It’s not uncommon for critics of custom motorcycles to dismiss the efforts of their builders as having taken the holy grail of the original factory design and messed with it to make it worse. Could it be that all the hard work and painstaking research originally done by the company engineers has been lost, replaced by some flash-in-the pan current custom trends or fleeting fashions?
The cafe racer trend of the past 15 years is possibly a testament to that. But every now and then you’ll see a custom bike or restomod that manages to get so much right, it somehow looks like it came straight from the factory back in the day.
There’s little doubt that the R 60 you see here – freshly rolled out of the doors of MotoRRetro’s custom design and restoration shop located in Sydney’s north west – is one of those bikes. But what’s really going to drop your jaw is the fact that it’s been assembled not only from the remains of a late-model plunger R60 from 1960, but from a slew of old Beemers including an R 60/5 form the ’70s, an R 100, and even a K-series “Flying Brick” from the 1980s.
After attending a private sale for a local BMW motorcycle business named “Motohansa”, MotoRRetro’s Vaughan Ryan and Georgio Rimi arrived back at their shop with more than a few tasty Motorrad spares in their possession. “We didn’t hold back,” says Vaughan, with a pleased look on his face.
“We ended up with at least five or six pallets of old BMW bike parts, all wrapped in plastic. Frames. Engines. Tanks. Wheels. Fairings. You name it.” The parts sat around gathering dust while the two got on with their regular business of coachbuilding and classic car restoration, But then came COVID and with it a whole bunch of free time that they – along with the rest of the world – just weren’t expecting.
So with no place in particular to go, Vaughan and Georgio found themselves alone in the shop looking for some trouble they could get themselves into. “Our attention turned to the pallets from the auction, and the next thing we knew we were throwing around some ideas for a bobber-style restomod with a single seat, a plunger rear and handmade fenders.”
Tearing the plastic off the parts, they were met with a veritable ton of bits from the ’60s, ’70s and even the ’80s. “Somehow we settled on a 1960s frame, engine, and swing arm, some 1970s snowflake wheels and a front-end from an early K series bike from the 1980s.”
While most of us would be out of our depth completing a pro restoration on an old bike with all-matching numbers, Vaughan and Georgio are more than a little used to making something out of nothing… or something out of everything as the case may be.
“When you have to make your own classic car components out of thin air thanks to rust and factory parts that haven’t been available in 30 years, you get used to seeing the potential in bits that others might disregard as scrap.”
Yes, it needed pretty much everything done to it, but while they were at it, their blank sheet of paper approach also afforded them the option to upgrade. “For instance, we converted the cylinder heads to twin plug items.”
They also replaced the original four speed box with a five cogger, but they put it all into a smooth case gearbox, gaining some additional clearance between the rear wheel and swing arm to allow the fitment of wider tyres. ”Next, the engine mounts were modified to take a later 600 cc block that was in turn bored out to accept a 1000 cc crank, barrels and heads.”
Then their attention turned to the wheels. With the time to spare and then some, they painstakingly polished and painted those now infamous snowflake rims. Subject to a wide-ranging recall in the late 1970s due to cracks that started to appear on some variants, most were replaced with an updated, and strengthened design.
“Following that, we lightened and gusseted the frame to increase its stiffness. There was also the custom-made top triple clamp and headlight bucket ears and the MZ headlight bucket itself was also modified. As with most of our bikes, there’s also many smaller custom parts that mostly go unnoticed unless you really get down on your hands and knees.”
With coachbuilding a real sweet spot for MotoRRetro, you’d expect the sheet metal work on the bike to be really up to scratch, and by any measure it doesn’t disappoint. Yes, the black-on-black paintwork can make it a little hard to see, but pay close attention to the bike’s front and rear guards.
Not only are they both handmade and immaculately formed, but Vaughan added some nice little reliefs on the fenders, giving the bike a subtle art deco vibe that manages to blend its 1960s roots with BMW’s original Motorrad designs like the stunning R32 from 1929. The tank met with a similar fate, with the boys removing the tool storage and making the cap a flush fit.
The final leg of the build saw the boys craft some bespoke handlebars. The retro-looking All State rubber was levered on and they adapted some Brembo K 100 stoppers to the front snowflake using custom disc adaptors, which was also the last of the metalworking the bike needed. Oh, and the rear drum is pretty much original.
The finishing touches included the fitment of Ikon rear shocks and front springs, some Brembo levers, and wiring the bike up with fresh cabling and some top shelf MotoGadget electronics, switches and front indicators.
Impressively, the rear indicators are MotoRRetro’s own design. Lastly came those lovely Baumm mirrors and their unique placement on either side of the headlight.
There’s no doubt the panniers will split the crowd; the fact that they are white means that they stand out like a polar bear in a coal mine. But their classic 1950s lines and the way they fit so nicely around the plungers really pleases the eye. And the decision not to paint them black means that they become a feature rather than just disappearing into the rest of the bike’s uber schwartz-ness.
Also note the repetition of contrasts on the bike like the polished aluminium parts and the bare metal on the rear fender. Still don’t like them? You’ll be happy to hear that they are easily removable, then. And speaking of inky blackness, the bike’s deeper-than-deep gloss black paint was highlighted not with BMW’s usual twin white stripes, but with a white and ochre gold design that also features a section of bare metal covered only by a gloss clear coat.
With the bike ready for its close-up, Vaughan makes an interesting final observation. “You know,” he says with a wry smile on his face, “I was looking at the pallets again the other day and I reckon there might be another bike or two left in those old parts…”
Watch this space for a follow-up bike should there ever be another COVID lockdown in Sydney.
Andrew was born and raised in Australia on a diet of CARtoons comics, farm bikes and far too many Mad Max movies. In 2009 he rolled his sleeves up and spent the next 10 years turning an anonymous Squarespace website into the popular Pipeburn.com custom bike blog. He now owns and operates Machines That Dream P/L, a Sydney-based Auto and Moto Media company. Look out for his new coffee table book, 'The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride - A Decade of Dapper' available on Amazon now
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