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Ducati Pantah 500 by Michael Kara

Readers build themselves

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Bella Italia in the Vulkaneifel: Michael Kara turned a Ducati Pantah 500 into a sporty gem. With a lot of dedication and expertise, he built an individual homage to classic vertical shaft Ducs on a limited budget.

AT.Michael Kara makes no secret of his passion: "I’m really into Ducati, I’m pretty contaminated." He has some V2 machines from Bologna, more or less refined himself. In a glass cabinet in his living room is an armada of Ducati models. But the yard is also full of Ducs on a very real scale, on a 1: 1 scale: Micha fitted a modified 750 SS from 1992, a carburettor model, with a 2-in-1 exhaust system instead of silencers on both sides. The fairing, rear and tank of the 750 series are made of carbon. "It only weighs 170 kilograms with a full tank, even weighed", the Eifeler is happy.

Ducati Pantah 500 by Michael Kara

Readers build themselves

Vertical shaft racer as inspiration

The conversion should definitely look classic. Michael’s inspiration was a photo from 1980 showing a vertical shaft racer, a 900 SS at the 24-hour race in Barcelona. "Vertical shaft machines are absolutely priceless today." Spare parts and maintenance are also extremely expensive. And after all, Michael still has to look after his eleven-year-old son. It had to be cheaper – with a limit of 6,000 euros and a total of nine months of construction.

So the idea matured to switch to a cheap pantah: "The engines actually run even better, and you can get the parts for an apple and an egg." The (financial) need quickly turned into a virtue. Michael Kara bought the basic motorcycle in parts, with a mileage of around 50,000 kilometers. No problem for the trained car mechanic and mechanical engineer who repairs forklifts as his main job. He brought the engine with the polished light metal covers back into shape himself. "There wasn’t much to be done. The V2 remained in series because it lasts that way and there are no additional tuning costs."

Okay, as part of a homemade inspection, there were new valves and timing belts. The rollers of the rubber bands and the ignition cables were also changed, and he modified the wiring harness and electrics: "There was always too little charging current until I installed a new alternator regulator." But the chambers of the heart, the cylinders, were healthy, as the EKG showed – absolutely evenly high compression in both combustion chambers. The only extras for the engine were a black painted exhaust system, with a single, quite expressive Conti bag on the left and the open intake funnels with flame filters that were also registered – "I really wanted that!"

With these measures, Michael hopes to have increased the original 46 HP nominal power of the 499 Desmo Twin to an honest 49 to 50 HP. "I’m not really an ultra-screwdriver, but I persist and at some point my engines run really well." He is not a perfectionist and can also make technical compromises, "otherwise it’ll be really expensive". Michael’s third apprenticeship as a business economist shimmers through.

The chassis remained untouched

The Eifeler really grew fond of the 500 pantah. It was Ducati’s first model with the timing belt V2 designed by Taglioni. The chassis remained untouched: "It’s great, a durable high-volume engine in an ultra-light tubular space frame." Micha only let Frank Gerardy from Polch paint the meshwork. As little as possible, as much as necessary. But what has to be done is also tackled. "It’s always better to get one thing right once and then be left alone forever." There were no compromises in terms of optics, which should look as pure as possible, as unfiltered as possible.

According to Michael’s specifications, Horst Ettenberger (www.ks-kunststofftechnik.com) produced the monocoque and paneling including the pane. A small overhead compartment for on-board tools is hidden in the rear bumper. The masterpiece is the plastic tank with a transparent window strip in the style of the legendary 750 Supersport. An exciting borrowing from the Ducati history: look classic without being original. The handlebar end mirrors, ox eyes at the front and aluminum turn signals at the rear, as well as the chrome-plated snap-on fuel cap, set accents.

The two-tone paint is Ducati red, which contrasts with the beige tone of the Bakelite steering wheel of the gullwing Mercedes 300 SL. The wheels with six double spokes each shine in fire red, the upper triple clamp in black. Micha didn’t want a monochrome motorcycle. Without further ado, the front fender was cut to look crisper. This is how the Pantah is really sexy, says its builder happily. "I can look at it for hours, it makes me really happy."

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L-Twin hangs spontaneously and sensitively on the gas

The L-Twin wakes up with a barking, robust V2 staccato, spontaneously and sensitively on the gas. Well adjusted, Micha! A lot of force is needed to pull the clutch lever ("This is what pantahs are known for."). The V2, which was left as standard, revs up without holes and almost without vibrations, marches properly from 3000 rpm, and then at full speed from 5000 rpm. The short-stroke engine (bore x stroke: 74 x 58 mm) bravely enters the red area at 8000 rpm. Okay, before overtaking he asks to shift down.

The open intake funnels purr and chirp along with it. In push mode, it slaps out of the exhaust roar. Really sensual, this driving experience. The little pantah gives you a lot. You feel faster than you actually are, have a lot of fun on winding country roads without putting your driver’s license at risk. You don’t always have to race for a sporty driving style. The secret of the Kara-Pantah? Feather-light 171 kilograms, so 30 kilograms slimmed down!

The seating position is collectively sporty. Something for agile drivers. Because at slow speed there is a lot of load on the wrists. But the deeply drawn-in tank flanks offer good, full knee closure, and the pane completely shields. Micha continues to use the overhauled Brembo series brakes, but he has fitted them with special pads for all three discs.

The chassis could also need some fine-tuning. With its narrow 18-inch wheels (100/90 at the front and 120/90 at the rear), the Pantah falls slightly on an incline, but the mounted Conti Go diagonal tires only have moderate grip. In addition, the Marzocchi struts work very tightly, respond stubbornly, despite the newly filled gas-air emulsion. The fork with new stanchions, Wilbers springs and low-viscosity oil, on the other hand, dips deeply and pops out too quickly due to the lack of rebound damping. As with many Ducatis, the balance of the chassis could also be improved here. Still, this low-budget pantah really turns on. 

What moved Michael Kara to officially register a sideline in 2012. So other passionate projects will definitely follow.

Info and contact


Michael Kara has turned his passion for Ducati into a profession.

The motto says it all: "Finest motorcycles for my friends", says Ducati lover Michael Kara about his italophile conversions, the finest motorcycles for his friends. So far, his side business is still at the very beginning of a hopefully successful career. Incidentally, the Pantah is currently for sale.

Information is available at www.mikas-mc.de. Those who prefer to phone can reach Michael, who is both patient and friendly, on 0 26 51/70 04 77 and 0157/88 99 49 35. The motorcycle can be viewed in Ettringen, west of Koblenz.

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