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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello everyone,

I bought a 1977 Ducati 500 GTL a couple days ago for $400. It's in rough shape but I kinda wanted to take on a project bike and these are pretty rare (probably not a good thing for someone trying to rebuild one).

Here's the only photo I have:





So here's a list of what's wrong:

1. The engine is seized, a big gamble I know. I knew the kickstarter was frozen but I decided to take a chance anyway... turns out my suspensions were true all along and the engine is stuck. I currently have marvel mystery oil soaking in the plugs, hopefully that will free it. If not then i'm removing it and going to investigate further.

2. None of the electrics work. I haven't had a chance to dive in to this yet, but the simple electrical system gives me hope, also I spotted the fuses are in bad shape, hopefully replacing the old rusty ones with shiny new ones will fix it (we'll see lol)

3. There's no drive chain

4. Some rust on the headlight, brakes, and other areas.

5. Front brakes are seized and removed.

6. No battery was included

7. Carbs need attention (boots are broken and tapped, plastic fuel nipple is broken on brake side)

8. The rear tail light lens is missing

9. No grips or throttle tube

10. gauges have a crack


Luckily there are some good things:

1. Despite the small bits of rust here and there the overall body is in great shape.

2. Because I only paid $400, I know I can easily double my money if I want to part the bike out (worst case scenario).

3. The seat is in perfect shape (rare for such a old project bike).

4. The bike is air cooled which makes wrenching it a much easier task.

5. Tires are in decent shape (for riding around the yard and maybe the neighborhood, no obvious dry-rotting or bald marks... I wouldn't trust my life with them, but i'd trust it for a good 20-30 mph test ride, if we ever get there.

Anyway thanks for reading. Hopefully I can breathe some life into this old Italian girl. I'm sure I'll have a million questions along the way so hopefully some of you are familiar with this bike.

:)

I did do a walk-around video as well:
 

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I know very little about them, apart from the fact that Ducati made loads of them and they had a bad reputation for mechanical reliability. Apparently the joint between the cams allows the oil pressure to escape. there should be a load of spares knocking around. Keep us informed of progress.
 

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With marvel in it use a wrench to start working the engine back and forth. Do this every time you walk past it for a few days and it'll break it loose as long as there's nothing too serious with it..
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I know very little about them, apart from the fact that Ducati made loads of them and they had a bad reputation for mechanical reliability. Apparently the joint between the cams allows the oil pressure to escape. there should be a load of spares knocking around. Keep us informed of progress.
Thanks! I checked autotempest to have it search every craigslist in the country and I haven't found a single other 500 GTL for sale... I also checked ebay as well. If Ducati made loads of them then I bet a lot of owners threw them out or crushed them.

As for the cams maybe there's something I can machine to prevent the oil pressure to escape? Although that may be above my mechanical abilities. Either way I'll tear it apart and find out one way or another.

With marvel in it use a wrench to start working the engine back and forth. Do this every time you walk past it for a few days and it'll break it loose as long as there's nothing too serious with it..
Yeah that's the plan. So far it's pretty stuck though, I can't move the engine at all, even with the wrench. I'm going to give it a week or two before ripping the engine out.
 

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Best of luck to you I almost worked on one once at the dealership, the owner said go try and turn the motor over and if it will not turn have the owner pick it back up! Never did turn so away it went without ever taking it apart, bummer. I do have a soft spot for odd ball bikes so totally could see owning one just for the bizzaro nature of it.

No I do not want to own one
No I do not want to work on one

Glad to not have to turn it down because I can be weak...lol

There are parts that will be available from other models as well as other brands, these bikes do get parted more than fixed but someone must be buying those parts ... now it will be you!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hey everyone, I have some good news :) Me and my dad did some more work on the Ducati today.



The engine is unstuck!! I'm slowly working it, my fingers are crossed that the cylinder walls are going to be OK (I won't hold my breath though).
It sounds like there's enough breathing going on for at least a start though! I just need to keep freeing the motor and working it over and over.... after that it's all about spark and fuel :)

I'll keep you all updated. I did drain the oil before doing this and there were no metal flakes that i could see... although the oil seemed kinda clean which leads me to believe someone changed it in hopes that it would unstick the engine.

Either way that was some quick VERY SATISFYING progress! I'm going to continue to SLOWLY work it over the next week, I don't want to rush this. In the mean time i'm going to start sorting the carbs and cleaning up the rest and maybe even do a little bit of paint (not on the bodywork, that's staying original) :)
 

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I bought one brand new in 1977. By one I mean a Desmo version. Thrashed the shit out of it, toured on it and finally ran it into an armco fence on the Putty Rd in NSW and nearly killed myself on it. Everyone hated the crap out of them but a few of us still have a soft spot for them. Have a look at it - Veglia instruments, Brembo brakes, Dellorto carbs, CEV or Aprilla headlight, Borrani rims. Get the picture yet? Pieces of junk yet made with the same brand parts as all the other Ducati models!!!! Where do you think a lot of parts that keep other models on the road come from?

Most so called Ducati experts and collectors will tell you what a heap of junk they were but if you asked them if they've ever ridden or owned one ....... I doubt it. Mine had a few problems but nothing that wasn't repairable. It kept destroying regulators and the reason turned out to be very simple, the earth wasn't earthed so it kept shorting out and frying the reg. Other owners I knew, including the former President of the Queensland Ducati owners Club had issues with the cam chain tensioner and that was sorted by replacing it with one out of a Kawasaki. No doubt there are other tales of woe but I'm sure any one of us who has also owned a single or a V will have similar stories to tell. I certainly can on both models.

If it was mine I'd just get it running again and sort it out as a rider. If you do you will be rewarded with a great little hoon bike that, like many other small bore bikes, is great fun around town and zipping up and down mountains. They were built with quality components and an engine that's not as bad as people make out. Google around, there's a few people in Europe who love them to bits. They race them, fix them, build specials with them and offer lots of advice, so you're not alone. Parts wise I'd be asking Italspares in Australia to see what he has lurking for them.

There's one for sale on ebay over here and it's such a heap of shit that some one has placed a $5500 bid on it. I reckon you've been pretty lucky picking one up for that price so enjoy the journey.

Cheers Chris

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Ducati-500-GTL/202454792424?hash=item2f233ef8e8:g:RJEAAOSwp8pbsblq
 

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If you haven't already, pull the sump plug and let everything/anything drain out while you're working it free.
 

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I think that the problem with the cam joint can be modified by fitting an 'o' ring, but silicone should do the job just as well!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I bought one brand new in 1977. By one I mean a Desmo version. Thrashed the shit out of it, toured on it and finally ran it into an armco fence on the Putty Rd in NSW and nearly killed myself on it. Everyone hated the crap out of them but a few of us still have a soft spot for them. Have a look at it - Veglia instruments, Brembo brakes, Dellorto carbs, CEV or Aprilla headlight, Borrani rims. Get the picture yet? Pieces of junk yet made with the same brand parts as all the other Ducati models!!!! Where do you think a lot of parts that keep other models on the road come from?

There's one for sale on ebay over here and it's such a heap of shit that some one has placed a $5500 bid on it. I reckon you've been pretty lucky picking one up for that price so enjoy the journey.

Oooo, the desmo edition is so nice looking! I think they make a bit more power and hold more value... very cool bike!



Also good find on that ebay listing! I know I won't get that for mine, but it's comforting to know that the ceiling for such a bike is that high. I'm used to working on honda CB900's and the like which in amazing condition have a hard time selling for 2k lol

If you haven't already, pull the sump plug and let everything/anything drain out while you're working it free.
I drained the oil, but you're right I need to continue draining the new stuff I dump in, thanks for the reminder!

I think that the problem with the cam joint can be modified by fitting an 'o' ring, but silicone should do the job just as well!
Thanks a bunch! I'm going to look into this more once I get everything else squared away.

Marvel Mystery Oil works wonders.
Oh absolutely! I was about to try my homemade penetrating fluid (50/50 ATF & acetone) glad I didn't have to! Also it's a huge relief knowing it wasn't locked up by anything in the bottom end.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
While i'm continuing to take it easy letting the MMO soak, I decided to look over the electronical a little bit... and I think I may have found the source of some of my problems... A good sign indeed :)



Anyone know what amp fuse this is?

After looking over the fuse box in general it looks pretty antiquated... I think once I know everything works i'm going to re-do the entire thing and update it to a blade fuse system and maybe even upgrade the wiring to the RR and battery.

 

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Discussion Starter #13
I've been studying the wiring diagram for hours now and think I have a decent understanding on it. The one fuse that broke is just for the headlight so I don't need to replace that right now..

However the starter solenoid isn't working... I put power to the terminals and tested it and power was at the solenoid but when I put a screwdriver between the terminals -- nothing. No sparks, no starter motor, etc. I am going to remove those connections and clean them up.

In the meantime I continue to work the engine, the engine now spins freely. I can even push the kickstarter with my hand.. There seems to be enough compression, but not a lot... probably going to need rings. I'm trying not to think of that now... all I want to do is hear this thing come to life.

I buttoned up the flywheel cover and removed the oil filter... it looked sorta clean but you never know... I went to order another one online but they have all been discontinued... I guess i'll have to use the old one. I really hate to do that though. I'll clean the screens in the mean time and before I start it i'll top it off with brand new fluid.

I've started going through and doing some aesthetics... little black paint here and there and some wire wheel. I removed the carbs and have them soaking in gas at the moment. I don't even want to bother with them if I cannot get the electric working, so that has to be first.

Excited that progress is moving along. I have compression, now I just need spark and then fuel. :)
 

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The filter will be available if you can find the part number or get a friendly supplier to match it up (it's probably a hydraulic filter) but there will be shops that specialize in these bikes, as Ducati sold so many. Google is the way to go!
 

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Piss that fuse box off asap. Factory fuse boxes have stranded more Ducati's than we've all had hot dinners.

That's a blown fuse but there used to be an even more evil version. The one where the end cap used to vibrate off to one side and unless you pulled the fuse out you could never tell. I spent hours on the side of the road in the late 70's once with one of my singles scratching my head trying to find why it had conked out. At the time, it was just more Ducati weirdness.

The Desmo and the GTL have similar frames but there are a few differences like the front down tubes and the GTL had better suspension i.e. Marzocchi and not Paioli. I've no idea if one was quicker than the other but my Desmo engine could rev and it would go around past the red line and back to zero with out too much complaint. Being Veglia you'd never know it that was real or not though. Same as the top end but my Jap owning Kawasaki Z1B lovin mates back then reckoned 185 kph down a big hill was about all it was good for.

A few people have pilfered the rolling chassis to put single engines in and some extraordinary types have bombed them to buggery. Here's a picture of a race bike built by Pete Smith at Epicycle. It reputedly made 100 bhp. He reckoned it was fragile but it was a mountain that needed climbing.
 

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If you need spares, let me know. I have a complete engine and frame I'll sell you cheap. Plus an extra head.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Some progress

Hey guys sorry for the long awaited update... been working on it but we're to the point where progress has slowed. The engine is free and I can turn it over with the kickstarter now and it makes all the right noises, no weird clattering or anything.

I also have made some progress with the wiring. I updated the fuse box to a modern unit, found cheap on amazon for $9. It was way bigger than I expected but it fit, when the project is all finished I'm going to order something a bit smaller but for now it will do the job.

Old unit:


New unit:


My dad also painted the head, I think it turned out really good.





We also managed to make great headway with the electrics. We were able to get spark at the plug by jumping the points. For some reason when you kick the starter over they won't spark though... it's strange... Maybe timing is off? We were able to get the headlight, tail light, and horn working. All the dash lights turn on as well. Turn signals, brake lights, and starter button all don't seem to be working.

I keep glancing over at the carburetors and feeling a bit of anxiety. I'm very experienced with carbs... but these are missing some parts... more importantly the float bowl nut that houses the main jet on one carb. Also the plastic fuel inlet is broken on one of the carbs as well.

I'm kinda on the fence on ordering parts for this bike. I want my budget to be as low as possible until I get this bike running. I'm probably going to just spit some starter fluid in the intake and see if I get a couple pops out of the engine before sourcing carb parts...

Oh and on another note the muffler is rotted through... didn't see that before... but I'm going to have to either weld something over the hole or buy a new muffler and weld it onto the header pipe.


Till the next update, i'll continue cracking away at this. This was a tough project for me, usually I have a rule with project bikes, you have fuel, spark, and compression, pick 2 and then buy it. Unfortunately the Ducati was missing all 3 when we first got it. But that's OK. The bike has potential and it's been a great learning experience so far.

 

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Discussion Starter #20
If you need spares, let me know. I have a complete engine and frame I'll sell you cheap. Plus an extra head.
I know this is a long shot, but does the frame have a title with it? :)

Also do you have any other parts... specifically the carburetor? Let me know any and all parts you have. I could definitely be a buyer!!
 
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