Duh. You knew before opening this list the 916 would be the headliner. Still, you’re probably drooling over the picture above the same way you did when your first saw it. Simply put, the 916, introduced for the 1994 model year, was unlike anything before it. Elegant and sexy, yet purposeful and aggressive, all at the same time. Underseat exhausts became popular because of this bike, mass centralization be damned. You couldn’t help but follow the exhaust pipe routing to see where it terminated, and in doing so your eyes would momentarily be diverted by the unobstructed rear wheel, made clearly visible thanks to the single-sided swingarm. The 916 showed that even elements like the twin headlights, which until now were either square or round pieces seemingly sourced from the local auto parts store, could be finely sculpted pieces.
Of course, the success of the 916 (and later the 996 and 998) would be a gift and a curse for Ducati, just ask Pierre Terblanche, who followed up the 998 with the little-loved 999. Some of Tamburini’s styling elements born on the 916 continue on in the Panigale of today. Both the MV Agusta F4 and Ducati 916 deserve to jointly hold the top spot, but historical significance gives the 916 the nod.
While we mourn the loss of Massimo Tamburini, we wonder what else he had doodled in his notepad during the last few years of his life. Is it possible we haven’t seen the last Tamburini design?
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