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Classic Velocity Blog

Filtering by Tag: BMW

On selling an airhead

Classic Velocity

slash 6 for sale.jpg

If you normally sell your vehicle via a high-end concierge auction service, where your only knowledge of the transaction is an eventual slight bump in your bank balance, you may not relate very well to this post. For most others, there is a commonality of experience that hopefully makes some if not all of this resonate. No names are used, but I have to thank friend-of-the-blog Bruce for prodding the topic into a post.

The ad was crafted with care. It had many clear photos. The mechanical and cosmetic condition was described. The few flaws of significance were noted in words and photos. The mileage was listed. The year was listed in the title of the Ad and in the body of it, indicating that it was 40+ years old. It was described as an unrestored “driver”. It said no trades. It said clear title in my name. It was listed in a few places that cost nothing, as you might do first for vehicles not particularly rare or valuable. The following describes a series of real interactions via voice, text message, and email. In true Classic Velocity style, we have to categorize.

The Scammers

“I really like your great machine and I am agree on your price so we can send bank check to your rapid attention. I do not call right now because I work on oil rig at sea making great money. It is no problem to pay and pickup your greatest machine after.”

“I can help you sell your bike for even more than you are asking for it.”

The Lonely

“Hello, I saw your beemer for sale, I used to have one just like it that I bought new in ‘76. I rode that thing everywhere cross country east west north south. One time I got caught in this storm in Kansas…………(15 solid minutes later)……and so I never went back to that scum-sucking dealer again. Where are you? I have a dental appointment on Wednesday, but I sure would like to come take a look. Do you know Mike? He is somewhere near you, and he likes Brit bikes. I had a Triumph once, before I discovered Beemers, but then I saw the light, you know (chuckles). What do you want Bo?…Sorry, that was Bo, our short-haired Terrier. He is blind in one eye, and the other is not too good either (chuckles). I was gonna get a sidecar for him but, you’ll get a real kick outta this, the guy I was gonna buy it from……..

The Visually Impaired

“I am calling about your Ad. What year is it? What is the mileage? Does it run? Is it like show quality? Do you have a title?”

“Would you trade for a snow plough, a pallet of chewing tobacco, and some cash?”

“That’s a nice airhead. I’ve got a 2009 RT for sale if you are interested.”

“Hey man, that is a seriously ssswwweeeeeet set of rims. Bottom Dollar. What do you gotta have for the set?”

The Hearing Impaired

“I know you said your absolute bottom line was X, so I want to offer you X minus $1000.”

“I know you said you wouldn’t drive any 40+ year old vehicle that you had not gone through across country, but could I take this one?”

The Low-Ballers

“Would you take $1500 for it?”

“Are you negotiable on price? I was thinking about (insert a number half of what you are asking here)

“I really love your bike, I have been searching for a while and it is exactly what I am looking for, and it is a fair price, but I only have (insert a number half of what you are asking here)

The Researchers

“I looked up sold prices on Ebay, 17 Craigslist Ads, and The Motorcycle Brown Bible. Then I asked my buddy who knows these bikes, watched 14 YouTube videos, and read 137 forum posts. I think your final drive could be about to fail and the frame might be cracked, and you know about the shifter spring issue right? Do you have all of the documentation back to new? Are you running German points or the repro crap? Do you have a picture from underneath the gas tank? I will probably have to strip this thing down to the crank. How about (insert a number half of what you are asking here).”

“The left mirror is not correct for that year”

The Almost Buyers

“I’m seriously interested, let me discuss with my wife and give you a call back”

“I know this is the third call, but I just have a few more questions before I drive out to you. What extra parts come with it? Will you be home around 6pm? Ok, I’ll call you when I leave the house.”

“Can my shipper pick it up on Thursday afternoon? Great let me confirm with him.”

“Lookout for a Paypal deposit”

The Buyers

So here’s the crazy thing. Over 30 years, many of the eventual buyers start out just like the categories above. We have sold to an eastern european man with a thick accent who could only text for a week using his friend’s phone. We have sold to the lonely. We have sold to Researchers. And truth be told, on the buying end, we have gone as far as making arrangements with a shipper, only to decide not to move ahead (this was prior to any firm verbal commitment, and we called the buyer of course and let him know). We have quizzed a seller extensively over more than one call/email. I am sure that we have made an offer along the way that was considered a low-ball by the seller even if we thought it was fair. So while we poke fun, it is also at ourselves.

BMW MOA Rally 2019

Classic Velocity


5:07am Lebanon, TN. I am standing in darkness that has a tinge of the coming dawn. It is a cool if not slightly chilly 63 degrees farenheit. Dew covers the grass and every other surface that resists moisture. A droplet hangs from a leaf, while another sits content in the valley between a few blades of grass. In a slow 360 degree sweep i see no other human being. I smile. What i do see is a subdued multi-colored sea of tents and motorcycles. Hundreds of them. It is as if some strange infestation has beset the normally green meadows. They are all uniformly blanketed in dew. And it is silent, but for a few birds who are trying to explain this strange phenomenon in song. It helps that the entire serene landscape belies the day to come, and the very reason for the invasion.


Regular readers will know that the BMW MOA Rally is an annual pilgrimage to a different part of the USA for the gathering of blue propeller devotees (see 2018 coverage or even 2009 coverage). It is three or four days of seminars, rides, shopping, music, beer, and general comraderie. For our part, we got a Rox handlebar riser installed on the GS (free installation rally special), and got another Sena speakerless mount. We attended interesting sessions on Airhead restoration and on travelling South America. Three riders who we met randomly walking around, joined us on a great unplanned ride in the area. There was also a surprisingly good stunt show due to the use of a stock BMW 310 ! Suffice it to say that rider skills are highly underrated. We spent a few days camped beside guys from Massachusetts and Connecticut on the one side, and Alabama on the other. More importantly, a new F850GSA, an R1150R, and an K1600GT. With the diversity in personalities, machines, and storytelling, the entertainment probably surpassed that onstage. It helps that riders tend to travel with samples of their favorite social lubricant.


The vintage display is a rally staple, and always a favorite. Since the rally moves around the country, you get to see the best examples within striking distance of a given area. This year allowed for some great examples from the southeast. The lobby of the main exhibit hall provided a nice setting. With the majority of vintage BMW models (pre 1970) being black with white pinstripe, models of any other color tend to standout. This year that was more evident in the mix of machines. Dover white machines always look good and there was a very nice /2. Even more unusual was a red /2 US. Our favorite however was an ultra rare grey /2. An overall people’s choice favorite for the entire event though was a metallic blue /2 with matching Stein sidecar which was parked just outside the exhibit hall. Back inside, two even older machines stole the vintage show for us. The first was a 1938 R61 in red and black post office livery and equipped with sidecar. It is a reminder, that these were ultimately practical machines used for work and transport at the time. The second, was Craig Vechorik’s 1921 Victoria. Before producing its own machines in 1923, BMW produced engines for others.. Victoria was one of them and this model sported a horizontally opposed engine mounted longitudinally in the grey Victoria frame. It helps that this is a museum quality restoration.


Beyond the vintage display, there are thousands of bikes in attendance. 99% are BMWs, but there are probably no two alike. Such is the culture of this event that it is no accomplishment to turn up on a new machine having ridden 1000 miles to get there. Showing up after 1000 miles on an airhead or a /2, however, gets you major cred. Showing up on a machine not initially designed for long distance touring also gets you some cred. The guy with the Hayabusa equipped with large metal panniers (true attendee) gets some cred....and a go-fund-me for pain relief. The BMWMOA has made two key changes designed to improve the national rally and respond to repeated member feedback. First, they moved the Rally to June from July. Weather is a bit cooler for most of the USA, as was in evidence this year. Father’s Day weekend was not the best choice, so next year it moves a week later. They also just adopted a process for national rally locations which divides the country vertically into thirds. It is an attempt to provide equal opportunity for all members to attend if they do not have the time or the interest to cross the country. This year was the eastern zone. Next year is in the west in Great Falls, Montana. However, for a marque that prides itself on riding long distances, the rally location is just an excuse for a good long round trip. True for us once again. It helps that there is a big well-organized family reunion at the halfway point.

A Grom gets the GS treatment....

A Grom gets the GS treatment....


Mid America 02 Fest 2019

Classic Velocity


For 19 years, the Mid America 02 Fest has taken place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with a brief departure to Hermann Missouri some time ago. For the last 10 years, we have made plans to attend. We even got underway once, but was derailed and had to turn back. Part of the challenge is the logistics of getting to and from the event in a time window. It is a 2 day drive in the 02, and the event is 2 days (3 if you count the arrival evening festivities) so 6 days total. So it was a grand achievement to finally make it to the event. It was achieved partly by a combination of towing, and an all nighter to get back. 

Eureka Springs is a Mecca for car clubs and motorcyclists. It is in northwest Arkansas in the heat of the Ozark mountains. The roads and the vistas are spectacular and very reminiscent of the smoky mountains. Curves and switchbacks and sweepers and elevation changes every few hundred yards. The area is referred to as the Pig Trail, or the Tail of the Pig, or various other pork-related names. Call it what you will, but put it on your list of places to go in your more sporting car, or on your bike. But just like Tail of the Dragon and  WV 50 and Beartooth pass, you want to sample them when it is not prime time! We did.

A lovely drive allowed us to exercise the cars a bit and to sample roads that are all the stuff of movies. Narrow ribbons of unbroken undulating serpentine asphalt twisting off into the distance making you press the right pedal and smile even more broadly in anticipation. But you better pay attention to the more immediate future as well. Runoff is taken literally here. You could plunge a long way off the side of a mountain, or a short way into a deep drainage ditch. Either will ruin your day, and we were regaled over lunch with stories of a Ferrari that was a recent reminder. Big power can be a liability here. It is more Monaco than Monza. Which makes it perfect for a good handling, good power to weight car like the 02. We are happy to report that the big group returned unscathed. 


Planned Tech sessions enlightened the group, while informal tech sessions broke out spontaneously all over the host hotel parking lot. It seems inevitable that 02 owners want to share a unique or just a well done solution to the challenges of maintaining 40 to 50 year old vehicles. And then there are the upgrades. Engine swaps were fairly common among the group, turbo flares, euro bumpers on squarelight cars, adjustable coilovers, and various schemes for getting fuel into the engine. Several of us had a spirited…uuhhmmm….discussion (yes, that’s it, discussion) on the merits and demerits of the 38/38 single carb setup. The opinions ranged from :


“Just run a GARDEN hose from your gas tank to the intake, same effect!”

And yes, they were shouting, to

“This is a sublime setup for the well-informed once you get jetting set. Much better than twin DCOEs, and you can get decent mileage if you control your right foot”

As we continued over dinner, we discovered that there is nothing like alcohol to enrich (pun intended) a spirited debate, and launch it into other combustible (pun intended) areas such as oil and tires. Of course, it was all among friends, and a good time was had by all. We missed the last bit of the rally, as we faced a long drive back to meet a prior committment. As a complete bonus though, we won a door prize! What better way to cap off a great weekend.

When last did you see 4 Bauers parked together? Pretty cool. 

When last did you see 4 Bauers parked together? Pretty cool. 

Two Teutonic Transformations

Classic Velocity

Recently we offered a post that was titled Old is the New New. Well nothing says old like a BMW boxer. A basic design from 1923, that even eschewed water cooling until 2014. However, the new machines are packed with modern technology, and compete with the best the world can produce. Indeed, with the RNineT, BMW itself is mining its past and producing retro machines. They are inspired by artists and artisans that, much like Harley Davidson’s knucklehead community, see the boxer as a timeless platform that can be forever re-imagined. We recently had the opportunity to spend some time around two excellent samples. The heart of the machines is pure BMW, but the creations come from Japan, and America. 


Nostalgia” states its’ case with the name, and was created by NMOTO Studio. It pays direct homage to the BMW R7 of 1934, which was shown as a prototype, but never actually produced. It is considered by many to represent the pinnacle of Art Deco motorcycle design. Nostalgia is based on the new RNineT platform, but it is all about the beautiful bodywork. NMOTO has done a great job of incorporating most of the design elements from the R7. In particular, the fenders and the tank side panels and the exhaust, combine to fool the casual observer into thinking a priceless prewar motorcycle was on display. The headlight nacelle and the paint are similarly convincing. The big disc brakes and valve covers are the main visual cues that this is a modern creation. Other than that, it successfully evokes the pressed steel frame and Art Deco aesthetic that the R7 represented. The best part is that you can have your own Nostalgia. It is in limited production and is sure to stop traffic and dominate your local bike show. 


Departed” takes a different approach. It is a custom built one-off commissioned by BMW Motorrad, and created by Uichi Yoshizawa and Yoshikazu Ueda of Custom Works ZON. It is all about the engine, which is reportedly a BMW Motorrad prototype. If the engine is a mere accessory to the body on Nostalgia, then the rest of the bike is an accessory to the engine on Departed. It dominates the motorcycle, and the duo uses the valve covers and alternator cover and the rear wheel center, to evoke its own Art Deco theme. This is complemented by tank and side covers and a breast plate all in metal finish, and reminiscent of a WWII fighter plane. Even the stubbed exhaust and trellis frame add to that image. This is a good thing, as it is designed to be a land speed racer, complete with rear sets, minimalist seat, and no lighting. And in case you think the large wheels create a more modern feel, the fabulous swingarm, the beautiful girder fork and exposed drive shaft will pull you right back to the prewar era. Ironically, Departed has a diminutive front disc brake that would fit inside that of Nostalgia. 


A fellow rider joined me in admiring the machines, and at the end asked which one I would have if forced to make a choice. I said Departed because I could see it getting ridden and dirty and still looking every bit as cool. He chose Nostalgia because he said he would not survive the riding position of Departed for very long, and his wife would allow Nostalgia in the living room when not being ridden. We agreed to swap periodically....


Classic Velocity


If this seems like a good model name for a motorcycle, you are partially right. The BMW 700 was a very important vehicle for the company and we have previously covered it (see BMW 700). In that article, we pointed out that it was a successful combination of a car’s body wrapped around a motorcycle engine. We also mentioned that it enjoyed some racing success with the GT and RS models.

The 700RS was built specifically for hillclimbs, and featured an aluminum space frame chassis bearing little resemblance to the production 700 that shared part of its name. In true testament to the racing ethos of the time, it retained the 697cc motorcycle engine but managed to produce 70 hp from that unit. With a curb weight of just 1213 lbs, it had 100 hp per liter of displacement, and 127 hp per ton. Amazing numbers at the time, and very much aligned with racers like Lotus. It also handled very well given that it was mid-engined, and low and sleek.

The 700RS went on to numerous victories in the early 1960s, piloted by such racing luminaries as Alex Von Falkenhausen, and Hans Stuck. 


MOA Rally 2018

Classic Velocity


With all due respect, the state fair grounds in Des Moines, Iowa would not be on the top 10 list of places to go see in the USA in July. However, it is the 2018 location of the annual pilgrimage for the 2 wheeled BMW faithful. The BMW MOA Rally. An excuse to travel somewhere relatively far away, and to weave in interesting roads along the way. An excuse to take a machine not purpose built for the constant drone of the interstate highway system or the speed of the autobahn, but which never the less is intended to circumnavigate the world. A 1992 BMW R100GS Paris Dakar. Long before BMW had an “Adventure” version of the GS, they had the PD version of the GS. A more Gelande version of the Gelande Strasse. Bigger fuel tank, a bit more suspension travel, high fender (which went on to become the segment-defining “beak”). It was the dawn of the big bike dual sport movement. The R80G/S before it was the original adventure bike, but it did not have the girth and the sheer presence of its’ 1000cc offspring. Sort of like an NFL tackle next to his normal sized mom and dad. The machine has no electronics, and no fuel injection, although it does have upgraded lighting, and luggage. 

Time did not allow me to completely avoid the interstate, so there was several hundred miles of it on the round trip. I used the throttle lock cruise control, which worked adequately for resting your wrist. The PD handles it well even if the tachometer is between 5k and 6k in doing so. It never feels strained, but it seems to be asking you why you are continuing to do this. Good question. Once off onto the divided highways and B roads, the machine is happier. It accelerates well, passes well using roll on throttle, and stops well.  It is obviously not a modern motorcycle, so it draws attention and invites questions. What year is that? How far are you going? You can often see the next unasked question on their faces. Why? Others have looks of obvious envy. Others clutch their smiling curious children to them as if you might infect them with some strange global traveling disease.


I never cease to marvel at the variation and beauty of the landscapes in all parts of the USA, and the Midwest is no exception. What others describe as monotonous is just a different kind of beauty. How is it that you can travel down a tunnel of corn that is almost unbroken in 20 miles? When did the last person leave that little abandoned town, and who has captured that history? Why are these 90 degree turns placed seemingly arbitrarily in this billiard flat landscape? Why is there a speed limit on this road? Why did the city form at this particular point on the river? Why don’t we make more things out of corn? Why isn’t this the best place on the continent to view a sunrise or a sunset? How many places actually claim to have the best barbecue? You have time to ponder these and other questions when you travel more slowly, and you have a large fuel tank.

The MOA rally is a gathering of 7000 plus people and their machines with a common love of the blue and white propeller on a two-wheeled conveyance. With that said, any gathering of humans this large will immediately subdivide into tribes. Geographic tribes, and time period tribes (I see you Airheads), and specific model tribes (I see you chromeheads), and genre tribes (I see you GS Giants). All different,  all able to poke fun at each other, all able to share the same beer tent. Many different origins, many different walks of life, many different faiths, many different world views, united around one company’s approach to combining metal and steel and plastic and rubber. Surely we can find a way to emulate this on a more important level. But I digress.


Seminars educated and informed, test rides informed and even surprised, vendors offered solutions, attendees showered wisdom on each other. Friends reunited. I attended a particularly informative session on lighting and conspicuity. Motorcycles were admired. Oh yes, the motorcycles. Whatever model you rode, many examples of your bike were there. Like the parking lot at Goodwod, you could be well entertained for hours by walking around the grounds looking at machines. Unlike a concours, you are not looking for the most pristine example. The sheer variety of interpretation and personalization is fascinating on this scale, and every machine is a participant. I stopped to admire an R1200ST. Styling only a mother could love, and a rare sighting even at this event, but this machine was well loved and well travelled. The vintage display had a nice assortment as usual of machines from an R32 to an R90S. Green and Red and Grey and Dover White machines broke up the stellar traditional black examples. There was much to discuss at the beer garden that evening. 

The journey back took a different path, and more interstate, with a good bit of rain here and there. The rain washed the bike, and cooled the cylinders and the rider. It somehow feels good to put on rain gear and keep going rather than retreat to wait it out. Riding in the rain can even be fun as I found out some time ago in Nova Scotia. Drying out was quick, and was accompanied by a welcome end to interstate travel. Rolling hills and lush green woods lined the road rather than corn. Place names became more familiar, and the journey came to a close. A lot had happened in a week, and a changed rider stood in an unchanged driveway next to a brilliantly unchanged machine. 




The Cult Turns 50

Classic Velocity


In the course of the average human life, you don't get to celebrate too many 50 year anniversaries that happened entirely on your watch. Even fewer for products that you still use and enjoy! A few years back, the Porsche 911 celebrated 50 years, and since the model is still in production, it allowed for a grand time-lapse of evolution, memories, and memorabilia.  In 2018, the BMW 2002 celebrates 50 years of production. Two German icons, two vehicles that have fortunately inhabited the garage, and two vey different automobiles. The 02 is a very different celebration, as the last ones left the factory in 1976! They justifiably get labeled as a "cult car", and there is a famous book on the car with that title. Inevitably the factory and a variety of organizations throw grand birthday parties, and this year was no different. The best way to celebrate a big birthday is with a group of passionate fans of this single model. As David E Davis famously said in his 1968 review, "Now turn your hymnals to Number 2002 and we'll sing two choruses of Whispering Bomb . .."


So where to find a group of passionate fans ? Hhhhmmmm.....Well there are probably a few hiding in your general region, but it just happens that a group of said fans have been heading to North Carolina, USA every year for over a decade. Scott Sturdy has given us rabid fans a great excuse to drive first to his vineyard when the group was small, and then to Winston-Salem which the group also outgrew, and now to Asheville. It is no longer just an 02 event, but it started that way, and the 2002 remains the core of the event. This gathering and the cars have been featured on these pages many times (see Proper Procrastination and Of Propellers And Cobblestones), but this time is a bit special. 


At the front end of the event, the BMW CCA Foundation hosted a special sold out open house at their facility in Greer, SC near the US manufacturing facility. It was a celebration of the 2002 with cars, memorabilia, speakers, and merchandise. Effectively, the facility became a BMW 2002 museum for the day. Among the many special cars including a Bauer and a Cabriolet, was a better-than-factory Ceylon car. They should have put it on a rotisserie so that you could marvel at the underside as much as the top side. An immersive sensory overdose for the 02 addict, complete with music from 1968 into the early 1970s. I hate to keep using the drug analogy, but we are talking 1968.....The written word (at least our written words) simply cannot do justice to such an event. It is like writing about Woodstock. Imagine getting to attend a private Jimi Hendriks concert for about 200 people. Then imagine that the attendees included rabid fan friends of yours going back a decade or two. Now imagine that you are perfectly sober for the whole thing and can remember it!  


But wait, there's more. That evening, the entire host hotel parking lot was turned into a BMW pre-show that went on well into the night. I think the only non-BMW in the parking lot was the hotel shuttle. On behalf of the entire BMW 2002 community, I apologize to any guests that were not part of this event. On the other hand, you will have stories for your grand children! 


But wait, there's much more. The official show is always the next day, Saturday, now at a picturesque park in Hot Springs, NC. As always, 02s have a field unto themselves, this year including a few lovely Neue Klasse cars, and several of the immediate precursor to the 2002, the 1600. It is in this setting that you could readily appreciate the many individualized creations that make up the community. It is nothing if not diverse. The foundation event was the curated version, but the park was a canvas for everybody. The album will do the talking here, but suffice it to say that just about every color and variation was present in treatments from mild to wild. And almost all driven to the event from far away. Oh yeah, there were other cool BMWs there as always, but this one was about the icon. The cult car. 


As a true driver's sedan, you can pay no greater tribute than to drive these cars., and after a great long weekend, they were driven back home hundreds of miles away. A fitting 50th birthday party if ever there was one. 


A Bavarian Shoe

Classic Velocity


Even from the official launch, the E36/8 has produced polarizing reactions. Love it or hate it. It is hard to believe that these cars are now 20 years old and already considered a classic, but there it is. At the time, the swoopy styling quickly gave rise to knicknames like the bread van, and then the clown shoe. Not flattering. However, just like the BMW GS, 2000 CS, and many other BMWs over time, this was an example of the engineers winning over the accountants and the sales people. The legend maintains (with plenty of evidence to back it up), that a group of engineers led by Burkhard Göschel, worked after hours an on weekends to turn the Z3 platform into a vehicle which would realize its full potential. They toiled away into the night, and developed a car with more than 3 times the torsional rigidity of the roadster, and with the M3 engine shoe-horned into the engine bay. They then asked BMW for permission to produce it. The answer was yes, with two big caveats: First, in order to control costs, it would have to share as much as possible with existing cars. Second, it could not outperform the mighty M3. 

The engineers were thankful, and with a wink and a nod, went off to figure out production. The result is a true driver's car worthy of the purist M label. The wink was that it did in fact outperform the M3 due to a superior power to weight ratio, and so gearing was altered to slow it down a bit. The nod was that from the nose to the A pillar, it shared sheet metal with the Z3, so costs were saved. Mission accomplished. The result is patently unique, and for some people, beautiful in its own way. Rear wheel drive, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, top speed electronically limited to 155 mph, and a beast not easily tamed. Three engines were used over the short 4 year production life, eventually producing 321 hp and 253 ft/lbs of torque from a 3,130 lb car. The design of tokyo-born Joji Nagashima is officially designated a "shooting-brake", although it can also be considered a hatchback. Almost immediately upon production, the M Coupe began to rack up both design and performance awards and accolades. Road & Track, Automobile, Car & Driver, Top Gear, etc. All placed it in the top 5 or top 10 M cars of all time. All acknowledged a future icon. 

As is often the case however, sales were not as kind. While the regular Z3 enjoyed robust sales, the M Coupe struggled. It was already aimed at a narrow slice of the market, and the styling was enough to further limit appeal. 6,318 M coupes were produced over the 4 year production span from 1998 to 2002, with 2,870 of those being the US market version. It was replaced by a much less polarizing, and less insane, Z4 M Coupe. Regardless of how you view these cars, they represent perhaps the last time in modern times that the engineers at BMW were left in charge. As a driving enthusiast, however that happened, I am very glad it did.

  • ECE S50 (LHD): 2,178 built from 04/98 thru 06/2000
  • ECE S50 (RHD): 821 built from 08/98 thru 06/2000
  • NA S52 (LHD): 2,180 built from 07/98 thru 06/2000
  • ECE S54 (LHD): 281 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
  • ECE S54 (RHD): 168 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002
  • NA S54 (LHD): 690 built from 02/2001 thru 05/2002

Collecting Nuances

Classic Velocity


In visiting museums and collections, I would always be intrigued and amazed by those who were very focused in their acquisitions. Just one marque, or just one model of one marque, or all of the models of one marque for a single year, or all of the yellow Ferraris. These curators have a specific theme or quest, and set out to achieve a focused goal. I always thought of these as rather eccentric collectors. I imagined that they were bored with gathering the usual suspects like Gullwings and Vincents. Perhaps they just wanted to outdo a fellow collector by saying "I have every shade of green BMW 2002 ever offered" or "I have every model of the Norton Commando ever offered for sale". This is the "Inch wide and mile deep" approach to contrast the mile wide and inch deep collectors. 

In a recent conversation, I realized that I am not immune to this tendency. I was speaking with an inch-wide enthusiast friend about the new Goldwing. This is relevant because he has 12 Goldwings (13 if you count the Silverwing). This is impressive just based on the space required, but also based on the dollars. He can spout chapter and verse about the nuances between model years. Three of them are yellow. He even has a model that is widely regarded as bad. It is the mark of a true inch-wide enthusiast, that they even have the bad version of the vehicle. He also has models that the ordinary motorcycle enthusiast would consider to be the same. He has special editions, and first-version-to-have-X models. He knows his Goldwings. And then, he pointed to a couple of my airheads and we had the following conversation.


"Those look identical to me. Those are your Goldwings." He was pointing to an R75/6 and an R75/7.

"They are not, see the tank on this one and the instrument cluster....." I fell right into the trap and was explaining nuances between the models that only airheads would appreciate, and probably just a subset of them at that.  

"They are both the same blue." Hhhmmmm, he did have a point there as they were the identical blue. Although, one was far more faded than the other. 

"Yes, but see the spoke wheels versus the cast wheels, and the switchgear is totally different......." He was smiling now, and I was digging a deep hole. 

"Was there a big performance jump between these, or some big functional improvement?" He was honestly asking this question, fully expecting to find the rationale for having both.

"Well......not really." I did not want to tell him about the few horsepower difference, or the infamous $2000 o-ring. That could easily be considered the bad version. I quickly ran through the years of knowledge and the memorized contents of the Ian Falloon book on Airheads. There was nothing of substance to offer a motorcycle enthusiast not pierced by one of cupid's horizontally opposed arrows. Nothing.

"Is one more of a touring model that goes with that fairing?" He was pointing to the color-matched blue Vetter fairing that I had removed, and had no intention of reinstalling on the /6.

"Well......not really." He was now fawning bewilderment.


"Is either one super rare or collectible then?" His knowledge of BMW Airheads was like my knowledge of Goldwings; an inch wide and a half inch deep. I could easily have lied.

"Well this one has fairly low miles," He was now implying that I was even worse than him, since I had no redeeming special editions or rarity cachet.  

"This one says R75 as well. Why would you have multiple versions of the same bike?" It was the /5 toaster tank. Beautiful and so different, but he had scored a knock down blow. Yes, I had gathered all three versions of the R75 over time, quite intentionally. This was a great motor for BMW, and I appreciated the subtle nuances between iterations of this platform from early 1970s to late. It goes even further if you include the R80RT. Yes, I was an inch-wide enthusiast. But when you have no substantive retort in a debate, when you have no defense, you must turn to offense. You must attack a flank where you at least have some advantage.

"Oh yeah, well I can park all three of these in the space taken up by one of your behemoth Goldwings!".  

Classic RS Rally

Classic Velocity


It is hard to imagine, but the original BMW R100RS was launched in the fall of 1976 as a 1977 model, and is now 40 years old.  There have been many variations and iterrations since then, but the original production vehicle still defines the model. At the time of its launch, the RS was a radical departure from other machines of the time. It was a fully faired machine compared to naked machines, it offered bold futuristic styling,  and relatively luxurious accommodations to envelope the pilot as he consumed miles by the hundreds each day.  A top speed of 108 mph, and 70 hp in a 535 pound machine was a very good performance package at the time. It was a true "Gentleman's Express".


The RS started with a recognition by BMW Motorrad that their bikes were sort of....well...dated, and were in danger of appealing only to an older demographic. Their solution was to employ stylist Hans Muth to spruce up the line, and get younger customers excited. He used the wind tunnel to design and then test a multi piece fairing that would look modern if not futuristic. The result was a 5.4% reduction in drag, and a 17.4% reduction in front wheel lift. To put this in perspective, lots of riders of all marques were buying and attaching Windjammer fairings to their machines for touring at the time. However, the R100RS was considered the first production model to come fully faired off the showroom floor.  At the time, Motorcyclist's Bob Greene said "In one bold move the Germans have advanced motorcycle styling several years". More than that, the bike offered great protection from the elements. Many consider this motorcycle to be the birth of the Sport Tourer. A special Motorsport edition was later launched with a signature red nose on the fairing, and many RS machines including K bikes and R bikes to the present time, occupy BMW showrooms and enthusiast garages.

Which brings us to Todd Trumbore, and the 40 year celebration of the RS. Todd has been a guest author for Classic Velocity, a great motorcycle enthusiast in general, and is well known for his annual rides. He is also known for his R90S 40 year celebration a few years ago. Once again, he has gone above and beyond in bringing Hans Muth to anchor a celebration of his design. The lineup of silver blue 1977 RS machines was spectacular, including serial number 001. The collection of attendee machines was impressive as well, including a million mile R100S. Camping and tech workshops and lectures, and the Airhead Store, and food and drink, made this a true Rally worthy of the BMWMOA organization. But it was essentially the work of one man. Great guy, great machine, great event.



Limerock 2017 The Motorcycles

Classic Velocity


The Limerock Vintage Weekend has long been a great destination for a motorcycle ride. It is set in bucolic north western Connecticut, and is surrounded by upstate NY and western MA. When  the Berkshires and the Catskills are neighbors, you are in great riding country. At the track, a motorcycle parking area on a hill above the swap/paddock area has emerged over time that is always interesting, and the infield camping area often has a smattering of motorcycles. It always delivers a surprise, such as the year when a Vincent was casually parked among the commuter and touring machines on the mound. There was also a Crocker one year inside a vendor tent!


This year, all of that was enhanced by a display of BMW machines from Philip Richter and his Turtle Garage. In addition to a few of Bruce Meyer's hot rods on display, there was an elegant line of BMWs from pre-war to the 1990s. A most welcome surprise to us, and a delight for the crowd of attendees who appreciated vintage machinery in general.  It was particularly amusing to listen in on some of the conversations of others admiring the collection. There were comments such as "They all look the same", or "Black must be his favorite color, since he has so many of them".


However, a few folks who knew their BMWs would also stop to spend time looking at the subtleties between models. They would comment on handlebar controls or frame gusseting.  They were always pleasantly surprised to find someone who wanted to share in the conversation.  There is a particularly strong bond that is formed between geeks who discover each other at an event not intended for them as a primary audience. You now instantly have 2 things in common. But I digress...


The machines included a Dover white R60/2, an R69S with a Hoske tank, a superb ISDT bike, and a pristine K1. All in superb restored condition. However, the favorite bike of the collection's owner is a 1938 R51 which is cosmetically unrestored. It has been mechanically restored, but the paint and bodywork has not been touched. It is in remarkably good condition, and has a patina that you simply cannot purchase. Sharing the same year, 1938, was an R71. Judging by the interest in German cars and motorcycles, it is easy to see why Limerock voted Philip collector of the year. The Turtle Garage is on our list st of places to visit soon....


Neue Klasse Homologation Special

Classic Velocity


In 1962, BMW broke even for the first time since the war thanks to a strategic infusion from the Quandt family, and some surprising success with a few models (see Birth of the Bavarian Sports Sedan and The Halo and the Hail Mary). This allowed them to introduce the Neue Klasse sedans in 1963 which immediately began to sell well. A 1500 model was introduced in various trim levels, all using the now famous "3 Box" design, and the M10 engine. The 1500 gave way to a 1600 model (except in countries where 1500cc was an important tax limit), and the a 4 door 1800 was eventually introduced. 


A homologation special, the 1800 TI/SA, was introduced in 1964. It was produced to support the factory works effort, and took the TI (Turismo Internationale) production version and upgraded it to SA (SonderAusführung) specifications. This involved higher compression (10.5:1), twin Weber carbs rather than the twin solex TI, larger brakes upfront and rear disc brakes, a 5 speed gearbox, and a hotter camshaft. In the cockpit, there was a special tachometer and sport seats. On the exterior, there were no bumpers, and plain wheels without trim or covers. The end result was 150 hp compared to 120 hp in the TI. Only 200 of these specials were produced, and they were sold only to race teams.


The TISA was successful in competition, winning the German national championship in the hands of Hubert Hahne in 1964, and coming second at the Spa Francochamps 24 hour race. In 1965, the TISA won Spa in the hands of Pascal Ickx (yes, father of Jacky Ickx). Today, you can still find the TISA at events like Goodwood and the Monterey Historics, but they are mostly tucked away in private collections and museums. 

A Fuel's Errand

Classic Velocity


Simplicity is good. Few moving parts, a basic electrical layout, black paint, no frills. This could be a description of the Ford model T, but it is not. It is a description of our BMW R26. A 1956 single cylinder, single carb, 6V standard motorcycle. It does not get much simpler, no matter how far you go back. The motto of the Airheads (of which we are members) is "Simple by Choice", and this machine beautifully embodies that motto. It is a beautiful machine built for a purpose, at a time when quality efficient transportation was key. It even has points for sidecar attachment, despite having just 15hp at its' disposal. If you have ever been dragged along the ground by 15 horses at a gallop, you will know that it is more than adequate power.  So with such a simple and well-built machine, what tale do you have to tell ? Glad you asked.

It started with the smell of fuel n the garage. It took a while to trace it to the R26, but there was definitely a more pronounced smell around that machine.  There was no visible stain or wet spot, just a lingering smell of fuel. The usual suspect on machines like this is the float bowl of the carb being faulty, and failing to shut off the fuel supply leading to a leak. The bottom of the float bowl was suspiciously moist, and the engine casing below it was suspiciously clean, so it seemed like an open and shut case. Upon examination, the float had trapped some moisture, and so a new one was sourced (ridiculously expensive for a brass float compared to plastic, but this bike is nice enough to warrant original). A new float bowl gasket was ordered as well. Once received and installed, I went for a test ride and all seemed well. 

Next morning, faint smell of fuel. there was a droplet of fuel forming at the same spot on the bottom of the float bowl. At this point, I began to see if there was a route to the bottom of the float bowl coming from some other part of the carb or the fuel hoses. There was nothing obvious, although at one of the fuel hose connection points, the fabric-covered fuel hose was definitely damp from fuel. Since this motorcycle is just gravity-fed for fuel, there were no clips on any of the connection points. Despite not liking the look, hose clamps went onto every connection point. There was no other place where fuel was evident, so I took a brief test ride and checked. And then I checked again an hour later. The problem looked solved.

Next morning, faint smell of fuel. I laughed the kind of laugh that pokes fun at oneself, but which really indicates that the situation is not really funny anymore. Upon examination this time, there was no longer a droplet at the bottom of the float bowl, but there was a clean spot on the engine case right below where one of the hose clamps now lived.  Well I was planning to do a carb rebuild anyway, and so I did. Then, climbing a diagnostic ladder toward the fuel tank, I encountered a moist area right at the petcock lever. Aha ! A notorious spot for problems due to the disintegration of the o-ring gasket. Not content to stop there, I also ordered the petcock gasket for the attachment to the tank. Parts arrived a week later, and took only a few minutes to install. I sat watching the petcok with the fuel turned on, and the machine off. No detectable leakage. I waited an hour and checked again. No detectable leakage. I took a test ride. No detectable leakage. I waited 2 hours and looked again. The petcock was moist with fuel. 

From what I could tell, the fuel began right where the petcock threaded on to the tank. But it had a new gasket that I had just installed! I drained and removed the tank and concentrated my attention on the petcock flange. Nothing detectable. I put the petcock on it, plugged the cross connection, and threw in a little fuel. Nothing detectable. I then put the tank in its normal position, and taped some paper towel to the tank encircling the petcock flange. I let it sit. An hour later, Bingo ! The paper towel was moist with fuel. Not much, but certainly enough to form a drip over many hours. I repeated the experiment. Same result, a small fuel leak from the tank itself.


I emptied the tank and began to lightly sand the area around the flange. It was built up with solder, so someone had been here before. I could not find the specific point of the leak, but there were a few suspect areas once the paint was removed. After some days of drying, and then work with a wire wheel and dremmel tool, most of the solder was removed, revealing a hairline crack. It was clear then, that vibration was probably the key ingredient to making it leak and find its way through the solder patch job. Once cleaned up, it was properly welded, and the the paper towel test was repeated. Bone dry. 

So what did we learn? A repeated lesson shared before in To Fuel or not to Fuel, and in On Getting Grounded and in To Spark or Not to Spark. Obvious solutions, and the usual suspects sometimes mask the culprit. I did not go to the tank first, because carbs and petcock are notorious for fuel leaks, and I thought I found the problem with the float bowl (which did have an issue, just not the main one). In this case, the simplicity of the machine contributed to a sense that the solution must also be simple. It was, that is once I found the root cause....

Of Krausers and Kronenburgs

Classic Velocity

Right there, between the doors of the two door garage, in a pair of cubby holes designed to fit them, were a pair of Krausers. This is one of the irrefutable signs of an interesting garage. Someone was using every available space. Someone had taken the time to adapt or construct something in an unused space, to house luggage for a vintage motorcycle. You don't do that unless you care. Someone cared. If you cast your eye about the suburban garage, you would glimpse a Wixom fairing, and red Brembo brake calipers behind Fuchs wheels, and a 2 into 1 exhaust for a /5, and a 2 into 2 exhaust for a 911 SC, and 2 R100RS tail sections, and DOT race tires hanging from the ceiling, and a 915 gearbox, and lots of other stuff. Stuff that someone might need if he really liked machines from Germany of a certain era, that had air-cooled horizontally opposed engines. He does. The number of wheels that touched the ground could be 2, or 4. Either is fine, some of both is better. This is our kind of someone.

These things are scattered around 2 Porsche 911 SC cars parked nose to tail with one punched through a wall at the back of the garage so they could fit, and a BMW R1200GSA. And lest you think that is the only "encroachment" into the house, there is more. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I had a VW beetle engine in my kitchen. I rebuilt it over a month in the winter. A few years later, I had a slash 5 I was repairing on a tarp in my apartment for the entire winter. Both were before marriage. Since then, efforts have been redirected toward getting adequate heat in the garage. Not someone. He has managed to put 6 motorcycles into a carpeted fully climate-controlled room of the house, and his wife is fully aware. We don't know what kind of a deal had to be cut to get this to happen. Better not to know.  


The lineup includes an R69S, an R100RS, a /5 toaster, an RT cafe conversion, and an R90S. All are nice, none are pristine. Some high mileage, a few need work. A few have unique tail racks, or fairings. All have a story. One took a very long time to find. Another was owned, sold, and then owned again. We can relate (see repeat offenders and recidivism). The walls are adorned with posters and pictures. If all the bikes were show quality, this would be an eccentric arrangement. Since they are mostly "riders", this space is a real coup. We met many years ago, at a 2 wheeled event, and neither of us had any idea that there was more than BMW motorcycles in common, until we met again at a 4 wheeled event. This is our kind of someone.

Back to the garage, one of the SCs is being transformed into a street legal "Driver's Education (DE)" car. It has the engine out, roll cage in, rear seats out, coilovers in. It is the winter project. Another set of wheels is the rear of the garage next to the drill press and the miniature lathe. The SC has a Wevo shifter, modified guage package, dual oil coolers, 5 degrees negative camber, Kirkey seats, 5 point harness, etc. It will feature a Kronenburg engine management system from the Netherlands. Cool stuff. A year ago someone did his first DE event. Someone is on the slippery slope.  This is our kind of someone.

Clash of the Marques

Classic Velocity

It had been a long time since the tribe gathered at the traditional summer breakfast spot along the river. The impending end of the driving season caused our fearless convener and keeper of the flame, Monde, to shame us all into showing up and driving the cars. Good thing he did. However, as the normal flow of O Gruppe machines rolled in, several cars from another German marque intertwined themselves amongst the others. A beautiful 3.0CS, a 2002, and a 2800CS. These invaders were almost as strong in force as the Porsches. Fortunately, drivers emerged from their vehicles revealing regular members of the P-Car tribe. Traitors ? Marquerious ? Would hostilities break out ? 

No, this group is well known for having a well-rounded appreciation for fine vintage iron of all stripes. There are known owners of Alfas, and air-cooled motorcycles among them. Heck, they even complimented a vintage Ford Ranchero driving by. Breakfast involved much catching up and swapping of smartphone pictures, and consumption of eggs. The gathering spilled out into the cold for a good while as cars were admired and parts were swapped, and projects for spring were contemplated. Stuttgart forgave the sins of Munich and vice versa. As one attendee aptly said, Its about the people....

Same Year Same Direction?

Classic Velocity


Quite by accident rather than design, the garage had two examples of transportation on two wheels side by side. It provided an excellent opportunity to study two very different approaches to the European motorcycle market in the same year. That year was 1956. Yes 1956, when the Suez crisis in Egypt had the world stage, a gallon of gas in the USA cost 22 cents, while petrol was rationed in Britain, and Elvis broke onto the scene on the Ed Sullivan show, while Castro starts the Cuban Revolution, racial unrest spans the US, Real Madrid wins the first European Cup, Kruschev denounces Stalin, the 1st motorcycle rode over 200 mph (Wilhelm Herz-210 mph/338 kph) is against this rich backdrop that motorcyclists receive the BMW R26, and the Norton Dominator 99.

I know, I know, a single and a twin, chalk and cheese, apples and orangutans. True, but they are at once a contrast and a similarity in approaches beyond the obvious, so stick with us on this. Truth be told, both bikes are evolutions. The Norton is a displacement bump and the legendary introduction of the featherbed frame (see who framed Norton). The BMW is the a continuation of the singles produced since prewar times with some key improvements.


A very good review of the R26 was done by Motor Cyclist at the time and is reproduced on the Benchmarks Motorworks site.   It points out the first similarity, they were both "high performance" versions of a pre-existing machine. For a single, the 247cc R26 produced 15HP, and delivered a tested top speed of 73MPH against a listed top speed of 79MPH. This was significantly improved over the previous R25, and a sidecar was an option chosen by quite a few buyers. As for the Dominator, there are multiple books on the model, and an overview by Classic British Motorcycles. The upgraded 600cc engine produced 31HP, and was good for just over the magical ton of 100MPH. Both had finned cylinders and heads to help with cooling.

The R26 was a completely revised frame with a rear swing arm, Earle's fork, and an enclosed drive shaft. This dramatically improved handling both for competition and for more utilitarian sidecar duty. The Norton was also revolutionized by a new chassis. Mounting all of the Dominator components in the featherbed frame became the basis for almost 2 decades of competitive performance. The Roadholder telescopic forks became a further marketing focus, making the Norton "Unapproachable". The Earle's forks on the BMW were well regarded for stability and sidecar work.


The gauges are mounted in the headlight nacelle on both machines. both have an all-in-one speedometer, odometer, with the Norton adding a trip meter. The Norton also boasts an ammeter, Neither headlight was very good unless the machine was running at full charge from the Dynamo. Neither had turn signals, although both could.  The R26 tank is classic BMW black and pinstripe, with a lockable storage compartment on top. The Norton tank is one of the most beautiful to adorn a production motorcycle (in our humble opinion) with its' silver and chrome scheme. Fuel flows from the tank to a single Amal carb for the Norton, and a single Bing for the BMW. Both come equipped with an air pump. 


Of course, there are many contrasts. Propulsion is the aforementioned shaft for the R26, and chain for the Norton.  The Dominator has a well padded seat with good room for a passenger. The BMW has a single Pagusa seat that is spring-mounted to further help with suspension. Although the BMW frame was new, it was still a plunger type frame compared to the state of the art featherbed. The Norton has their traditional oil tank arrangement, while the BMW has their traditional wet sump arrangement. Right side  kick starter and foot shift on the Dommie, versus left side for both on the Beemer. Bosch versus Lucas for electrics, and rod-operated rear brakes on the R26 versus cable on the Dominator. The Norton front brakes are noticeably larger, and were mentioned in reviews as being very good stoppers. The German was relatively simple and oil tight, while the Norton had bevel drives and leaked from the primary case even when new!

Both machines included large helpings of their company's heritage and signature approaches.  Both were introduced as higher performance upgrades of prior models, and both introduced suspension/handling improvements. However, you could clearly see how BMW was sticking to more conservative evolution, while the Norton was breaking new ground. BMW was working on practical transportation that could be transformed for competition versus Norton who continued to capitalize on a competition heritage to "Race on Sunday and sell on Monday".