BMW factory-option VDO tachometer
1959 BMW R69
Frame no. 654217
Engine no. 654217
BMW built a deserved reputation post-1936 for silky-smooth and refined touring motorcycles, when they completely redesigning their written-in-stone, flat-twin powerplant. The new engine and gearbox of the R5 model was visibly more modern and simpler in appearance, and employed chains within the timing chest, supplanting rather noisy straight-cut gears. The new range also had reasonable brakes, a new telescopic fork, and a lightweight, all-welded frame made from expensive oval tubing. Postwar, the model range was rapidly improved, and a new sporting BMW debuted with performance hinting at BMWs incredible success on the worlds racetracks, pre- and post-war. The R68 was the envy-machine of the world, unrivalled in its ability to swallow miles quickly and comfortably, in complete confidence of the mounts reliability.
A new range was introduced in 1955; most visibly changed was the use of Earles front forks. Invented in 1951 by Englishman Ernie Earles at his two-man Elms Metals workshop, Earles sought to solve a few problems of telescopic forks, notably the tendency to dive under braking and a lack of lateral stiffness when cornering hard, especially with a sidecar attached to the bike. Leading Link forks are as old as motorcycling, but prior to 1951 they had all been of the short variety, which had light weight but were inherently limited in travel. Earles long leading link gave as much vertical movement as telescopic forks, with no tendency to dive, and tremendous rigidity against side forces. Earles made a few specials using aluminum versions of his forks on various racers, and MV Agusta became the first to use his design on their Works racers in 52. BMW followed in 53 with their tour de force Rennsport Works racers, which had great success on the track, although slightly overshadowed by the dohc 4-cylinder MVs. In 1955, BMW made plain their faith in the Earles design, and standardized the fork on all models the distinctive look of the swinging-arm front fork became the hallmark of 1955-69 BMW motorcycles.
The R69 was introduced in 1955, it was truly a ne plus ultra motorcycle; there was simply no other two-wheeler on the road which could compare, from any other manufacturer in Europe, England, or the USA. With a totally enclosed transmission including shaft drive, and exceptional casting and build quality, it was never questioned that the R69 (hot 600) would not only cruise comfortably down the freeway at 90mph plus, it would also stop more quickly than other any large-capacity machine, and at the end of the journey, not a drop of oil would be shed in the driveway or hotel forecourt.
The mid-1950s was a difficult time for motorcycles, as cheap cars combined with a general increase in prosperity meant that two wheels were no longer needed for transportation, and sales of all motorcycles plummeted towards the end of the decade. Many illustrious names faltered or fell during this period, and most European factories had pulled their teams out of Grand Prix racing by 1957, due to financial constraints. Shades of the present! Thus sales figures of the R69 during its 5-year production are shockingly small; only 2,819 of BMWs top-tier sports machine left the factory before the R69 was updated into the R69S in 1960. By contrast, as motorcycles assumed a new role as pleasure devices in the 1960s, sales increased again, and 11,417 R69Ss rolled out in the following 9 years.
The BMW R69 was one of the most expensive motorcycles available in 1955, but owners were not content merely to own such an enviable machine they needed to spend yet more on accessories! Thus, specialist suppliers with names like Hoske, Hella, Heinrich, and Meier offered spotlamp mirrors, large capacity tanks, fairings, and saddles. If one was feeling really flush, the factory itself offered a long list of extras, such as tachometers, saddlebags, and sidecars.
This 1959 R69 is from the last full year of production of the model. A full restoration by a marque specialist was completed in March 2009 on a matching-numbers machine; the motorcycle is very nearly perfect, and features a super rare BMW factory-option VDO tachometer driven from the timing chest, and a large-capacity Hoske Rennsport tank complete with oversize badges. The owner advises a light service (oil change and tappet adjustment) after an initial break-in of 700 miles. And then, the world is your oyster.
- The California title on this motorcycle is in transit and will be available shortly after the sale.
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