small for Ducati so the brothers decided to move their operations to Borgo Panigale.
The first stone of the Borgo Panigale factory was placed on June 1, 1935.
When the Borgo Panigale offices were opened, production grew exponentially. During this time, Ducati was one of the most advanced and well-organised companies in Bologna, with more than 3,500 total employees.
The quality of Ducati wasn’t only based on the perfection of its products, but also on the high level of services provided to its employees; there were two cafeterias, one for the employees and one for the middle and top managers, two reading rooms, a professional school, two tennis courts and a volleyball court.
Ducati was, in every aspect, a miniature city.
Over 120,000 square metres along Via Emilia were the heart of Ducati’s life. At the time, the Via Emilia was the only street that easily connected North and Central Italy. Therefore, deliveries from the Borgo Panigale factory could be sent as far as Genoa, Florence and Milan in a half day’s time.
In 1938, Ducati opened two new plants, one in Bazzano and one in Crespellano (two towns not far from Borgo Panigale that allowed the company to begin production in the optical sector). In this period the company grew to such an extent that Bruno Ducati began to study how to further amplify the Borgo Panigale factory.
Between 1937 and 1942 many authorities visited the factory, among which were Imberto II, the King’s son, Benito Mussolini, the leader of the fascist government and King Vittorio Emanuele III.
Ducati received authorisation to expand the company again. The expansion was known as “Plant 2″ and would have increased the total number of employees to 7,000. The planned expansion would have included a new administrative area along Via Emilia, four new rectangular buildings for employees and a new square production plant. The plans for expansion also included additional employee services, such as a movie theatre and a nursery school.
Building began in the spring of 1942 but, when Italy entered World War II, it became impossible to continue the works. In fact, when the truce was signed in September 1943 and the factory was taken over by German troops, construction had yet to be completed. At this point, the situation became much worse: WWII bombing completely destroyed the Ducati factory on October 12, 1944.
At the end of WWII, in May 1945, Ducati began working to restore and rebuild the factory, starting with a first phase to clear out the debris left by the bombing. Eventually, the two additional plants in Crespellano and Bazzano were sold in 1948, and that same year the Ducati brothers left the company.
In 1954, while the company was under state control, Ducati production was split into two parts: Ducati Elettrotecnica and Ducati Meccanica.
Ducati Meccanica began producing diesel engines and Triumph Tr4 vehicles, which resulted in the need to expand the factory’s structure and production capacity. Between 1969 and 1973 the expansions included a new production plant for workers that prepared aluminium and steel parts (currently the Ducati motorcycle engine and assembly lines) and a large employee parking lot, surrounded by a small track used to test racing and production motorcycles.
As years passed, work continued with the demolition of an old building to make space for a new parking lot for Ducati suppliers. The demolished building had a true treasure inside: the entire archive of Ducati’s written history, including the technical designs of all the Ducati motorcycles ever produced. Luckily, the archive was saved from the possible destruction.
When TPG bought Ducati in 1996, the original test track was closed and replaced by a newer and safer testing track within the production areas.
If you’d like to learn more about Ducati and its incredible history, you can visit the Ducati Museum and Factory in Borgo Panigale, located just a few kilometres away from the city of Bologna.Any suggestions?
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