Where would you expect a show about the history of desmodromic valve actuation to take place if not Bologna? But Ducati wasn’t the driving force behind this comprehensive, well-managed initiative; rather, it was put together by one man: Dr. Gigi Mengoli.
Sure, Mengoli still is in a top position at Ducati, being chief project engineer and manager of design for production engines. But he did this show on his own because he loves the desmo concept and wanted to pay homage to all who contributed to its evolution—from the men at Peugeot who built the L76 four-cylinder based on the engine that won the 1912 Indianapolis 500 to the 2.5-liter Mercedes W196 inline-Eight by Daimler-Benz Chief Project Engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut that dominated Formula One in 1954 and ’55 to the works of the great Dr. Fabio Taglioni, Mengoli’s teacher and inspiration.
Mengoli contacted every company that, at various levels, had something to do with desmodromic valve-actuation systems, and most responded enthusiastically. Not all, though: Cosworth ignored Mengoli’s call, yet I know the British outfit had desmo DFV/DFY F-1 V-Eight mules.
A big help came from Henk Cloosterman, a Dutch engineer and enthusiast who has collected 870 desmo documents, patents and models. Incredible! There were other surprises, too, such as a Ferrari V-12 cylinder head with five radial desmo valves per cylinder, and a pair of Toyota Singles, otherwise identical except one had pneumatic valves and the other had desmo valves to compare ultimate potential. The desmo won.
This history of desmodromic valve actuation is on display in a country school turned into a museum in the little village of Prunaro on the eastern outskirts of Bologna. The show will be open on weekends until early November.