1978 Ducati 900 NCR

Mike Hailwood was the finest motorcycle road racer of his generation – some think he was the greatest ever. With nine motorcycle Grand Prix world titles, he was obviously something very special. "Mike the Bike" retired from motorcycles in 1971 to concentrate on automobile racing. Despite winning the 1972 Formula 2 championship, two wheels were always a draw and his return to bike racing at the Isle of Man in 1978 is the stuff of legend, and an enduring chapter in Ducati's history.

Some of Hailwood's earliest successes had come on small-displacement Ducatis, and when he was offered a ride on a Ducati 900 NCR V-twin for the Isle of Man F1 race in '78, he jumped at the chance. At 37, he was thought to be past his prime and hadn't raced on the daunting 37-mile circuit in a decade. Nonetheless, he won the six-lap race over ordinary two-lane country roads bordered by stone walls and buildings at an average speed over 108 mph, and set a new lap record of 110.62 mph. This victory along with Paul Smart's Imola 200 win in 1972 were the two most important events in the elevation of Ducati to true superbike status.

Hailwood's TT winner was one of a small batch of 20-25 such roundcase machines built by the legendary Bologna-based NCR race shop for Formula 1 and FIM Coupe d'Endurance racing. NCR stood for the names of its founders, ex-factory race mechanics Giorgio Nepoti, Rino Caracchi and Luigi Rizzi, although after Rizzi's early departure the "R" stood for Racing. Founded in 1967 in the small town of Borgo Panigale on the outskirts of Ducati's hometown of Bologna, NCR was situated a stone's throw from the factory, and functioned as Ducati's semi-official race team from the early 1970s, there being no direct works involvement at that time. The Nepoti/Caracchi philosophy was that everything could be improved, lightened or made more powerful, and like all truly great tuners they paid attention to the smallest detail in the knowledge that racing would inevitably expose any weaknesses. Their emblem, a speeding cartoon dog wearing a helmet, is now known the world over, but it was Hailwood's milestone IoM victory that gave NCR recognition as the leading Ducati tuning operation.

The Silverman Museum 900 NCR is from that same year, and unique in the fact that it has never been raced and is preserved in the exact condition it would have been delivered to a customer 36 years ago.