c.1938 BMW R51 Twin Cam Racer
Lot 396
c.1938 BMW R51 Twin Cam Racer
US$ 60,000 - 90,000
£36,000 - 53,000
Lot Details
c.1938 BMW R51 Twin Cam Racer
For the first 15 years of its existence, the BMW motorcycle range was not considered to be at the forefront of suspension technology or exemplars of fine handling characteristics, relying on rigid rear frames and leaf-strung, short-link forks up front. In racing as on the road, BMWs always held esteem for the quality of their built, their elegant lines, and their luxuriously smooth ride from perfectly balanced flat-twin engines. BMW's reputation changed dramatically in 1935 with the introduction of the world's first 'modern' telescopic fork on the R5 model, a radical new motorcycle which launched the factory into the modern era. The engine used quiet timing chains to spin twin camshafts on the short-stroke motor, which had in previous models been a noisy gear drive with a rather agricultural note. The new four-speed gearbox incorporated a foot shift, and most significantly, the frame, while still rigid at the rear, was welded up from lightweight, tapered tubing. The overall effect of these changes was a model which was lighter, more nimble, and faster, with excellent handling and comfort, thanks to the new teleforks.

BMW went one better in 1938 with the introduction of their first fully-sprung model, the R51, which kept nearly all the characteristics of the R5, plus the addition of an undamped 'plunger' suspension at the rear. BMW had built a truly sporting motorcycle with a chassis on par with the best in the world, and their racing 'Kompressor' models won the World Championship that year. Naturally, owners with racing pretensions set about tuning their R51s, which proved fast and reliable privateer racers.

This 1938 BMW R51 is an example of such an enthusiast-built racing machine, emulating its Rennsport cousins with racing fuel tank, shortened mudguards, full-width racing wheel hubs front and rear, tapered megaphone exhausts, aluminum wheel rims, rearset foot controls, and a Schorsch Meier racing seat for 'getting down to it'. The engine on this machine was fully rebuilt in 2003 by Chris Hodgson of San Jose BMW.

Footnotes

  • Sold on a Bill of Sale
Auction information

This auction is now finished.

If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please email us at motors.us@bonhams.com or request a complimentary motorcycle appraisal.

If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins & Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, and Wine & Whisky:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first $100,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from $100,001 to $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price
12% on the excess over $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. A processing fee will be assessed on any returned checks. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Motor Cars (US)
    Auction Administration - Motorcycles
    Bonhams
    Work
    Work +1 415 391 4000
    FaxFax: +1 415 391 4040
  2. Nick Smith
    Specialist - Motorcycles
    Bonhams
    Work
    7601 W. Sunset Boulevard
    Los Angeles, United States 90046
    Work +1 323 436 5470
    FaxFax: +1 323 850 5843