California Custom Shop Transforms Ducati 998 Into A Retro Racer


Ducati’s 998 remains one of the company’s most coveted models. As a descendant of the legendary 916, the 998 was practically granted classic status by birthright. The superbike backed up the hype with a 2001 Superbike World Championship and a liquid-cooled, 998cc Testastretta L-twin producing 123 horsepower. Introduced in 2002, the sought-after sportbike boasted cutting-edge technology of the day.

In the hands of California’s UpCycle Motor Garage, however, the 998 is the perfect platform for a retro racer. Upcycle builder Johnny Nguyen retained the fire-breathing, 8-valve Testastretta, steel trellis frame, single-sided swingarm, and 4.5-gallon gas tank but did away with the iconic Ducati bodywork. In its place, Nguyen fabricated a fiberglass fairing in the form of Yamaha’s TZ250 sportbike.

The builder ditches the dual headlight setup found on the stock 998 and installed a single, offset headlight into the new fairing. The honey mustard yellow paint job is an even further departure from Ducati’s signature look, but UpCycle didn’t stop there.

Next, Nguyen customized the subframe with a looped rear end to accommodate a diamond-stitched brown leather single saddle. Vans waffle grips match the new seat and bar end indicators adds a subtle touch of modernity to the throwback build.

Behind the wraparound bodywork, Nguyen swapped out the ECU to work with the new pie-cut header and Werks silencer. A lithium-ion battery replaces the standard unit, powering the new digital Motogadget instrument cluster. Ohlins suspension maintains the 998’s sporty pedigree, but the new cosmetics make it a different kind of fashion statement.

Whether you consider UpCycle’s take on the legendary 998 sacrilege or stunning, Nguyen masterfully blends old and new. From the café racer style bodywork to the aggressively shaped fuel tank and single-sided swingarm, UpCycle’s 998 is no longer a product of the early aughts, but a culmination of everything that came before and after.



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