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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Hot Wheels Ducati Bike family

In 2010 Hot Wheels made a big change toward making a big step from the custom choppers that Hot Wheels has been producing for 13 years to their first jump in the sport bike segment.  But when the 1098R finally came out, it was small, crotched at the front too low, and the floating rear wheel does nothing but wobble and look crooked standing still.  It was ill-advised for the first try.  Now two more Ducati's arrive and it seems like their newest, the 1099 Panigale, is a big improvement over the first version.

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The Italian version of a sport bike

Fitting right at home with Ferrari, Ducati is built in Italy and shares the same love for speed, flashy colors, and high entrance costs.  Founded in 1928, Ducati is the purveyor in making fast bikes by using large stroke, 90 degree V-Twin motors with desmodromic valve design and dry-plate clutches instead of wet-place for better power output without frictional loss.  Ducati's can be very common on Sport Bike competition races across the globe.  The 1098R was based on the same race bikes, produced between 2007 and 2009.  The 1098 featured sharper bodywork with horizontal headlights, smooth covers to provide more aerodynamic (and sadly the lack of any visible mechanicals), dual exhaust that exit the rear under a single seat area that thins out to a point at the end of the bike.  The trademark single-sided swingarm rear suspension that provides more flexibility and lighter weight to the bike.

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The engine is a 1198 cc 90 degree V-twin producing 180 hp. and 99 Ib-ft torque through a six-speed dry-clutch manual on a bike weighing 364 Ib's.  The R is the fastest of the three trim levels, in addition to more power and single seat, the R has additional suspension modifications and a lower ride height.  0-60 in 3 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph!  This Hot Wheels version looks good with a metal body and base connected by the gas tank, and it looks good in the factory colors of Red, White, Yellow, Black, and a Racing version.  Then things turn downhill with a front tree fork that is crotched too low and makes the front of the bike look odd, while the rear involves a rear wheel that is not pressed-in properly to the swing arm, causing the wheel to wobble and sit awkward (hence you'll need something to stand the bike up on its own as you can see in the pics).  Then again, pressing in too hard will cause the wheel not to turn.  So again a hopeful model that turns out pretty bad.

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Diavel for two

In 2013 another Ducati arrives in the form of the Diavel (Italian for Devil), a higher-end bike that is not only fast but comfortable to ride on the highway.  The bike is lower and longer, with exposed body supports below the gas tank and , thank goodness, exposed mechanical parts for the 4-valve 90 degree V-twin producing 162 hp. and 94 Ib-ft. of torque through a six-speed wet-plate clutch manual on a bike weighing 460 Ib's.  So yea it's slower, but it features adjustable suspension for different road surfaces, and an awesome dual intakes coming out from the engine toward the front.  The dual exhaust exit out on the right side, the rear plate floats above the rear wheel, and the handle bars are at a comfortable angle with a single round headlight at the front.

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The Hot Wheels version looks good in the red and blue with a white stripe on the gas tank.  It looks proper dimension-wise to the actual bike, though I would like to see openings or black inserts in between the metal support bars below the gas tank, the rear floating plate is missing, and while not as bad as the 1098R, the Diavel still has that wobbly wheel syndrome at the rear.  Plus the bike doesn't look as cool as the edgy 1098R

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1199 Panigale to the rescue!

Just when hope of seeing a decent Ducati bike from Hot Wheels seems like a lost cause, in comes the 1199 Panigale for 2014 and boy is it a big improvement!  The bike shares the same edgy styling with the 1098, but with taller side panel covers, reshaped windscreen and gas tank, and exhaust that exits out to the sides below the engine.  The 1199 is the first bike to feature electronically adjustable suspension, and the first Ducati to use chain-driven valves over a belt.  The 1198 cc V-twin produces 171 hp and 86 Ib-ft. of torque through a six-speed wet clutch manual transmission in a bike weighing 362 Ib's., making this the fastest bike in the Ducati line!

This Hot Wheels version is a huge improvement thanks to a larger size that is twice as big as the 1098.  The body panels are plastic, but the gas tank joins the handle bars as the metal that connects the metal base.  The handle bars gain a lot more gear that is visible on them, the front trees are at the correct height and emphasize the mean-looking front-end even without headlight details, and the rear finally gets a rear plate and the rear wheel gets a gray plastic washer to better support the rear wheel while making it smooth to spin freely.  Also check out the cool touch of the gold clutch cover as well. It looks better, rolls smoother, and yes it stands up by itself without any support!

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If Hot Wheels can continue to create Ducati bikes in the same way they did the 1199 Panigale, Ducati has a bright future at Mattel.

Update:  One of the most impressive releases of the Ducati Diavel to date is this 2016 release based on the Carbon edition.  It features flat black paint with red details of the fuel tank support braces and the center stripe.  I finished the look by adding details to the headlights, exhaust, engine, and brake rotors.  It's one sleek bike!

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