Successful British company’s unique motorcycles were known as the Gentleman’s MachineIf you’re a British car…
With Bayerische Motoren Werke approaching its 100th anniversary, Hagerty looks back 93 years to pick some of the strongest, most collectible production bikes.
From a collectability standpoint, most countries have their own motorcycle high priests, such as Brough and Vincent in England, MV Agusta and Ducati in Italy, and Harley-Davidson, Indian and Crocker in America. In Germany though, for nearly a century BMW has been the leading brand, through many competitors have come and gone, including DKW, NSU and Münch.
As with automobiles, the most coveted motorcycles are often premium road models or factory racers. For instance, in 2013 Bonhams sold a rare 1939 BMW RS 225 Kompressor (supercharged) racebike for $480,000. Down on terra firma though, production BMWs normally don’t command the prices that more “exotic” hardware from Britain, Italy and America do. This may change in time, particularly in light of BMW broadening the brand with new models, and its participation in World Superbike and the Dakar rally.
Here is a look at six collectible BMW bikes from 1923 to present.
1923 R32 – The Original
The flat-twin was an industrial engine for several years by the time BMW wrapped cycle parts around it. But when the first production motorbike rolled off the assembly line in 1923, few could have predicted this aircraft-inspired design would still be going strong today. Firsts are usually interesting to collectors, and such historically significant firsts are even more so. The 494cc R32 is a usable classic, thanks to front and rear brakes, a three-speed gearbox, shaft drive and good durability. Average prices are between $125,000 and $175,000 today.
1960-69 R69S – Gentleman’s Express
Rated at 42 hp compared to BMW’s more utilitarian 30-hp R60 of the time, the 1960 R69S was akin to a Porsche 356 SC versus the more common 356 C, making it the hotrod BMW of its day. Its tuned 594cc boxer engine sported 9.5:1 pistons, a serious bit of kit for the era. Typically equipped with a leading-link fork to improve functionality with a sidecar, the R69S was outfitted with a traditional telescopic fork for the US market in 1968 and 1969. Today collectors fully appreciate the R69S as a blue chip, and good ones trade for $15,000 to $30,000.
1973-75 R90S – Café Counterpunch
Once the Honda CB750 Four and Kawasaki Z1 grabbed enormous market share, BMW had to do something – but what? The answer was the R90S, the perfect amalgam of its 898cc boxer mill wrapped in exotic café racer bodywork including a minimalist fairing for wind protection. Finished in moody Silver Smoke or Daytona Orange and sporting big Italian Dell’Orto 40mm pumper carbs and dual front discs, the R90S looked right and worked right. It also won the first AMA Superbike race in 1976. Get one today before I beat you to it, at an average price of $13,000.
1980-86 R80G/S – Adventure Hound
BMW is credited with starting the modern adventure-bike segment in 1980 with the R80G/S, a 798cc boxer with an upswept exhaust system, and dirt-oriented suspension and wheels. It was truly an around-the-world traveler. Now the “ADV” market is chockfull of competitors from multiple rivals. As such, the original R80G/S is on my short list. I’m biased though, having toured a fair chunk of the Australian outback on one. Comfort, range and reliability reign in any form of touring, and the R80G/S aces it on dirt roads and pavement. Prices average around $5,000, making the R80G/S a great value.
2008-10 HP2 Sport – Scintillating Sportbike
For those who dismiss boxer BMWs as being un-sporty, a track day on an HP2 Sport will rearrange your thinking. Sold in limited numbers, the 1170cc HP2 Sport is a high-intensity ride festooned with carbon-fiber parts, a quickshifter, and premium Ohlins suspension. The result is a sportbike that runs through the quarter mile at 10.5 sec. and nearly 133 mph. Zap! Time is always the ultimate sorting machine for values, but I suspect in another decade, the HP2 Sport will go from background noise to “Ohmygod” status among BMW devotees. Good ones trade for $13.000 to $19,000 now.
2010-Present S1000RR – Future Classic
The S1000RR’s inline-four engine, chassis and suspension configurations represent a huge break for BMW, but that’s what it took to compete in World Superbike, where the bike has scored numerous race wins. With available traction control, electronically adjustable suspension and heated grips though, the S1000RR appeals to more than just pure sportbike riders. It may take years for BMW’s first modern superbike to advance as a collectible, and earlier benchmarks like the Ducati 916 must first lead the way. If they do, you’ll be glad you bagged a pristine S1000RR today at $8,000 and up.