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Friday, February 23, 2018

BMW Motorcycle Racing Tachometers

Like most vehicle manufacturers of the day, BMW did not produce its own tachometers for race bikes.  Rather, the task was out-sourced to premier instrument makers.

In the pre-war period, this job fell to Robert Muhle and Sohn of Glashutte, Germany. Muhle tachs were sourced for use on the BMW Type 255 Kompressor, as well as the twin cam racer R51RS.   Interestingly, the company remains in business, producing high end wrist watches.  Its no surprise then that a peak inside one of these instruments would have one believing that were viewing a ship chronometer.

R. Muhle Drezahlmesser

For the post-war Type 253 (colloquially known as the RS54), the original long stroke version was fitted with a 60mm VDO, complete with a weighted and balanced needle.

VDO 60 mm Drehzahlmesser

On the works bike, and later privateer RS54's, the more commonly found tachometer is a Smith's ATRC.  Generally considered to be the Rolls Royce of instruments, the ATRC were required to be mounted in a special vibration dampening holder. It was essentially a bezel mount connected to the instrument by means of large rubber O-ring.  

Smith ATRC Drehzahlmesser

Of interest, there was two ways to run the tach on the RS54.  Both a straight drive from the timing gear, or an angled drive from the front of the crank.  The straight drive is commonly found on solo machines, while the angle drive is more common to side cars, and the works type racer.  The works motors were occasionally fitted with a Bosch fuel injector which was driven by the timing gear shaft.  Therefore, the tach drive had to be relocated, and furthermore this allowed for clearance of the cable.

Tachometer drives for RS54

Buchanan's Does it Again

Special thanks to the guys at Buchanan's Spoke and Rim in Azusa, CA!  They went the extra mile getting the wheels for one of my race bikes built.  I love this setup.  Borrani Record rim mated to a magnesium Fontana 230 doppelduplex from brake, complete with magnesium shoes.  And of course Metzler tire. Aluminum nipples, stainless spokes.  Perfectly balanced as built without weights!  Thanks again guys.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Troy Corser hits the wet deck at Goodwood!

An unfortunate end to a tremendous start to the Barry Sheen Memorial Trophy at Goodwood this year.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Troy Corser at Goodwood September 2016

I couldn't stop watching this video!  Troy Corser of World Superbike fame on my friend Sebastian Gutsch's R5 racebike at Goodwood.  Troy is absolutely flogging the bike.  Unfortunately a mechanical problem ended his tremendous run.  Congratulations to Troy for a spectacular ride, and to my friend Sebastian for building such an amazing bike!!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Villa d'Este - 2016

I recently had the opportunity to once again attend the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in Cernobbio, Italy.

The venue, weather and bikes were perfect!  Threats of rain in the forecast had me a bit worried, but alas the entire weekend was absolutely wonderful.  The Monday after the show was a different story with rain of biblical proportions coming down on my drive back to Munich (snow on the pass to Garmisch!).

Held in the picturesque town of Cernobbio on the southwestern shore of Lake Como, the Concorso is the premier vintage motorcycle event in Europe.  Sponsored by BMW, who do a fantastic job, the show runs the entire weekend.  Cars are shown at the Villa d'Este, while motorcycles are on display just down the street at Villa Erba.  The motorcycles are accessible to the public on Saturday, while the Saturday car event is invitation only (due to size restrictions).  On Sunday cars and motorcycles alike are on display at the Villa Erba with the afternoon capped off by a parade of cars and bikes being presented and awards handed out.

This is how Europeans enjoy a car and motorcycle show!  We have much to learn here in the states!!

The event is surprisingly affordable (if you don't include the cost of airfare and accommodations).  The Saturday motorcycle event is on the order of 8 euros entry fee, and the Sunday event 15 euros.  The Sunday event is more because both cars and bikes are on display, or at least that was the explanation I was given.  Food and beverages are available throughout the weekend at the event.  And of course fantastic Italian food is just across the street at the many local "Ristorante" and "Trattoria/Pizzeria."

The parade of cars on Sunday at the Villa Erba. 

Having travelled from the states to enjoy the show, I visit the grounds on both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday is very nice as the show is much less crowded and it is easier to see and photograph the bikes.  On Sunday the venue is packed and with the addition of the cars most of the locals chose Sunday to attend the event.

BMW brain trust.  Sebastian Gutsch (left) and Stefan Knittel (right), two very knowledgeable fellows about vintage and historic BMW.

The appropriately named "Majestic" is an art deco masterpiece.  One of many rare and exotic machines on display.

As this year is the 100th anniversary of BMW, they had on hand a number of bikes.  Here is a nice cross section of post-war models.

Even though BMW is the main sponsor, they don't dominate or overwhelm the show, which is quite refreshing to see from a corporate sponsor.  Aside from the small display above, only one BMW owned machine was included in the "show", the rare ex-Frank Pratt R5SS.  Another private entry was a wonderful, un-restored R5 owned by Joachim Schreyer.

Wonderful, unrestored R5.  

Another fantastic machine at the venue was my friend Sebastian Gutsch's R5 racebike.  Sebastian can be found campaigning the machine around Europe in the "Grab the Flag" series.  I'm pretty sure he brought it along just to have some fun in the hills around Como!

Sebastian Gutsch and his R5 racer.
One of my favorites!  The ex-Frank Pratt R5SS. 

Contrary to some BMW enthusiasts beliefs, the marque from Munich was not the only one to employ a horizontally opposed boxer motor.  Note the above beautiful Gnome et Rhone, complete with sidecar.

One of the star attractions was the R5 Hommage bike.  (No R5's were harmed in the making of this bike!).  As you can see, it's a modern interpretation of the classic machine using an amalgamation of new and old BMWparts.  The rear looks ridgid at first glance, but is actually sprung.  And yes, that is a supercharger run from the flywheel!!

Friday, February 5, 2016

100th Anniversary of BMW

This year (2016) represents the 100th anniversary of BMW as a company.  However, curious to most is that BMW produced neither cars, nor motorcycles, during the companies infancy.  In fact, aircraft manufacturing is what brought together the companies Rapp Motorenwerke and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFw) in 1916.  The marriage of the companies in turn resulted in a  name change to Bayerische Motorenwerke or BMW as we know it today. (1)

The highly recognizable roundel logo was registered as a trademark one year later.  Contrary to popular belief, the background of the roundel with its blue and white checkers is representative of the Bavarian flag, and not an aircraft propeller.  (Click here for blog post discussing the history of the roundel.) 

It wasn't until 1923 that BMW produced their first in-house motorcycle, the R32.  Designed by Max Friz, the R32 represents the first model completely designed and built by BMW.  However, the predecessor motor, the M2B15 can be found as the powerplant in several other motorcycles whereby the manufacturer of the chassis turned to BMW to supply the power.  Some examples include Victoria, Helios and Bison.  (Incidentally, examples of all of the these BMW powered machines can be seen at the Motorrad Museum Vorchdorf in Austria.)

In 1929, six years after the introduction of the R32 motorcycle, BMW acquired the Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach company.  And henceforth BMW became a car manufacturer as well.

So it is a little surprising today that a company so well known for its cars, did not start out in the auto manufacturing business.  Be that is it may, we will celebrate this year the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company. 

Car and motorcycle concours events around the world will showcase the marque.  As one might imagine, special events are planned in Germany.  Of course the BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch-Partenkirken will be extra special, and will be celebrated July 1-3.  BMW Classic in Munich is also planning a special event September 9-11 that will be held across from BMW Welt at the Munich Olympia Park.  

Here in the states, car and motorcycle enthusiasts will congregate on the Monterey peninsula for the Pebble Beach Concours and a week of BMW centered festivities to follow (August 19-26).  

Check out for a list of events.  The site will continue to be updated as more events are planned. 

Finally, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering will also showcase classic BMW's as part of this years event.     I will be back once again to help judge, and I am quite looking forward to an excellent display of Bavarian machinery!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mystery Tool

Some years ago I came across this interesting tool for BMW motorcycles.  To be perfectly honest, I don't remember where it came from.  It is marked "Gift of David Ide". 

I don't know David Ide, but have benefited from his "gift" many times.  I have to assume David was a tool maker, machinist, or BMW enthusiast.  Perhaps all three.  

Any guess as to what this tool is for?  Scroll down for the answer.  

A wonderful little wrench for removing the top of the BING carb slide chamber!

Quail Motorcycle Gathering - 2015

Since 2009 the Quail Lodge has been host to the Quail Motorcycle Gathering.  This is a fun-filled weekend of vintage bike sites, sounds and smells.  The Friday Quail Ride is a great chance to hear vintage machines as they make their way through Carmel Valley and the Monterey Peninsula.

On Saturday, the bikes are cleaned up and put on display for the general public, and to undergo scrutiny by a select group of judges assembled from around the country.

Next years "Gathering" will be on Saturday, May 14th.  Don't miss it!  For those who are members of the VBMWMOA, look for a write up and more pictures in next club magazine.

The grounds just prior to the awards ceremony.  Great crowd and great bikes this year!


The very rare R9S!

Hope those aren't live rounds.

Part of Scottie Sharps collection.  The nice R11 is a customers bike.  It is reportedly ridden quite regularly.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

BMW RS54, a misnomer

BMW Type 253 in the BMW Collection (Munich)

A little history

In the post war effort to develop a motorcycle that could challenge the brits, there evolved at BMW an enigmatic machine colloquially known as the RS54.

The machine was the culmination of design efforts beginning well before the war when Schleicher helped develop the Koenigswelle, or "King Shaft" supercharged bikes that had positioned Schorsch Meier atop the leader board at the 1939 Isle of Mann Senior TT race.

As the platform developed, the double overhead cam design was refined.  After several iterations, in 1953, BMW began campaigning and showing early prototypes of a motorcycle that would go on to become a small production run of machines for a select few racers.

The bikes produced numbered approximately 25, and all were long stroke versions, equipped originally with 4 speed gear boxes.  Six of the original machines were "seitenwagen" or side-cars.

While not overly successful in solo form, the engine platform was utilized in the ensuing decades to harness no fewer than 18 side-car world championships in 20 years.  This was an amazing feat,  unlikely to ever be duplicated.

Of course development wasn't static.  Long stroke engines gave way to short stroke version.  The original 30 mm Amal Fischer carburetors were exchanged for 32 or 35 mm Dell'Ortos.  (Some works bikes were fuel injected.)  A five speed gear box was available.

In later years, massive carburetors fed the boxer motors that by then wound greater than 10K rpm.  Double plugged heads were commonplace.  The kneeler, with its tremendously low center of gravity, became the preferred configuration.

A victim of it's own success in the side-car arena, most original long stroke bikes were dismantled, and frames discarded or modified for use in side car racing.  For this reason, there exists today no complete bike that the author is aware of, with the original frame and long stroke motor.

Ex Auerbacher/Hahn kneeler.  


The bike referred to is the RS54 or "Rennsport".  Of course the term Rennsport is rather generic German word referring to any matter of racing car or motorcycle.  However if you ask any BMW motorcycle aficionado about the "BMW Rennsport" they will understand that you are referring to the DOHC boxer race bike developed in the 1950's.

It is unclear how and when the term RS54 came into use.  The origins are simple to deduce.  RS of course referring to RennSport and 54 being the year of production (though the bike was shown one year earlier in slightly different trim than was used on productions bikes.)

Interestingly, there is no reference to RS54 in any of the BMW documentation of the day.  Internally, the bike was known as the Type 253 Rennmaschine.

Even this nomenclature continues to be wrongly used today.  As noted above, there were approximately 25 factory produced long stroke bikes, sold to customers or dealerships, however there was an unknown number of machines developed at the Works for use by the factory team, including Walter Zeller.

These bikes were seen with various "works" parts including a larger magnesium front brake, fuel injection, fairing, Drehmoment schwinge (special rear swingarm and drive shaft).  These bikes have been referred to as Type 256, however this too is an incorrect term.  As the type 253 platform developed, or changes were made, the new designation had a letter added, i.e. Type 253f.

Unfortunately, the record keeping with respect to develop of these bikes is either woefully inadequate, or a tightly kept secret.  Be that is at may, it is unlikely that my essay here will change the  terms we use to describe these fantastic machines!

Daniela Weingartner at Goodwood 2014.  This machine is part of the BMW collection in Munich.  Photo BMW. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

R7 BMW - Art Deco Master Piece

While not a racing BMW motorcycle, the R7 deserves merit and attention none the less.

Unfortunately, the machine pictured below was never put into production by BMW, but was merely a design exercise.  (Akin to one of prototype, or design cars often displayed by current day manufacturers at auto shows.)

After the war, the machine languished in parts, deep in the bowels of the BMW archive/repository.  It was rediscovered several years ago, and its restoration undertaken by a handful of German craftsman.  It has since made the rounds on the high end motorcycle show circuit.

I had a chance to see it in person a few years ago at the BMW Museum in Munich.  Below are some pictures of this wonderful machine.