Each week, we scour the internet to bring you the juiciest five motorcycles that we haven’t already featured. Today we’ve got a Yamaha SR500 street tracker from Milan, a BMW R nineT from Belgium, and a vintage Norton from Luxembourg. Plus Steve McQueen’s Husky, and a Bōsōzoku-inspired contraption from the lads at CROIG.
Yamaha SR500 by Deus Milano The crew at Deus Milano put the blame for this project squarely on Marco Belli’s shoulders. Marco’s a highly decorated flat track racer, that runs the Di Traverso flat track school in Italy. When a Deus staffer—also named Marco—took the Di Traverso course, he immediately wanted a street tracker for urban use.
And so this was built—a Yamaha SR500 with flat track chops and plenty of street style. With a quintessential flat track tail, a slick paint job and one of the nicest tracker seats we’ve seen, it sure is pretty. But Deus have treated it to a number of functional upgrades too.
The swing arm’s been upgraded to an aluminum unit from SDG, connected to a pair of Öhlins shocks. The rims are 19” Excels, wrapped in flat track rubber, and the brakes are from Discacciati. Deus have also installed a new piston, done some head work, and added a Keihin FCR carb.
CNC-machined foot pegs, new handlebars (with internal wiring), a ‘fast response’ throttle and bar-end turn signals round out the control package. The exhaust is from SC Project, and the classic motocross headlight is from UFO. This little SR is just the ticket for racing on Sunday, and commuting on Monday. [More]
1975 Norton Commando 850 There’s not much information out there on this vivid blue Norton Commando—but what we do know has us intrigued. For starters, it has something of a pedigree: it was prepped by Boxer Design for Hubert Rigal, to take part in classic hillclimb races.
Boxer Design’s name should ring a bell; they’re the guys that produce the modern day Brough Superior. And Hubert Rigal is an ex-Grand Prix and endurance racer (and one helluva collector), that helps Luxembourg-based Classic Motorbikes source rare and classic machinery.
The Norton is a handsome machine—from the elegantly stitched racer seat, to the deep glitter paint job. We also love how the twin mufflers hide away behind the left number board, and how the subframe’s discreetly been modded with a LED tail light. It’s one of very few modern touches on this vintage machine, along with an upgraded Beringer brake set.
The Commando was recently sold, which makes us sad—because we didn’t buy it. After all, it was going for a paltry EUR 25,000. [More]
BMW R nineT by Deep Creek Cycleworks At a glance, this looks like a slightly dressed-up R nineT Racer. But it’s actually a R nineT Pure—the ‘basic’ R nineT—with a few tasty custom bits in the mix.
Kris Reniers at Deep Creek Cycleworks customized the modern boxer as part of a Belgian BMW dealership build off. Picking the Pure model over the Racer model was a logistical decision—Kris wanted a black frame, which the Pure comes with. (Picking the Racer meant taking the time to strip the bike first, just to powder coat its silver frame).
Still, Kris installed a a stock Racer fairing, along with its OEM fairing mount. But he welded the mount to the frame lower than usual, for a sleeker look. Then he shaped up a tight new tail and seat, removing the bulky aluminum sections that normally sit below the seat.
The speedo moved from the top yoke to inside the fairing, and Kris added LED internals to the headlight. This R nineT also wears LSL rear sets, Motogadget turn signals and a SC Project silencer. And that black and gold livery is just superb. [More]
Steve McQueen’s 1968 Husqvarna Viking 360cc Steve McQueen was spotted aboard a number of off-road machines that went on to become iconic. But no image is as famous as his 1971 Sports Illustrated cover: popping a shirtless wheelie on a Husqvarna 400 Cross.
While McQueen’s move to Husqvarna‘s dirt bikes arguably helped jump start the Swedish brand’s success in the US, the 400 Cross was not McQueen’s first Husky. It was actually this 1968 Viking 360cc scrambler.
McQueen had watched future motocross world champion, Bengt Åberg, compete aboard a Viking around California in ’68. He eventually approached Åberg after a race in Santa Cruz to chat about the bike, and ended up buying it on the spot. It kick started McQueen’s relationship with the brand—and the best free marketing campaign Husqvarna could hope for.
This Viking is, in fact, that original machine. And it’s in surprisingly good nick, too, with its original motor, gear box and Bing carb still doing duty. What we wouldn’t give to hear it fire up! [More]
Kury Sauce This little slice of crazy is brought to you by Minneapolis-based CROIG and SoCal-based metal fabricator Jake Krotje. CROIG were approached by parts manufacturer Kuryakyn to build a bike to highlight their new product range. And the only brief they had, was to build a memorable bike that would get people talking.
By those standards, we’re calling it a success. Sure, it’s absolutely silly and makes zero sense whatsoever, but what use is the custom scene if we can’t enjoy a little irreverence now and again?
Kury Sauce started out as a 2009 Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200-turned-tracker. CROIG and Jake clearly took cues from the whacky Japanese Bōsōzoku scene, but they also threw in bits of chopper, cafe racer and flat track style. “It’s essentially a celebration of the cultural and stylistic diversity found within the world of custom motorcycles,” CROIG tell us.
Best of all: this is just phase one. The guys worked round the clock to button it up for the Handbuilt Show, rolling into Austin on zero sleep, hours before the show. We can’t wait to see what they do to it next.
The rare and beautiful Brough Superior SS100 is one of the most famous motorcycles ever made. Originally marketed as the ‘Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles,’ each unit shipped with a guarantee that it was capable of 100 mph.
The last place you’d expect to find a Brough Superior is in the heartland of Russia, over 2,500 miles from the Nottingham factory where it was built. But that’s where this stunning example lives: in the Motorworld by V. Sheyanov museum in the former ‘closed city’ of Samara.
Despite the brutal environs—temperatures stay below freezing point for five months of the year—Motorworld is the largest private collection of vintage motorcycles in Russia.
It’s been a long and strange journey for this SS100. It’s now in the care of museum founder Vyacheslav Sheyanov, who also owns a Brough Superior Austin Four, an SS80 and an 11-50, as well as this SS100.
The SS100 was technically the world’s first custom motorcycle: each Brough was built to order, according to the customer’s spec. And the bikes were constructed by hand using high-end components from multiple sources.
The motor came from J.A.P., the transmission from Sturmey-Archer, and the forks from the Castle Fork and Accessory Co., built to George Brough’s design.
This particular SS100 originally belonged to a very special customer: Dunlop Tyres, who bought it in 1931 to commemorate their 40th anniversary. They used it for advertising and promotional events, and to test out their tires.
An archival photo shows that the Brough was originally shipped with a sidecar. But then the Second World War happened, and by 1946 the sidecar was missing, and the frame was badly damaged. The bike was rebuilt onto some mystery, non-stock frame—and stayed that way for fifty-five years.
Then, in 2001, an unsung hero got his hands on it, and treated it to a complete restoration. Not only was it rebuilt back onto the original Brough Superior frame, but the motor was brought back up to running condition too.
Fast forward another seven years, and the SS100 ended up in the personal collection of collector and Brough Superior specialist Michael FitzSimons. FitzSimons knows a thing or two about vintage motorcycles—according to the New York Times, he was responsible for setting up the motorcycle departments at both Sothebys and Bonhams.
FitzSimons also owned every Brough Superior model ever made at one stage. But in recent years he started selling them off, citing his age, and being quoted as saying “It’s not true that the one who dies with the most toys wins.”
And that’s how this SS100 ended up in the Motorworld collection. FitzSimons put it up for auction in 2012—but not before it was stripped and checked thoroughly. It was found to be in excellent health, and its authenticity confirmed by Brough Superior Club secretary, Mike Leatherdale.
Sheyanov won the bid. (We don’t know how much he paid, and we’re afraid to ask.) The Brough was transferred to its new home in Samara, where it’s been since. And other than perishable items, like the air filter, rubber and oils, it’s still almost completely original.
It still runs—and regularly, too. Motorworld has a team of four mechanics who tend to the collection, and if they need inside knowledge, they lean on the expertise of the Brough Superior Club, who are always willing to lend a hand.
It’s not all Brough over at Motorworld though—they’ve got this three-wheeled Moto Guzzi in the collection, and the team is in the middle of restoring a Belgian-made FN M12a SM.
Anyone else feel like booking a plane ticket to Russia?
Since this is our first weekly round up of the year, we’re taking liberties. A couple of the bikes below popped up last month, and a couple more have just landed in our inbox.
The list includes everything from a Ducati 750SS dressed as a MH900e, to a BMW R nineT built up with kit parts. We’ve also got a retro-styled Yamaha XJR1300, a rare Moto Martin M16 and a little Honda Z50R filled with attitude.
Let’s get 2019 started then…
Ducati 750SS by Unik Edition The Ducati MH900e is one of the most iconic motorcycles Ducati ever built. But they only ever built 2 000 units—so if you want one, you better have the bank balance to back up your dream.
This MHe-looking Duc is actually a 1994 750SS, built for a customer by Portugal’s Unik Edition. The brief was to reimagine the MH900E as a contemporary motorcycle, but on a budget. Or, as the client put it: “If Mr. Pierre Terblanche designed the Ducati 900 MHe today, what would it look like?”
Unik started with a 750SS, then added the wheels and swing arm from a newer Monster S4R. Then they matched up a MHe fairing and tail kit to the stock 750SS tank (which was reportedly quite a mission).
We love the combo of red paint and a gold frame and wheels, but this replica-slash-café racer is also sporting a number of neat details. The back end of the tail’s been louvered with the tail light embedded, and the dash in particular is really neatly arranged. It might not be an actual MH900e, but it’s still damn charming. [More]
Martin M16 1135 EFE Suzuki If you’re looking for vintage machinery that’s truly collectable, Legend Motors is a good place to start. They’re based in a beautiful shop in Lille, France, and they’re the place to go for rare and special classics.
Don’t take our word for it; this gorgeous specimen has just popped up in their inventory. It’s an early 80s Moto Martin M16, and it could be yours for a cool €16,800 (about $19,150).
Moto Martin is a boutique French frame manufacturer, founded by Georges Martin way back in 1970. Martin’s work was originally based on the frame designs of Fritz Egli, with a focus on rigidity and weight saving. This particular model—the M16—uses a perimeter frame design, and is equipped with a Suzuki GSX 1135 EFE motor.
Details are sparse, but we’re smitten with what looks like either a nickel-plated or polished frame, and that retro-fabulous paint scheme. There’s no doubt: this Moto Martin is going to make some collector extremely happy. [More]
BMW R nineT Parts from JvB-Moto Jens vom Brauck built a BMW R nineT a while back that knocked our socks off. I was lucky enough to not only see, but also ride it—and it eventually landed on our Top 10 for 2017.
Even though Jens swore that the bike was a one-off, he did hint that some of the parts would make it into production. And now they have, via JvB-Moto’s parts partner, Kedo.
This red R nineT’s carrying a selection of the new parts. Up front is a headlight in the usual JvB style (it’s available in three versions), with an optional bracket that holds a Motogadget dash. Out back, you’ll find a sharp new race-inspired tail piece, with a slim LED light embedded in the back.
Jens has also installed the JvB air intake, license plate holder, LED turn signals, front fender, sump guard, and a few other bits and pieces. It’s a minor rework of the R nineT but it’s majorly cool—and since everything bolts on, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to build. [More]
Yamaha XJR1300 by Venezia Moto This XJR belongs to Federico Agnoletto—the man behind the incredibly well attended Verona Motor Bike Expo. The Expo includes scores of custom bikes, so Federico decided it was time to build a custom of his own, that would be worthy of display.
Enlisting the help of Italian Yamaha dealer and workshop, Venezia Moto, he created this beautiful throwback iteration of the Yamaha XJR1300. Venezia Moto was a logical choice; they took top honors a few years ago at the show, in a build-off organized by Yamaha themselves.
Federico picked the burly XJR as a donor, and then settled on a design direction. Inspiration came from Giacomo Agostini’s World Championship-winning Yamaha OW23 YZR500. That meant a full array of race-style bodywork, built from scratch to resemble Ago’s YZR, but fit the much bigger XJR.
Bolt-ons include some Rizoma bits, and a titanium exhaust from SC Project. But it’s that period-correct livery—and those gold Marvic wheels—that push it over the edge for us. [More]
Honda Z50R by Droog Moto Little bikes are big fun, right? A lot of people think so, and that philosophy’s been creeping steadily into the custom scene over the last year. Here’s a contender from Droog Moto in Arizona.
It’s a Honda Z50R, and it was built up to resemble the shop’s twelfth build: a Kawasaki Ninja 650R with a post-apocalyptic vibe. A customer had bought the Ninja, and wanted something for his son to match it, so that they could “terrorize the neighborhood” together. (Parent of the year perhaps?)
Droog set about fabricating similar mods to the Ninja’s for the little Honda. On went a front number board with a stubby fender, and a set of MX bars. The rear end was reworked with a new seat, but the stock fuel tank was left alone.
Droog also refurbished the motor, upgraded the shocks, and fitted chunky rubber and solid wheel covers, bringing the style in line with Dad’s bike. Needless to say, the little ripper was beyond stoked when the ‘Mini Brawler’ was delivered. [More]
Motorcyclists are a well-read bunch. Despite the well-publicized travails of some mainstream magazine publishers, the niche market is booming. Every country with a reasonably large population seems to have an independent magazine devoted to custom or ‘alt.moto’ culture.
The latest entrant to this pleasingly busy market is Retro-RR from England. It’s a high-quality quarterly with 132 pages, celebrating bikes that were ridden or raced in the 80s and 90s.
We were so impressed with the launch edition, we asked if we could reproduce an abridged version of our favorite article—covering the mighty Honda RC30. Enjoy.
In an age of prosperity, huge tobacco sponsorship and an impending inaugural World Superbike championship, building a winner was the only thing that mattered to the mighty Honda Racing Corporation.
In the late eighties the VFR750R—better known as the RC30—was a dream for engineers and designers. With all emphasis on creating a race-winning production machine with very little regard for the budget, the bike that spawned the term ‘homologation special’ was generously bestowed with magnesium and titanium.
Honda’s engineers already knew how to make a reliable V4 motor and, externally at least, the RC30 motor closely resembled the unit used in the road-going VFR750F. But now they had the opportunity to refine it further, make it lighter and increase the power — to produce the ultimate four-stroke racing engine.
Based on the RVF endurance racer (not to be confused with the later RVF750 RC45) the RC30 used titanium con rods and forged two-ring pistons with skirts so short they weren’t allowed to leave the house.
The firing order was changed to a big-bang configuration with a totally new crank; new, hardened valves were used; the lubrication system was uprated and the gear-drive for the camshafts was revised.
Casings were machined differently for the new oil galleries and the rev ceiling was raised from 11,000 to 12,500rpm. It even had a slipper clutch, long before they became the norm. Only the V4 architecture truly remained.
Each of the 3,000 RC30s produced were hand-built in the racing division of the Hamamatsu plant alongside the factory racers. The geometry was sharp and short and the twin-spar aluminum frame was pared down to save weight but was still stiff where it mattered.
Fully adjustable Showa suspension graced both ends with the front forks designed for speedy front wheel changes. The single-sided swinging arm made for similarly rapid rear wheel swaps; this was a bike that had all the ingredients, both mechanically and aesthetically.
While super-exotic, on paper the numbers didn’t really stack up. In unrestricted form, the bike was claimed to produce 118bhp and 51ft-lb of torque. Hardly staggering performance figures, even with a best-in-class dry weight of 180kg.
But on the racetrack that sublime chassis and motor with its flat, almost totally linear, torque curve added up to a fast lap time. It was easy on the tyres and more importantly, easy on the rider. Never before had the term ‘racer on the road’ been more apt.
The RC30 soon proved to be the bike to be on. The insanely talented Fred Merkel took the inaugural World Superbike title in 1988 and the American confirmed it was no fluke by repeating the feat the following year.
It won domestic championships the world over and tamed the toughest racetrack of them all, the Mountain Course on the Isle of Man. Legendary riders such as Steve Hislop, Joey Dunlop, Phillip McCallen and Nick Jefferies all took TT victories aboard the RC30. It wasn’t long before pretty much every privateer racer wanted one.
More than 30 years on, finding a mint example of one of Soichiro Honda’s most memorable motorcycles before his passing in 1991 isn’t easy. Most have been either raced or crashed. Or both.
But every once in a while, an opportunity presents itself. This is exactly what happened to our friend, Alessio Barbanti [below]. He’s one of the most respected photographers in motorcycling and a thoroughly Italian man who knows style when he sees it.
“I wanted an RC30 for a very long time,” says Alessio. “It was always the dream bike, the one on top of my list. To find one in good condition is very hard.”
“About two years ago a friend called me and said to come over for coffee. Nothing unusual about that, so I strolled over to his workshop and there it was, my dream machine.”
“It belonged to an old Italian guy who’d been living in the USA for about 30 years and had retired to his homeland. The bike was an American-spec bike but not restricted — I spent so much time researching to make sure it was full power and that it wasn’t going to give me problems.”
“I was very lucky. You might say ‘in the right place at the right time’. The bike is in almost perfect condition, everything is genuine Honda and I have the original exhaust too.”
“The one is fitted with the HRC race kit exhaust, which I’ve since found out is incredibly rare. It runs perfectly too. I think the former owner really loved this bike which explains why he was so emotional when he sold it.”
We’re still waiting for an invite to the Italian Alps to find out for ourselves just how good Alessio’s bike is. Though I have a feeling we might be waiting some time.
A Triumph Trident that ran in the 1972 Bol d’Or, a Moto Guzzi Strada dripping with vintage charm, and a chiropractor-approved version of the R nineT Racer from JvB-Moto.
Triumph Trident 750 ‘Koelliker’ Auction previews are a good way of reminding me how much money I could burn through, if only I had it: Aste Bolaffi Auctions of Turin is teasing with a small but elegant collection set to go under the hammer on May 23rd. Of their baker’s dozen, Lot 6 in particular—this Triumph Trident 750—has me wondering what a donor organ can fetch these days.
This bike is one of three Tridents that were race prepped by Italy’s main Triumph importer, Bepi Koelliker, to run in the 1972 Bol d’Or 24-hour motorcycle endurance race.
It has a specially fabricated frame, born from the hands of Stelio Belletti, as well as a Lockheed Racing braking system and a gorgeous set of seven-spoke magnesium mags.
Everything is in stunningly clean shape, from the sculpted, period correct endurance racer bodywork to the twin tanks and the racer’s perch. Which is a surprise, because this bike spent time as a racing test mule as well. Early expectations peg the price at around €30,000 (US$35,000), not including the 15% auction surcharge. I’d wager they’ll get that easy—or maybe €12,500 and a slightly used kidney. [More]
BMW R80 by Elemental Custom Cycles When it comes to builds based on a BMW R80, IWC’s The Mutant sets a seriously high water mark. And while this cafe’d version from Neustadt’s Elemental Custom Cycles isn’t breaking the same barriers, the fit and finish are exemplary and deserving of our attention.
The original 1985 R80 rolled into the shop with barely 7,000 km on the clock. But that didn’t mean the work ahead was easy. The build still demanded a total teardown; the frame needed some detabbing work and the subframe had to go. In its place, the new hooped perch rides high but follows the lines at the base of the tank perfectly.
That treatment gives the new YSS monolever so much negative space, the rear appears almost delicate. Contrast that to the beefy front end and new fat n’ sticky rubber and there’s just enough aggro on display as well.
I’m torn over the custom underslung muffler, but I appreciate the creativity and can’t fault the execution. And it’s the paintwork that truly captures eyes here. The Audi Daytona grey and teal accents are buried, jewel-like under seven coats of clear coat. We’re told the process involved some 40 drafts before final approvals and figure it was worth the effort. [More]
Moto Guzzi Strada 750 by LaBusca Motorcycles The freedom that comes with no client to answer to and no real deadline to fear must be refreshing. The creative shackles are off, and a builder can just do what he or she does best. Jez, the headman from LaBusca Motorcycles of Lancaster, England, recently had that chance with a low mileage Strada 750. And boy, did he deliver.
Black Betty is the near-perfect combination of purity and function in motorcycle design. It has a large, 17-litre teardrop tank to help devour miles. There is a substantial luggage rack out the back, which sits above an equally effective rear fender. And the solo seat has enough padding to make use of that tank’s volume.
But more than that, everything superfluous is gone. The frame has been de-tabbed and everything unsightly has been moved behind those custom side panels.
The overall style is clearly vintage. But don’t think for a minute that this late 80s Moto Guzzi hasn’t been modernized. Motogadet now tackles the electricals, complete with a Motoscope Tiny that’s been mounted within the Triumph Thunderbird headlight bucket, and Sachse now handles the ignition. And while some may lament the chunky rubber, Jez felt it suited Black Beauty just fine: “This is a machine designed for taking your time on, and so the trade-off in grip compared to a more road orientated tire was deemed acceptable.” Sounds reasonable enough to us. [More]
BMW G310R by DKdesign BMW’s entry level G310R may not be built by the hands of Bavarians but it’s widely acclaimed as worthy of its roundel. Of course, the diminutive Beemer is built to a budget and, as such, is a little fugly when bone stock.
Thankfully, creatives like Dakar Chou from Taiwan’s DKdesign Motorparts are around to beautify things. His shop specializes in developing bolt-ons for the G310 as well as the Rnine T, and every now and then churns out a one-off as showcase. With his latest build, and second G310R, Dakar has created a tasty little cafe he’s calling Rogue.
The change to a classically shaped R100 tank does the heavy lifting on this bitsa. Combined with the new headlight and cowl, subframe delete and rubberized seat from a R50 it blends copious amounts of heritage and style into a tiny, attractive package. If BMW was ever thinking of expanding their heritage line down into the 310 family, a treatment like this or Dakar’s earlier scrambler version, would be an automatic win. [More]
BMW R nineT Racer by JvB-moto When Jens Vom Brauck sent us images of his latest crack at BMW’s R nineT, it was a fraction too late to make it into our last BOTW two weeks ago. But it’s been worth the wait. On the surface, the changes are fairly simple—but this Racer is packing a look we’d reckon most owners would dig.
JvB just happens to be a parts producing specialist, so many of the changes here can be quickly sourced and easily installed. After riding a stock Racer for a spell, Jens was convinced the best way to improve it was to make subtle ergonomic changes, to improve rideability without spoiling its good looks.
To that end there are new bars and a tweaked seat unit to correct the Racer’s contorted riding position. A new LED headlight conversion sits above JvB’s minimalist front fender and the new triples and bars come courtesy of LSL.
Other tweaks include a newly sculpted airbox cover that better fits with the Bavarian’s overall design and of course that beauty of a rear seat, complete with integrated LED’s for tail and braking lights. The transformation is tasty and simple, showcasing an already very attractive bike. Although if it were in my garage, I’d opt away from the wheel covers.
Yes, it’s almost time: the world’s biggest motorcycling event is just around the corner!
Registrations for the 2018 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride are now open, and the ride itself will be on Sunday 30 September. As always, it’s for a very good cause—the proceeds are raised for prostate cancer and men’s mental health on behalf of The Movember Foundation.
For 2018, we’re throwing our full support behind our good friends at the DGR. Bike EXIF is now an official partner of the DGR, joining Triumph Motorcycles, Zenith Watches and the moto apparel brands REV’IT! and Hedon Helmets.
We’re also inviting you to join the official Bike EXIF team in this year’s event. We’re pushing hard to raise over $100,000 for the cause, and with the help of all our friends and followers, we reckon we can do it.
Joining Team Bike EXIF also has its perks. The highest fundraiser on our team will win an incredible prize worth $10,000: flights, accommodation, spending money and the usage of a Triumph motorcycle at the 2019 DGR ride of your choice!
That’s right: you can choose anywhere in the world where there is a DGR ride next year, and get the full VIP treatment too.
To help us spread the word, we’ve been joined by some of the biggest names in the custom world.
On Saturday, the Dakar Rally kicks off in Lima, Peru. It’s the 40th edition of the notorious race, and a lot has changed since 1978, when intrepid racers lined in up Paris.
Modern Dakar bikes are lightweight, sophisticated off-roaders, with a maximum capacity of 450cc. But the early days of the rally were dominated by mammoth desert racers—like the mighty BMW R80G/S, which racked up four wins in the 80s.
This immaculate 1982 model is a restomod owned by Mark Johnston, and it’s a spectacular homage to the Dakar-winning days of the Gelände/Straße. Remarkably, it’s only Mark’s second build: we featured his first last year, and when we teased a shot of this R80G/S alongside, readers insisted on seeing more.
Mark lives in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa, but bought the bike blind from a guy upcountry in Pretoria.
“I wasn’t too concerned about the overall condition, as most of it was going to be replaced anyway,” he says. “But the bike turned out to be OK in the end.”
‘OK’ didn’t stop Mark from ripping out the G/S’s motor and shipping it to Volker Schroer in Port Elizabeth. Volker rebuilt it from the ground up, bumping the capacity to 1,000 cc with a big bore kit from Siebenrock. The work included gas flowing the heads, and installing valves suitable for unleaded petrol. The exhaust silencer is from Akrapovič, but the header is custom, courtesy of Scorch Design.
Back home, Mark began transforming the classic Beemer’s chassis. He started with a set of 48mm upside-down WP Suspension forks up front, liberated from a KTM 525 EXC. The forks were also fully rebuilt, with new stanchions and stiffer springs.
They’re hooked up to the bike via a set of custom triples, made by Mark’s go-to guy for machining: Ian Ketterer at BlackSilver Customs. The front wheel is an all-new custom setup, and the front brake caliper was rebuilt and connected to a new master cylinder.
Out back, the swingarm was lengthened by almost two inches, and an offset added so that a 140-section tire could be squeezed in. The rear shock’s a one-off too, built by local suspension guru Martin Paetzold at MP Custom Valve.
The subframe’s another custom piece, built for one and with a non-removable luggage rack. Look further down, and you’ll notice that the subframe support struts also include tiny hooks for securing luggage straps.
For the seat, Mark used the original two-up pan, but cut it shorter and reshaped the back with fiberglass to accommodate the rear fender. He then re-shaped the foam, added a gel pad and sent the seat to Alfin Upholsterers for a fresh cover.
Just in front of it is an HPN rally tank, imported from Germany and painted in a variant of the original Paris Dakar race livery.
The headlight mask is an OEM BMW item (from the original ‘Paris Dakar’ edition of the R80G/S), but revised to work with quick-release straps. Off-road style fenders conclude the bodywork at each end.
Most of those changes are glaringly obvious, but there’s an endless list of subtle mods too. Mark built a new side stand (and side stand mount), relocating it to further back. The foot pegs have been swapped for burly off-road items, mounted on lowering spacers. And the rear brake lever setup has been modded to keep it safe from rocks.
There’s no choke lever up top though—Mark ditched it in favor of small choke pulls on the carbs. He also built custom breathers for the diff and gearbox.
The cockpit’s a combination of original switchgear, a simple Acewell speedo and ProTaper Evo handlebars, attached to custom risers. Also present are foldaway mirrors and a set of Barkbuster hand guards. And both the headlight and spots are LED-equipped.
We can also spot crash bars, a sump guard, and support strut for the front fender. It’s clear that Mark designed this R80G/S to go off-piste, which it already has.
“The bike rides like a dream,” he reports. “With all the changes, you wouldn’t think you’re riding a 37-year-old bike. I put on 4,000 km in no time riding the South African countryside.”
Though it wasn’t Mark’s plan originally, the R80G/S is already sold. And we’re not surprised—even though building bikes is an after-hours endeavor for Mr Johnston, he certainly has the eye, talent and determination to make it work.
The sale also spurred him on to tackle more projects. So he’s officially launched Johnston Moto, with a view to cranking out a couple of builds a year.
Who else is looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next?
The BMW Museum is the first port of call for any petrolhead visiting Munich. But there’s an even more extraordinary collection of machinery just down the road, at the BMW Group Classic headquarters.
Set inside the original Bayerische Motoren Werke factory, BMW Group Classic houses offices, archives, conference rooms and a café. But it’s also home to a small gathering of rare and vintage BMW motorcycles and cars, and a couple of laboratory-level workshops.
Access to this remarkable hoard is by special appointment only—but on this day we had one such appointment. And it was during a behind-the-scenes tour that I stumbled upon this vintage beauty.
To be honest, at first I had no idea what I was looking at. So our guide graciously explained the history of the supercharged 1929 BMW WR 750 Kompressor. Then he threw in a plot twist: this isn’t a restored WR 750, but a complete nuts and bolts replica.
It’s been executed so well, even an expert would find it virtually impossible to tell it apart from the real deal.
The WR stands for Werksrennmotorräder (works race bike), which is exactly what the WR 750 was. It was a technological tour-de-force, built to take on speed records and racing championships. They got the former right; Ernst Jakob Henne set a land speed record of 134.68 mph on a WR 750 in 1929.
The WR 750 had a 750 cc four stroke flat twin with overhead valves, a supercharger wedged between the seat and gearbox, and a single carb. It had no rear suspension, and a leading link front fork with twin leaf spring assemblies. Groundbreaking stuff, back then.
The thing is, an original WR 750 is impossible to come by. Which is why collector, racer and master fabricator Jürgen Schwarzmann decided to build one from scratch.
So he joined forces with friends Alfons Zwick and Erich Frey, and the trio eventually ended up creating a small series of WR 750 replicas (the exact number of which is a closely guarded secret).
Their first challenge was finding a blueprint to work from. Only two of Ernst Henne’s original record-breaking machines still exist: one belongs to BMW, and the other is in the Deutsches Museum.
Both existing bikes are land speed racers, modified for straight-line glory. So they are distinctly different from the road racers that Schwarzmann wanted to replicate.
Bits and pieces from the pre-war race bikes do pop up on the radar from time to time. But they’re rarely for sale, and are a far cry from a complete bike. And documentation is sparse too, even in the BMW Group Classic’s extensive archives.
So the trio’s first task was a virtual puzzle build, documenting everything they could about the WR 750 before they even picked up a spanner. Their primary goal was to recreate the bike as accurately as possible, and to make it fully functional.
Once the build itself was underway, each man had a specific portfolio. Frey is an experienced engine designer; he would measure and sketch up parts from what was available, and machine the motor and gearbox’s casings and internals.
Schwarzmann would handle the chassis, and Zwick would tackle pattern making, molds, cast parts, and the final drive assembly.
Recreating the chassis was never actually part of the plan. The guys had intended to simply replicate the WR 750 motor, then wedge it into a different pre-war BMW frame. But then documentation surfaced indicating the chassis was unique to this bike, and so—for the sake of authenticity—they went all in.
And they really did go deep. Fred Jakobs, the head of the BMW Group Classic archive, gives some insight: “My personal highlight is the perfection in every detail. So you could exchange every part of the replica with an original part, and it fits and it works.”
“There was no compromise. For example, they made their own screws, because in the 1920s they used special screw threads that were normally used in BMW aircraft engine production. This was not necessary, but for me it’s a sign that they strived for one hundred percent perfection.”
Every last detail has been replicated. The unique sump curves forward to trace the fender’s lines. The linked braking system has adjustable bias.
The leather tank strap, the BMW roundels, and even the font used for the numbers stamped into the casings are all straight out of 1929.
BMW themselves supported the project, because, as Jakobs puts it, “We knew about the professional skills of the people involved. And also we knew about their integrity.”
“So there was no doubt that they had no commercial interest and made the bikes only for themselves, and two pieces for the BMW collection.”
It took six years before the guys were able to fire up their first engine, and a total of ten years before their work was done, and a limited series had been built—some mit Kompressor, and some ohne Kompressor.
Schwarzmann himself completed several laps on a Kompressor version at the Nürburgring, taking it easy to preserve the motor.
Motorcycle styling has always been conservative rather than revolutionary. Even the most famous machines from history fit into a very obvious lineage of aesthetic development.
There’s nothing rebellious about early board trackers, BMWs, Brough Superiors, Vincents or Crockers. The engineering might have been exemplary, but the styling was evolutionary.
If you look hard though, there are a handful of early outliers to match later oddballs like BMW’s K1, the Honda DN-01, and the Philippe Starck-designed Aprilia Moto 6.5. And the best of the vintage oddities has got to be the Majestic of the early 1930s.
There are very few of these French machines still in circulation today, and this one here, recently restored by Serge Bueno of L.A.-based Heroes Motors, has got to be the pick of the crop.
The Majestic was designed by Georges Roy, an engineer who disliked tubular frames because he felt they flexed too much. So he created a monocoque chassis using sheet steel, which also encased the drive train.
Introduced at the 1929 Paris Motor Show, the Majestic caused a storm. The Delachanal factory put it into production the next year, but sales were slow—and the story was over by 1933. As with today, it looks like pre-War motorcyclists were resistant to anything outside of contemporary norms.
This 1930 Majestic, from near the start of the production run, has been in Serge Bueno’s family for 30 years. Five months ago he decided to restore it, and began a long process of eight-hour days in the Heroes workshop.
It was difficult enough to rebuild the 500cc Chaise overhead-valve engine, but at least the principles of that motor are conventional. The real test was the rusted-out bodywork, with no OEM parts available and only photographs to act as guides.
The monocoque now looks just as good as it must have done when it left the factory nearly 80 years ago. And adding to the charm is a rare sidecar from the famed French specialist Bernadet.
This appears to a variant of the premium ‘Tourisme Grand Sport’ model, with aerodynamic bodywork weighing a mere 23 kilos (50 pounds) and a comfortable Dunlopillo latex foam seat—a major innovation back in the day.
Motorcycle historians estimate that only about ten Majestics still exist. If you were lucky enough to see the ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibition in 1998 at the Guggenheim Museum, you’ll have seen one of them on display.
If you missed that, head over to the Heroes Motors showroom in L.A. to check out this one. It’ll probably be the only chance you’ll ever get.
It’s tough to get a restomod right. An authentic nuts-and-bolts restoration is more work, but at least you have a blueprint to follow. Knowing how much ‘mod’ to add to the mix—without treading on the spirit of the original—is an art.
Some BMW historians might baulk at the sight of a vintage boxer with even a single mod. But we’re giving Ramon Seiler of Kontrast Kreations ten out of ten for this delightful petrol-blue bobber. Especially since it started out as a pick-n-mix basket case.
Photographer Marc Schneider tells us how bad it was: “This bike started life as a barn find BMW R51/2 with parts from a variety of vintage BMW motorcycles. The tank was from a R50, the gearbox from a R51/3, the ignition case cover was broken, and fins were missing from both cylinders.”
“It was clear to Ramon that the bike needed a full rebuild.”
The bike’s new owner wasn’t keen on returning it to stock, so Ramon had some freedom to reimagine the vintage Beemer. But first, he had some repairing to do.
Luckily, he’s no stranger to old vehicles. The last build we featured from him was a custom BMW, but he spends most of his time restoring classic cars and motorcycles from a workshop in the village of Bonstetten, near Zürich in Switzerland.
He took apart the engine and gearbox, and rebuilt them with new seals. Then he painstakingly soldered and filed the broken case and missing fins, until it was impossible to tell that they’d ever been damaged.
The cylinders got a fresh coat of paint, but the engine cases were left alone—to keep them looking their age. “Ramon wanted a custom rebuild and not a ‘like-factory-new’ restoration,” Marc tells us. “The pedigree of that vintage BMW had to be maintained in every aspect.”
The R51/2 was only produced in 1950 and 1951, so there aren’t many around. And as you’d expect, parts are hard to come by. But since this one was already a mash up of various BMW bits, Ramon had no qualms continuing the theme.
So he sourced some parts from the R51/2’s successor—the R51/3. These included a fuel tank, valve covers and a set of spoked wheels. The bike came with a pair of rare Phono exhausts, so those stayed.
Just about everything on the old boxer needed welding, straightening or general wizardry to get it up to par. The wheels were relaced with new spokes, and repainted in semi-gloss black. A new wiring harness was made up, running close to the frame with neat hose clamps keeping it in check.
Ramon also ditched all the worn-out rubber bits, like the seat and knee pads. He fabbed up a new seat pan to sit on the stock mounts, then made a pair of aluminum pieces for the tank.
Everything was then sent to a local upholsterer to be wrapped in brown leather. The effect is mimicked up top with a pair of Brooks bicycle grips; the throttle and grips both had to be modified to work together.
During the build, Ramon realized that the R51/2’s frame looked neat without the rear fender and the complex set of brackets that holds it. Running the bike fenderless wasn’t an option, so he found a solution that would work with the Beemer’s plunger rear suspension.
A problem arose: the original fender was fixed to the frame, but the new design had to hug the rear tire and travel with it.
Ramon shaped a new fender from aluminum, then attached it to the final drive via a custom-made mount at the back, and to the frame via a steel hinge at the front. Between the hinge and the natural flex of the aluminum, the fender now syncs with the travel of the wheel, without any hassle.
There’s also a custom-made license plate bracket out back, and a Bates-style tail light mounted up top. The tail light came kitted with LEDs out the box, but Ramon was dead set on keeping everything as vintage as possible, so he retro-fitted a 6V bulb.
He’s kept the same philosophy up front. Rather than upgrade the entire cockpit with modern components, the headlight (and the speedo embedded in it) are still original.
“You still advance your ignition timing by hand,” says Marc, “and the speedo needs some love from time to time!”
One thing Ramon did want to change though, was the BMW’s iconic black-with-white-striping paint job. Petrol blue turned out to be the perfect substitute: it’s the least subtle change on the entire build, but it hasn’t dampened the vintage appeal.
“It’s not about making riding or maintenance easier, or getting that ‘factory look’ after hours of sandblasting,” says Marc. “It’s about preserving a vintage pedigree, the story of the bike, and the ingenuity that made BMW motorcycles so special back in the day.”
“It might be a mix of two different BMWs, in a bobber-like package with hipster exhaust wrap. But it still is (and always will be) a barn find—a 1950s vintage bike, with a story yet to tell.”