World's First Superbike

Discussion in 'Airheads' started by funhouse, Jun 30, 2007.

  1. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    In '79 I was working for Butler & Smith, the then BMW importer. I was sales manager for S.Cal. and a hardcore BMW fan--been a dealer and had seen the R90S Superbikes dominate the first year's AMA Superbike Championship ('76).
    In '77 Butler & Smith sold the three team bikes, one of which ended up in Bakersfield at Johnny's BMW. He'd repainted the bike red (to look like the '77 R100S) and won the bike's second AMA National at Laconia -- the bike's first win was the very first AMA Superbike race, the '76 Daytona event. Anyway, by the time I discovered the now-tired old bike in the back of Johnny's shop, it didn't look much like it had when last I'd seen it at Riverside in '76. By '79 the Japanese fours had taken over American Superbike racing, the euro-twins handling advantage no longer able to stave off the Japanese horsepower advantage. I knew that if this piece of BMW racing history was broken out for another couple seasons of Battle of the Twins racing that nothing would remain for future enthusiasts to look at. Luckily, my wife understood my enthusiasm and she and my daughters bought it for me for Christmas '79 for the then-princely sum of $5000. This is what it looked like when I fetched it from Bakersfield. Johnny had sold off various pieces like the Koni monoshock, all of which I had to track down and reaquire before starting the restoration.

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    #1
  2. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    The restoration took the better part of a year.

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    #2
  3. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    Getting close

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  4. El Hombre

    El Hombre Banned

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    I saw the article in Cycle World a couple of years ago about you and this bike. With the race poster on the wall.

    You should get in touch with Ken Augustine up in Marin county. That was his bike to wrench on. He told me some interesting stories about what they did and how he would do it better today.

    Bike's back in Munich, isn't it?

    Where did you find a Michelin PZ-2 front tire?
    #4
  5. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    Finished and took the bike to a local motorcycle show in Ojai, California. Without the numbers on the bike, most viewers thought the 90S was a normal street bike. Luckily, the judges knew what they were looking at and my family, who supported the entire project, were rewarded with a cheezie silver plate!

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  6. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    A year's work and the battle was now to begin.....all my BMW buddies now started harping on me to go vintage racing, people at BMW meets told me I was a weenie for not riding the bike to the shows, etc.....little did they know that all I was doing was acting as care-taker until the bike could go home.....back to BMW.....this possibility was first mentioned by a BMW employee the day the K75 was intro'd in the US at a dealer show in San Diego....he told me to contact BMW if/when I ever sold the bike....I didn't want to let it go then, but filed the notion mentally.....as for riding the old dear, it had to be bumped, would not idle and got toasty hot when sitting still...shifted better than anything BMW ever built and was so noisy you couldn't hear......I rode it to Santa Paula from Ojai a few times but was never a good enough rider to push it....the team riders were never too enthusiastic about the handling so who was I to weigh in on the arguement?

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  7. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    The two previous show pictures were 1981.....we moved to Santa Barbara from Ojai in '87 and by then was deeply into things BMW although I never broke down and made the jump to water cooling or OHC's.....

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    #7
  8. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    One of the attractions at our new home in SB was/is a 20'x50' garage (thus the name Funhouse) This pix is of #83 up on the table undergoing it's annual service......Udo Gietl, the bike's mastermind and head of BMW's racing efforts in the 70's (and Honda's in the 80's) came by one day and berated me severly for not rotating the engine 180 every month ....worse still, Phil Schilling, the guy behind the California Hot Rod (Ducati Superbike that won Daytona in '77) came by one afternoon when I was trying to bump start the bike....to no good effect. He casually asked what I thought I was doing? I explained what appeared to be obvious: "trying to start the old load-what's it look like?" He said it wouldn't start....damn, I hated that....He said it wasn't even stuttering and something was obviously amiss....."show me the wiring" I took the bubble fairing off to reveal the rat's nest of wiring inside the nacelle. Phil: "Jesus, this piece of shit beat my Ducati!!" (Phil's rider and fellow Cycle-editor Cook Neilson had, if fact, been beated for the championship and at Daytona in '76) Obviously Johnny had redone some of Udo's fine work when he campaigned the bike in '77....anyway, knowing nothing about electrics, I'd carefully removed and replaced the rat's nest during my restoration and up until Schilling showed up, it had worked. To my horror, Phil reached up and grabbed a handful of wiring and just as I blurted out "what ARE your going to do?", Phil yanked the entire mess out of the headlight shell! I was horrified. Phil: "Have you got any wire and a stripper?" In 30 minutes the bike was running......

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  9. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    This is what the bike looked like for the 25 years I owned it......and it sat quietly in the corner of my shop....it did a year's stint at the AMA Museum and was the subject of several magazine stories. As the AMA & World Superbike series prospered, so I knew the value and interest in the old queen would grow. Collectors sniffed about but there was only one home that interested me for the bike: BMW. Selling an old bike is fraught with problems, not the least of which is price and future value. After two decades of being told I was a sissy for not racing the bike, I wasn't keen to also be told I'd sold the bike too cheap....the problem of seeing your bike double in value when re-sold a couple years after you sell it.....also, I didn't want this bike to follow it's two sister-team bikes into the dumpster at the hands of some twat who thinks a vintage bike win is important......it's not! Racing bikes have a short shelf life and are near-worthless after their time on stage ends....if you own a truly historic machine, adding your name to it's 'winning-rider' rooster twenty years after the fact is self flagellation....get over yourself. By seeing that the bike went back to BMW, I never have to worry about it's re-sale or seeing it crashed at Willow Springs or some other dump....

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  10. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the bike's Daytona win, BMW wanted the bike at the event that year. This is a pix of Reg Pridmore sitting on the bike with Udo Gietl and Todd Schuster (head fabricator/B&S Team) standing by. The bike Reg sits on is #83, Steve McLaughlin's bike, that beat Reg to the line by inches at Daytona.......it was good to see him on the bike as his, like the other, are gone, crashed and modified out of existence.......

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  11. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    This is the last outing for #83 under my ownership: Del Mar Concours. A close friend wanted to show a beautiful Ducati at DelMar and I decided to accompany him with the old BMW.....I was swamped by people who knew more about the bike than did I, asked me questions I couldn't answer and were generally much more excited about the fact that the bike still existed than was I......fortunately, a couple of the judges remembered the bike and were also amazed it still existed.....it had not been in the sunshine for a decade at this point and I knew it was time to shift the bike out of my shop and onto a wider stage: BMW/AG and I made a deal...they sent a huge moving van to Santa Barbara a few months later and collected the bike and everything "BMW" from my garage......

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  12. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    I gathered up a 25 year collection of posters, parts and other rubbish and shipped it, with the bike, back east.....the first stop for the bike was the MidOhio Vintage Days -- all alone in a huge moving van across the country....

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    #12
  13. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    After the bike was safely on its way to Mid Ohio, the only cargo in a giant moving van, BMW called and asked if my wife Diane and I would be their guests at the MidOhio weekend......and I mean FIRST CLASS weekend...resort, driver, car, passes, meals.......you don't know what first class is until you've experienced First Class as provided by BMW Mobile Tradition and BMW US......Arturo Pineiro, head of BMW US and Fred Jakobs, head of MT, went out of their way to make this the weekend every vintage bike owner dreams of......The deal was publically sealed on stage in the auction tent where Fred and I shook hands and I gave a litte talk about telling Steve McLaughlin years ago (when he asked if he could ride the bike one last time at a vintage event) that he could sit on the bike once more but could not ride it.......(he also thinks I'm a pussy.)

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  14. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    It runs! Mobile Tradition bought the bike without ever hearing it run.....I'd told them that it had not run in three years and needed a Honda Trail 90 battery installed in order to fire......MT had a guy dig through the entire 'jumble' section of the MidOhio vintage event to come up with the battery...late in the day (and in the rain) we installed the battery and a splash of gas. I asked Fred Jakobs if he wanted to do the honors but he declined....with my wife Diane holding her breath, I flooded both carbs, gave the trottle two twists, selected second and the old darling fired on the first bump.....the look on the MT crew's face was one of delight and relief......a moment to remember......

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  15. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    A last good-bye. Pleased as I was to know the old racing bike was going to the best possible retirement home, I have to admit to taking a last look back as she sat in front of the BMW display at the '04 MidOhio Vintage event.....

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  16. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    Home again......a picture of the bike at the Mobile Tradition Museum in Munich with Arturo Pineiro and Fred Jakobs in attendence.....no vintage racer ever landed in a more secure resting place.....My wife and I were, and remain, thrilled.

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  17. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    New Life! Last year BMW took #83 to England to attend the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed -- one of the most prestigous vintage motorsports events in the world.......with a member of the museum staff up, the bike thrilled the crowds with it's booming exhaust note -- and was then returned to the museum's new halls to await its next day in the sun......folks, it can't get any better than this!

    Thanks for the time (and the space) to tell the story that Cycle World gave me a half page to tell a couple years ago.......

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  18. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    I wrote the CW piece......and Michelin got tires and the needed stickers to me during the restoration-- and Ken's likely just as interested in talking about old BMW race bikes as I am.....building wooden boats is more interesting now......Bruce

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  19. Bigger Al

    Bigger Al Still a stupid tire guy

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    Thanks for sharing this story, Funhouse. I'm a great admirer of what the American BMW race team was able to do with an anvil like the R90. The story in Cycle World left me wanting much more info on the bike and the way in which it "went home" to Germany, and this thread had made the light shine brighter.
    #19
  20. gweaver

    gweaver NorCal is Best Cal!

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    I don't know anything about vintage racing or BMW bikes, but that was beautiful. Always a good thing when something with history is saved, restored and preserved for the future. Well done! :clap

    Side note- I've seen it from the other side of the fence- with far less history. My first bike was an 83 Interceptor 750. Ran in to cam chain problems (again) after I'd put 40K miles on it (bought it with 12K). I sold it to buy a ZX-9R, and didn't look back until I visited the Barber Museum. They had a restored Interceptor there, and I've been kicking myself ever since. Last I heard, the guy I sold it to rode it for a couple of years and got rid of it. No idea what happened to it. Wish I could track it down and restore it. :cry

    G
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