1971 BMW R75 Motorcycle
Cafe Racer Restoration Project
As purchased on December 27th, 2010 in California.
Finished May 14th, 2013
I have always wanted to own a vintage motorcycle and after having such a great experience restoring my 1965 Porsche 356, I went on the hunt for a project bike. I have been following the new series on television called Cafe Racer and really fell in love with these modified bikes.
In 1923, BMW produced their very first motorcycle the R32.
Once I decided on the style of bike I wanted, I did some further research and had to decide on what brand. It only made sense to go with a BMW since they are also German engineered and their heritage runs very deep. I came up with the concept of making a "Sister" bike to my Porsche 356. We would use the same paint scheme and carry some of the same design cues over to the bike that we put into the car. How cool would it be to not only have a vintage Porsche Outlaw but also a matching BMW Cafe Racer in the garage? There are also some very unique engineering similarities with these two forms of transportation. They are both air cooled motors and have a similar opposing cylinder setup. The BMW is known as a Boxer type motor and they get their name because each pair of pistons moves simultaneously in and out rather than alternately, like boxers showing they are ready by clashing their gloved fists against each other before a fight.
The next part of the process was to find a competent builder and I was very lucky to stumble across Josh Withers. A simple search on the internet brought me to the magnificent BMW Cafe Racer that he designed and built several years back. A quick call to him asking if he would be interested in doing a similar design for me is all it took. We were on the hunt for donor bikes and found two of them within a couple weeks time. We are going to use Josh's previous ideas as the cornerstone for my build but we are going to incorporate unique elements into my bike that will make it unique and my own.
Josh Wither's 1973 BMW Cafe Racer.
CLICK HERE to see the BMW and the Porsche featured on The Vintagent!
CLICK HERE to see 6 Minute Video of Josh and the bike in a Petrolicious Featured Video
CLICK HERE to see Video of Josh's Photography of my Bike
CLICK HERE to see the bike featured on Road and Track
CLICK HERE for article about Josh's Bike in Motorcycle Classics
CLICK HERE for Josh's Blog "Beemers and Bits" Documenting my Restoration from his View
CLICK HERE for the Electrical System on my Bike being Turned on for the First Time, March 12, 2013
CLICK HERE for First Time Ignition, April 19, 2013
CLICK HERE to see my First Ride on the Bike, Down Pacific Coast Highway, June 15, 2013
CLICK HERE to see my bike featured on Pipeburn
CLICK HERE to see my bike featured on Biker Hotline
CLICK HERE to see my bike featured in BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Magazine
CLICK HERE to see my bike featured in BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Online Magazine
CLICK HERE to see my bike featured on the Petrolicious Website
CLICK HERE to see my bike featured on the Iron Trader News Website
CLICK HERE to get Desktop Wallpaper Image of the bike provided by Petrolicious
Thanks for your interest in my Cafe Racer,
Goal for the Build:
To create a "Sister" companion bike to my Porsche 356. To design and modify the bike in a classic one-off Cafe Racer theme.
Original BMW Specifications:
Model: BMW R 75/5
Date Manufacturing Complete: November 1971
Displacement: 745 ccm (45.46 cubic inches)
Engine Type: Two Cylinder Boxer, Four Stroke
Power: 50 HP at 6200RPM
Top Speed: 175 km/m (108.7 mph)
Bore and Stroke: 82.0 x 70.6 mm (3.2 x 2.8 inches)
Valves per Cylinder: 2
Fuel Control: OHV
Cooling System: Air
Transmission Type: Shaft drive (cardan)
Original Selling Price: $1848 U.S. Dollars
Weight including oil and gas: 227.0 kg (499.4 pounds)
Fuel Capacity: 24 liters (6.34 gallons)
Performance Upgrades to Stock Boxer Motor:
Performance Upgrades to Brakes, Suspension, Wheels and Tires:
Upgraded 4-Speed Stock Gearbox to 5-Speed
Restorer / Builder:
Photographic Timeline of the Restoration Process
As we purchased the original bike. This is the foundation bike for the build, we also have a parts bike that we will be cannibalizing along the way.
The bike as it arrived at Josh's shop.
As you can see the old girl needs some work but it is a pretty complete bike.
Side profile, a perfect platform for our Cafe Racer.
Dust serves as a scratch pad for now, safe and sound in Josh's garage.
Here is a picture of the "Parts Bike", with the previous proud owner Jim Fixel. We will source any additional parts we need for our build from this bike.
Josh had some time to strip the bike down for a better look, nice canvas for us to work from. This bike is not titled right now so we are keeping it looking as much like a bike until that process is finished.
Ready to get titled, it does not get any lighter than this.
One of my favorite features of these BMW motorcycles is this Speedometer-Tach combination dial set into the headlight housing. Only 87,454 miles on the odometer, that is a third of the way to the moon. We will get her back to her former glory soon enough.
Josh did a down and dirty mockup of the bike with some of the fiberglass parts. This is just a test tank, we will have a Toaster type tank that is in wonderful condition that we will be using on the bike. Our Cafe Racer is starting to take shape. We are ordering many parts.
Another more accurate mockup, Josh photoshopped some of the colors and the stripes to give us a better idea as to the end result.
The old girl is all stripped down and naked.
We have two frames to take in and check for alignment, the black frame matches the motor and it turned out to be straight, so we have our frame.
We have to do some reinforcing of the frame before powdercoating, as you can see we have some integrity issues that will be completely addressed.
Did some welding reinforcement to the frame before powder coating.
Received the Speedo back from Palo Alto, looks amazing with the new white face, they restored it inside and out just like on my Porsche. UPM on the tack is Umdrehung Pro Minute, German for revolutions per minute (RPM).
We are going to adopt the BMW R12 exhaust from the early '40s for our build.
Josh is mocking up the fiberglass seat pan, it has shipped off to Autos International for upholstery. They will use my Porsche interior as a reference for what to do with the bike.
Josh found a really cool original 1960's WIPAC British turn signal in the original box. We are going to use it as our tail light keeping with the whole Cafe Racer mentality. Looks great.
All of the parts are ready for powder coating, in fact we are having them liquid coated in silver, the wheel hubs will be white.
We got the R12 exhaust back from JetHot after they coated it, you need to put your sunglasses on in order to view it! Now we have no worries about heat discoloration!
Josh used a rub paint technique that works amazing. He used 1200 degree engine paint and rubbed it into the surface of the metal with a cloth.
Agustin at Autos International just finished my custom leather seat, it matches the Porsche interior perfectly and it looks amazing. If you have any custom leatherwork that needs to be done, they are the best!
Just received the heads back from vapor blasting, amazing to have these old parts look brand new. Now they look great next to our Siebenrock 1000cc cylinders.
First parts arriving back from the liquid coaters.
Polished heads and vapor blasted cylinders. What a spectacular set of jugs.
New I.D. badge stamped onto frame.
Some new wiring and lenses for the indicators.
New Morad Akront rims newly laced and a little advertisement for the vendor that did it.
Good look at how the rear of the bike is coming together, that damn mock-up tire in this picture sure is low on tread.
We want a beefy race stripe to encompass the gas filler completely, the stripe will be down the tank and down the rear tail of the bike. The stripe will be too wide for front fender so the entire front fender will be white, we think it will be something different.
Josh is completely restoring the original Bing carburetors. Ultrasonic clean them, vapor blast them and use a rebuild kit to make them like new.
Dave Gardner from Recommended Service in the Bay Area completely rebuilt the motor from the ground up.
The 1000cc power plant is finally at home in the frame.
A picture of Josh in his natural habitat, his garage where he is restoring my bike. The look of pride on his face is well deserved.
Headers and exhaust in place.
Tins are finally back from paint and assembly will start this weekend. Classic Porsche K45-286 Silver looks perfect on the German BMW bike.
Wiring is starting, complete new wiring harness throughout.
Josh cannot help himself but to sit on the old girl.
Sweet tail, love the way the jugs stick out from the sides of the bike, very unique look for all air cooled BMW bikes.
Wiring and final assembly started.
Who likes custom brake and throttle cables?
Side shot. First time bike has been out in the light of day.
Hand polished gas cap installed.
Getting ready to fire the old girl up.
White grips may not be too practical, but they look wonderful, I bought extra pairs in case they get dirty.
Josh is out and about on the bike, adjusting and tuning.
Photo shoot in Josh's studio, more pictures to come.
The old girl stretching her legs on Pacific Coast Highway. The bike was a basket case and had no chance at the road, now it is back on the road in glorious style.
Josh carving up the hills.
Photo opportunities abound.
Meeting Josh and seeing the bike for the first time, mission accomplished.
One of the last times the two bikes will be photographed together.
Stopped for a quick bite to eat on our ride, I was too excited to eat and could not wait to get back on the old girl.
Had the pleasure of stopping by Deus Motorcycles with Josh, the manager heard us pull up and snapped this Instragram.
Josh took the bike into his photography studio some weeks ago and surprised me with these. As you can see he cannot only build an amazing bike, but he can also capture his creations with a camera.
Check out the odometer on the day of the shoot, 72 miles, the same year as the bike, a coincidence, I think not.
Could not be happier. We were just told the bike made the front cover of BMW Owners of American magazine.
Love the stance.
The German Iron Cross covers are featured on the bike as they are featured on the car.
One of my favorite shots of Josh's blue BMW is this overhead view and he did one for me for my bike.
The bike will never be in as good condition as it was on this date.
That is a wrap, the bike is now complete and I hope to enjoy it for many years to come. Thanks to everyone for being so kind in following our antics. The biggest thanks goes out to Josh Withers for spending 29 months of his life making this creation for me.
Bike loading on truck for North Dakota.
Josh the man.
Josh letting the bike go and pondering his next BMW project.
May not be the biggest garage, but what is inside that counts.
Nearly 6 years in the making for both vehicles.
Now it is about the open road.
The bike and the car are featured in The Vintagent. Junkyard photographs courtesy of Kevin Cederstrom.
Saved from the junkyard.
I am very proud of our 6 year quest to get these vehicles together.
Anne-Louise Felstead Original Artwork showing my R75 at Le Mans, Circa 1970's
Restoration Resources / Vendors for our Build
Fiberglass Specialties (BoxerCafe.com) Craig Schmidt loves all things Cafe and German
Bob's BMW (Headers and other parts)
Hucky's Spare Parts and Repro (Perfect Source for Hard to Find Parts)
Max BMW Motorcycles (Hundreds of parts for an R75)
Old Timer Garage (R15 Exhaust and More)
Retro Cycle (License Plate Bracket)
Lick's Cycles (Tail Lights)
Eurotech Motorsports (Billet Fork Brace and Cylindersand Pistons)
Ted Porter's Beemer Shop
Davida Products U.K. (Bought my handmade Classic Jet helmet, Halcyon Goggles and Face Mask from them)
Friends and Related Websites:
Kevin Cederstrom Photography
Lauren Devon Photography
Kevin Vu Photography
Josh Sanseri Photography
Official BMW Website
5 United Classic BMW Club Describing Unique Characteristics of a /5
CLICK HERE to view a superb video of a woman on a BMW called "Shutter Speed".
CLICK HERE to view a superb video about the 1970 R75/5 by my friends at Clymer Publications (www.clymer.com).
Historic BMW Photographs
Famous BMW Bikes
Ernst Henne in 1937 set the land speed record of 173.7mph with his 500cc BMW. This record held for 14 years.
The Cafe Racer movement flourished at the Ace Cafe in London England in the 50's and 60's. Everyone was attempting to do "The Ton" or 100mph.
Mystery woman on a vintage BMW. Who is she? Where is she? What year was it? Does not really matter.
Marianne Weber in 1952 speed testing the R68. In my opinion the coolest photograph of a woman on a bike in the world.
Dane Rowe was part of a husband and wife team back in the 60's and 70's, probably the most elegant sidecar monkey ever.
Rody Rodenberg's 1939 R51RS sold in January 2011 for $130,000. Documented race heritage at Indianapolis and Daytona and the only unrestored pre-War "Rennsport" in existence. The bottom picture shows Rody before a race. He kept the bike for over 50 years before selling it in 1993.
The 1934 BMW R7 Prototype bike. Locked away in a crate for 70 years has been brought back to life. WWII ended the bikes chances at production but what an art deco piece of motorcycle history.
Visitors since June, 2012:
Copyright Note: The restoration photographs of the Balkowitsch 356 are owned by Josh Withers. It was his time, energy and camera that took them. The other photographs provided above are for informational purposes only and they are the property of their respective owners.