Bike of the Month

March 2021

1951 BMW R50/2

By Jim Coe

While living in Las Vegas in 2006, I got a call from the president of the local Studebaker club. He had been in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. During conversations with his male nurse, vintage cars and motorcycles came up. The nurse told him he had an old BMW and was interested in talking to someone about the AMCA. His number was given to me, so I had to call him.

My BMW knowledge was very limited, as I had never even sat on one prior to this. His story was he that he came across the BMW  while stationed in Turkey waiting to retire from the Air Force. He bought it, had it restored in Ankara, Turkey, and shipped it back to Idaho via our tax dollars. 


While talking we discovered we lived about 2 miles apart. He said his wife hated the bike and he wanted to sell it so he could start on a home addition. We got together and I drove it around the block. Needless to say, I bought it and rode it home .

 

This was my introduction to "Turk Knowledgy". It had many problems, the generator was a Lucas, not the Bosch, and it never worked. The transmission gears were welded as well as the final drive pinion. Most problems have been redone and it is now a reliable machine.


As far as BMW history , the Allies did not let the Germans build single cylinder motorcycles until 1948. In 1950 they were allowed to build  twin cylinder bikes. BMWs motorcycle plant had been in Eisenach, now in Russian hands, they had to start over. They  reversed engineered their prewar 500cc, thus the /2 designation. It is a twin cam engine with a timing chain  tension-ed by the generator. In 1951 they went to a single cam with a gear drive making this basically a 1 year only model . Production was about 5000. The transmission is a 4 speed with a foot shift and a hand shift. Rumor was they didn't want to discourage the old timers who were used to their earlier hand shift models.


Its hard to track its traveling history, but it was shipped to a distributor in September 1950 in Frankfurt, Germany. I did get the registration book from Turkey and it was there from 1974 until it was shipped to the U.S. in 2004. The years in between will remain a mystery, as with most bikes we come across.