Peter Nettesheim and His Classic BMW Motorcycles

Meet the American who is devoting himself to the restoration of classic BMW motorcycles.
By Frank Gudaitis
January/February 2007
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Peter Nettesheim on his 1923 BMW R32, the cornerstone of his collection of classic BMW motorcycles.
Photo by Frank Gudaitis
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In a quiet neighborhood east of New York City, Peter Nettesheim has assembled 50 BMW motorcycles and cars representing his dedication to the brand.

A German might use the word "gemütlichkeit," meaning warm and cozy (but connoting a sense of belonging and acceptance), to describe the bright and cheerful atmosphere in the elegant, climate-controlled building Peter constructed to hold his collection. Together with the bikes and cars are an abundance of blue and white BMW emblems, posters and glass cases filled with miniature models and other valuable BMW related items. There are bike engines hanging at eye level, and a 50ft wall anchors Peter’s work benches. Cabinets below the benches hold a cache of spare parts, plus tools and measuring instruments. Three restored BMW cars also occupy the display area. 

Peter’s interest in BMW motorcycles came after studying BMW motorcycle design and layout, long acknowledged as a classic example of sound mechanical engineering and simplicity. Collecting and restoring BMWs has occupied much of Peter’s spare time during the past 28 years. While much of his collection consists of restored examples of pre-1945 bikes made by BMW, the collection spans more than 80 years of BMW motorcycle production. 

Acquiring the older bikes and needed replacement parts requires a bit of traveling on Peter’s part, and while Germany has been the best source of finding these machines, he’s found some rare examples in Poland as well. None of his bikes have been found in the U.S. 

Peter is primarily interested in finding and restoring prewar bikes. The ones he’s restored are all in pristine running condition, most of them ready for use, batteries charged, gas tanks full, and licensed and insured for road use at any time. A favorite for just riding around is his early 1950s type R25/3. More than 47,000 of these bikes were made by BMW, but very few have survived. 

One of the more unusual bikes in his collection is a BMW R75. Made for the German military in World War II, it saw duty in Africa on the eastern front. Equipped with a 26hp engine, it features a high and low transmission with a locking differential routing power to the sidecar’s wheel. A period-correct German MG-34 machine gun is mounted on the front of the sidecar. Capable of pulling a cannon or a wagon, the R75 was ideally suited for use in rough terrain. 

Working alone in his shop, Peter conducts his own restorations, and maintaining his machines in good operating condition consumes most of his spare time. Ask him how he does it and he’ll tell you, "I don’t watch very much T.V." 

In recognition of the excellence of Peter’s work, The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, has displayed seven examples of his restored BMWs over the years. MC








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