BMW’s and ex-girlfriends

BMW’s and ex-girlfriends

Bit more Wallop was the article title in Two Wheels magazine in 1971, of course the new R75/5 was coming out and all the short wheelbase /5 series were replacing the earlier staid /2 series these new versions were all electric start and the motor was effectively flipped as the camshaft was fitted below the crank rather than above. But all this had happened well after my first dabbling into that brand because in 1969 I had partially owned a 1964 ex police R60/2 that was stuffed beside a lean-to garage in Sparks ave Fairfield, it had a broken alloy kickstarter lever and was disbanded by its owner. Charlie Letch m/cycles in Brunswick bought dozens of these ex-police BMW’s at government auctions when the police switched to Triumphs so I went to procure a lever from him except the price was over a months pay for me at that time, from this point I hade learned BMW”s were made for people that hade huge wallets. While working at my apprenticeship an old copper Ray Dowling that worked in retirement serving petrol and after many years of not owning a bike, (his last being a WLA Harley outfit) decided a suitable replacement would be a R75/5 and as he had never ridden a solo. He asked me to pick it up from the LF Pratt the BMW agents in Elizabeth st Melb, wow it was a Friday night and Ray drove me into the city in his 1959 3.4 Jaguar  his BM was glistening in the showroom Ray paid and I got the keys, the first brand new machine I had ever ridden, it was good and quite novel with electric start. 


A job at Vic Motorcycle Wreckers had the proprietor Brian Cripps trying to sway me from Triumphs as he loved a R50/1 plunger model that he would start by hand and let it idle at about 250rpm, he then bought in a R75/5 with a noisy timing chain that I fixed and he rode that for some time but still not enough cajoeling to make me buy one. Some years passed before I “dipped my toe” in BM ownership again about 1984 a customer told me of a priest in Glenroy that owned a R60/2 that he had got to old to ride I went and relieved the Padre of it and it was a ex-police version it was fairly average in condition and mundane in performance, with old leather saddle bags that sagged which reminded me of its previous owners face. I wanted more power so a R69 came along the “hot shot” variant of the R60/2 but just a short run variant till the R69S was released, the R69 was rare and a guy kept hassling me to sell it which I decided I would as it has a noisy bottom end and these roller bearing versions are plenty expensive to repair, still I decided a Steib sidecar and a outfit ratio diff would fit the R60/2 and I could cart my missus around Tassie. Well it did this and it was held on full throttle for many miles and it was slow, very slow having difficulty maintaining highway speed, I made my mind up at this point to buy the “holy grail” R69S was the BM to have. Meanwhile the R60/2 blew up the outfit ratio diff at a rally in Bright had me riding a loaned K100 (worse bike I have ever ridden to this day)back to Melbourne in the wee hours for my solo ratio diff after returning to Bright the diff was fitted and that ratio was perfect for it and would maintain highway speed.


I had a trip to USA in the eighties and I went to Bob O”Dell’s BMW St Louis and bought a R69S with a 6 gallon tank and wide touring seat, it was in perfect condition except for a lightened aluminium flywheel (not for a sidecar) when it arrived I cut the sidecar mounts off the right of the frame and welded them on the left and changed out the flywheel for a original heavy version and lastly fitted the Steib. Then gleefully sold my R60/2 which I was soon to regret, sure everyone told me the R69S was the ultimate BMW capable of 120 mph autobahn blasting, full throttle would not have any effect on performance or reliability, well in fact it was vibratery (not the flywheel) not as much torque as the R60 and in all very disappointing, I mucked around with it awhile and then sold it, hence regretting selling the R60/2. 

A trip to Tassie again in 1983 with a classic Club group and me on a Ducati 750 GT made me reconsider BMW”s about four of the ten were on them, the others were a Triumph Thunderbird outfit,a Honda Goldwing, a Laverda, a Kawasaki 1300, and a Yamaha FJ 1200, the boxers ate up the miles, never leaked or did anything, I decided to buy a new boxer then and there.

I sold the Ducati and went down to Peter Menere”s BMW who in those days sold bikes as well as cars I confidently walked in and asked to buy a BMW R100RS problem was this was 1984 and those boxers were discontinued and the salesman told me the K series were the way to go, YUK I hated them, anyway the other choice was a R80 RT which was also YUK, despondently I noticed a R100RS in the corner and asked about it and was told it was a new R100RSR model that was a new 1982 model and not for sale. Hmm,I asked the salesman to inquire with the boss if he would sell it, remarkably he said yes except it was $1000 dearer than the contemporary K model, I said “wrap it up” and I took it home, my first new bike ever.

This R100RSR had the works as I also ordered the Krauser bags it was a dream to ride and quite as well and I rode it to Tassie later that year and except for a flat tyre it went well unfortunately about 3000 klms it developed a crack noise that resonated through the right footrest, annoyingly I returned it under warranty and they replaced drive shaft, checked the diff and gearbox but found nothing. This slowly had a psychological effect on me and I didn’t trust it this continued till I sold it to my ex-apprentice Owen  in 1991 at 16,000klms I then bought a new Triumph Trophy 1200 and forgot about my boxer days

BMW’s of course continued and got taller and even more uglier, and I was repulsed by them every year to this day. 

In 2016 my son Heath decided he wanted a BMW car 318i of the 2006 vintage which after telling him to buy a Toyota he told me BMW’s were much better, really I rued the day and we went to Seaford and he bought it, 245,000 klms $7,800 and a RWC it made it home but the next day the crank angle sensor failed, what a shit of a job that was then rear wheel bearings and universal joints, coil over packs, and cat sensors had the engine management light on weekly if not daily, the 750ml of oil was monotonous weekly as well, the car was doing 1200 klm a week and I worked on it solidly on the weekends. The good thing was the workshop manager at Northern BMW became a good friend as still is till this day, my son sold the BMW for $3,500 with a RWC about 14 months later for a Toyota 86 sports car we still look at the BMW error codes that cropped up in that time, what a shit of a car definitely poor mans Mercedes. 


Anyway back to bikes my R100RSR came back in 2016 for a RWC when it was old enough for red plates and Owen still owned it with 94,000 klms it was in good nick and I made a offer which he scoffed at, time passed and I eventually done a deal that involved swapping Indian”s, money and my old BMW, my son always said he wished I never sold it years before (he wasn’t born then) so I gave it to him but it is 2 years for him till he can ride it as he is limited to 650cc on LAMS rules here in Victoria so I’m riding the boxer with my my name still in the service books, you know what they say about going out with old girlfriends or buying your old motorcycles back, don’t, as they are never the same as you first remembered them.


Phil Pilgrim 2019