Chasing Perfection: 1937 BMW R5

This BMW R5 is refined and ready to roll thanks to help from the vintage motorcycle community.

| July/August 2016

1937 BMW R5
494cc air-cooled OHV horizontally opposed flat twin, 68mm x 68mm bore and stroke, 6.7:1 compression ratio, 24hp @ 5,500rpm
Top Speed:
84mph (approx.)
4-speed, shaft final drive
Dual downtube steel cradle frame/55in (1,400mm)
Telescopic hydraulic forks front, rigid rear
3.5 x 19in front and rear
Weight (dry):
364lb (165kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
4gal (15ltr)/40-50mpg (est.)
Price then/now:

Pursuing perfection when restoring a motorcycle is a bit like waltzing with a porcupine. It’s a prickly proposition, and if any of the details are incorrect there will be barbs of criticism from the experts. But BMW enthusiast Philip Richter isn’t one to shy away from a dance, and he’s consulted those in the know to bring his 1937 BMW R5 as close to 100 percent perfect as possible.

Case in point: In the photographs accompanying this story, Philip’s R5 looks refined and ready to roll. It is, but the machine had earlier been restored with incorrect fenders. Philip says he recently “paid through the nose” for an exact set of reproduction R5 fenders, hand-formed by a German panel beater. At the time of writing, the R5 was in the workshop with installation of the new fenders progressing apace.

He’s going one step further, ensuring all fasteners, springs and other metal parts are up to spec in terms of finish, whether it’s black oxide, cadmium or chrome plated or natural aluminum. In fact, pre-World War II BMW specialists and enthusiasts including Mike Dunn of Vintage German Motorcycles and collector Brian Schneider have all spent plenty of time helping Philip get things just right.

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