One-Year Wonder: The 1937 BMW R6

BMW’s first 600cc motorcycle, this 1937 BMW R6 is one of just 1,850 built.

| March/April 2013

  • BMW R6
    “There’s just something about the pre-war BMWs. There’s nothing extraneous about them, and while they’re very basic, there’s a purity in their design that’s irresistible to me.” John says.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • 1937 BMW R6
    Marketed as a touring machine alongside the cracking R5, the R6 was BMW’s first 600cc motorcycle.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • BMW R6 details
    Details show typically excellent BMW workmanship.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • BMW R6 driveshaft
    The driveshaft seems impossibly small.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • Engine
    A humble sidevalve, the R6’s engine is still an elegant and purposeful design.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • BMW R6 fork preload
    Adjustable fork preload was an R6 innovation.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • Front view of BMW R6
    None of the BMW’s components were powder coated; anything that is black was sprayed.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • BMW R6 left side
    John Pavone, the owner of this bike, figures there are currently perhaps 50 R6s left in the world, with 10 of them in the U.S.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • Redundant handshift
    Note the redundant handshift.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • Riding the BMW R6
    Lucky owner John Pavone gives the R6 a little excercise.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • Riding a BMW R6
    A great bike for pottering along a quiet road, the R6 is comfortable to ride, but stopping can’t be done in a rush.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • Right side of BMW R6
    Marketed as a touring machine, the R6 was BMW’s first 600cc motorcycle.
    Photo By Ken Richardson
  • BMW style
    BMWs aren’t usually associated with dramatic styling, but the R6 is stunning.
    Photo By Ken Richardson

  • BMW R6
  • 1937 BMW R6
  • BMW R6 details
  • BMW R6 driveshaft
  • Engine
  • BMW R6 fork preload
  • Front view of BMW R6
  • BMW R6 left side
  • Redundant handshift
  • Riding the BMW R6
  • Riding a BMW R6
  • Right side of BMW R6
  • BMW style

1937 BMW R6  
Claimed power: 18 hp @ 4,500 rpm
Top speed: 77 mph
Engine: air-cooled sidevalve horizontally-opposed flat twin 
Weight: 385lb (175kg) 
Fuel Capacity/MPG: 3.96gal (15ltr)/50-60mpg (est.)  

Vintage BMW motorcycles have a definite cult status. The signature boxer flat twin engine and pure, simple lines of the early machines might not inspire some, but BMW enthusiast John Pavone is a confirmed follower.

Motorcycles fascinated John when he was a child, but his parents warned him to stay away from powered two-wheelers despite his desires. “Never going to happen,” John remembers them telling him. John respected his parent’s wishes, and turned his motoring attention to classic cars. Over the years, he’s owned a diverse range of machinery, including Porsches and Formula Fords, and he currently has a vintage Morgan and two classic Volkswagen Beetles in his Pound Ridge, N.Y., garage.

Yet as the old adage goes, never say never. Motorcycles remained an itch that needed to be scratched, so when John was in his early 40s he purchased a BMW R60/2 project. The Beemer was tired and needed attention, and with the best of intentions John started the resurrection process. However, when he happened upon a picture of a prewar BMW, his focus shifted.



“I got bit by the prewar bug,” John says. “There’s just something about the prewar BMWs. There’s nothing extraneous about them, and while they’re very basic, there’s a purity in their design that’s irresistible to me.”

He sold the unfinished R60/2, and started searching for a prewar BMW. That’s when he found the 1937 BMW R6, a rare, one-year-only motorcycle, for sale online. “I don’t want to name the dealer,” John says. “It was sold as a restored and ready to ride motorcycle, but when I got it and started looking at it I realized it had just been thrown together and wasn’t really as represented. It turned out to be just a lousy repaint over many incorrect parts and poor mechanicals. I was disappointed, but I loved the bike — because it was something I really wanted and because of its rarity. I also didn’t think another one would come my way.”






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