CW Garage: Carl Best's 1965 BMW R96S - First Look

The studly enamellist.

CW Garage: Carl Best

My 1965 BMW R69S was purchased in 1989 as a collection of parts for the total cost of $1200 and a "Ducks Unlimited" commemorative 12-gauge shotgun. The seller had purchased it with the intention of using the engine in an ultralight aircraft he was building. He decided to use an old R75/5 engine instead when he learned that the R69S was a collector's item.

He had gotten my name and phone number from a mutual friend who knew I was into old bikes (I didn't really like /2 BMWs very much; I was more of a British motorcycle enthusiast), and called me up one evening to ask if I was interested in a basket-case R69S and miscellaneous parts. I went to look at the collection of junk, accompanied by a good friend who owns a number of BMWs, including several pre-/2 models. A deal was struck and we hauled it all home, where it was piled in the back of the garage and pretty much forgotten, except for the occasional requests for progress reports from my BMW enthusiast friend!

I finally got tired of listening to him and started working on the bike. The engine and some parts were shipped off to Steve Prokop (probably the best airhead guy in Oregon) for a rebuild, and I got to work cleaning parts, organizing, and eventually sending sheet metal out for paint.

The actual restoration was started in March of 1995 and finished in May of the same year, just in time for the Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists annual show.

It took me a while to get used to the handling and performance characteristics of the BMW, and I eventually learned to appreciate how good these things are. I even began to think it looked pretty good, which was a major issue for this old Britbiker; BMWs just don't have that lithe, clean look of a good BSA or Triumph. I still ride this bike fairly regularly, and I have started a tradition of an annual trip with a couple of other R69S owners I know. We're going to do our third one this month.

The only detail worthy of note is my custom-made enamel badges. The SMF OR-69 is based on something my BMW enthusiast friend (okay, I'm a BMW enthusiast now, too!) used to tell me when I was in the process of restoring this bike. Several times, he told me that once I get it running, we'd be the studly m-fers on our R69s.

The other member of our R69 riding group (who owns a 1958 R69, hence we left the "S" off) made some T-shirts based on the BMW logo with "SMF" at the top and OR-69 on the bottom. I'm an enamellist and capable of making copies of the original BMW Serif badges (I won't; it's a major trademark violation), and decided to reproduce the T-shirt logo in enamel to put on our gas tanks. This is the first set. I played around a bit with the colors, using a transparent dark red for the black part, and transparent blue with opalescent white on the "propeller" part.