Custom of the Week: Ducati 250 Cafe Racer by Union Motorcycle Classics

Keep your eyes on the prize… You could own this beautiful Cafe Racer for just $25.

WE NEVER NEED ANY EXCUSE to write about Union Motorcycle Classics. Builders Mike Watanabe and Luke Ransom create beautiful machines in their old barn in Idaho, and several have graced these pages.

But there’s an especially good reason to feature this beautiful Ducati Scrambler 250. It’s a personal project of Mike’s, and he’s donated the bike to a charity that helps young people in northern Thailand and Cambodia. The Ducati will be raffled off to raise funds for food, housing, and education.

“The Ducati a 1966 5-speed Scrambler,” says Mike. “I took it in as a trade, in return for a set of bodywork for a customer’s 350 Monza. It came to me as a basket case.”

The 250/350 series bikes were the forerunners of today’s Scrambler Ducati offerings—and were equally excellent bikes in their day. In 250 form, the air-cooled ‘narrow case’ single only pumped out 18 horses—but they were lively Italian horses, because the bike weighed well under 300 pounds.

The original Scrambler 250 followed the archetypal 1960s scrambler look, but UMC have transformed this one into a lightweight café racer.


Luke kicked off the project by completely vapor blasting and rebuilding the motor with new bearings and seals. “I really like these scrambler motors for cafe racers,” Mike notes. “You can get Diana-type performance out of them.”

The refreshed motor now breathes more easily through a custom intake, and there’s a full custom exhaust system too—with slightly larger pipework and a seamlessly blended in reverse cone muffler.

UMC are known for their exquisite vintage bodywork, and the fairing and tank on this Ducati are judged to perfection.

“I had Glass From The Past pull the bodywork out of some molds we used a couple of years ago on a gold Monza,” says Mike—who helped GFTP founder Bret Edwards set up the now-legendary fiberglass specialist twenty years ago.

Mike handled the chassis frame and bracket fabrication, and modified the back of the frame to suit the classic café seat and hump. (It’s interesting to note that the Scrambler’s original frame design was based on an experimental dirt tracker built by Ducati’s US importers, the Berliner Motor Corporation.)

The fenders are one-offs though, which Mike shaped by hand. “I’ve never been 100% happy with what is available,” he says. “You can now buy these from GFTP.”

The strawberries-and-cream paint was applied by Jon Hart of Hoffman Auto Body in Boise, Idaho, just 20 miles away from UMC’s base. New vintage-style aluminum rims plus Heidenau tires with a classic tread pattern complete the look.

There’s a bit of fabrication too: the rear sets were built from scratch, with Mike getting them cast, machined and heat treated from plugs he made. There’s a handy new center stand as well, but the top clamp caused a bit of a headache.

“I couldn’t afford to use a Ducati road race top clamp on a benefit bike,” says Mike. “So I decided to go with an aluminum plate to run the instrument on. It had to be way, way out there for correct cable routing—and I actually like how weird it looks!”

All the cables are brand new, and Luke installed a new electronic ignition and built a new wiring harness. “I have to thank Luke for putting so much time and effort into helping me with this personal project.”

It’s an amazing machine that would command a good price on the open market, so why is Mike literally giving it away?

“I’ve had incredible experiences working in children’s homes in northern Thailand,” he says. “I’ve been there 20 times over the last 12 years, and I wanted to ‘give back’ somehow.”

The Ducati is now the prize in a sweepstake run by Reacts, “a bunch of young guys based in San Fran trying to make a difference. Human trafficking is still a big, big problem in that part of the world and Reacts is helping fight it.”

It costs just $25 to get a ticket in the sweepstakes, and even if you don’t win the bike, the money will go to a fine cause. Top marks to Mike and Luke for giving up their time—and here’s hoping the Ducati goes to someone who will appreciate their superb skills.

This article first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with permission.

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