Classics never die, BMW R 7.
Things of quality have no fear of time. This saying rings true to the story behind the infamous BMW R 7. After over seventy years languishing in storage the R 7 was restored to its former glory. Although the motorcycle, manufactured in 1934, was only ever a prototype and never went into production it is one of the most important, innovative and visually stunning motorcycles ever produced.
In BMW’s internal model designation it was referred to as R 205 and in some post war publications, including those from BMW themselves, it is referred to as a prototype R 17 or R 5. In fact the R 7 was always a distinct model that was the work of BMW motorcycle engineer, Alfred Böning.
The 1930s was a time of engagement with the fabulous and expressive world of Art Deco. The integrated design of the R 7 with its extravagantly valanced mudguards, clean flowing lines and extensive use of chrome and steel highlights, perfectly encapsulated this era. It was a motorcycle like no other that had preceded it or, in many ways, has been produced since.
The R 7 was a stunning motorcycle but it was deemed too heavy and expensive to go into production, so BMW changed their direction to produce more sporting models. However, design features and cues of the R 7 can be seen in the R 17 (also a very expensive model with very limited sales success) and the R 5. This was a motorcycle that had it been produced would have been aimed at the premium end of the market. A gentleman’s express.
The direction of BMW had changed and war was approaching. The R 7 was put in a box and into storage after some usable parts were stripped and used in other projects. For unfathomable reasons that was the fate of the R 7 until June 2005, when the box was opened. Inside, the R 7 was 70% complete, but its condition was not good.
Many parts had been severely damaged by rust and a ruptured battery had also caused some serious corrosion problems. This would be a long-term and expensive exercise, but BMW Mobile Tradition (now BMW Classic) was now in a position to give the go ahead for the restoration.
Restored to glory
The task was handed over to various specialists and BMW workshops. Hans Keckeisen was in charge of the bodywork and specialist vintage Boxer engine expert; Armin Frey worked on restoring the priceless motor. The bike was stripped down to see what was usable and what would have to be remade. The task was made slightly easier when the original design drawings were discovered in the BMW archives.
The engine was badly corroded and parts needed to be found from various sources. This was not your backyard restoration; the full financial and resources backing of BMW were called into play. The specialist skills of Hans Keckeisen were stretched to the limit. All of the team worked with a passion to have this unique motorcycle on the road in the same condition as when Alfred Böning pushed it out of the Munich workshop in the middle of the 1930s.
With parts found, parts re-built, lustrous black paint; (of course with the signature BMW pin-strips applied) it all came together in 2008 when the R 7 was finally returned to glory. Hans Keckeisen had the honour of kicking the R 7 into life for the first time in seventy years. Pushed into gear he headed out on roads of Bavaria. The bike performed flawlessly and gave Hans a glimpse of what BMW Motorrad had in mind toward the end of the 1930s.
Since then the R 7 has been seen in the BMW Museum in Munich, BMW Motorrad Days and was a standout amongst some of the world’s most beautiful cars and motorcycles at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in Italy.