Over the weekend, I dragged yet another vehicle home to my
junkyard vehicle refuge. After writing numerous pieces for this site about vintage motorcycles and including classic finds on Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness, it was clear that I really want to swing a leg over another old bike. I put my money where my mouth is and brought home a 1977 BMW R60/7. The bike came from the estate of the original owner and amazingly, included the original title and financing paperwork from 1977. Oh, and did I say it’s custom painted in teal with metal flake?
Two years ago, I rode a BMW motorcycle for the first time ever when I reviewed the BMW R 18 and the BMW R 18 Transcontinental. The style of BMW’s boxer engine and its distinctive exhaust note captivated me and ever since then, I’ve been finding myself looking at getting a BMW of my own. As someone who adores vintage style, I kept drooling over airhead boxers from the 1970s and 1980s. Now, I finally have my own and I’m glad I waited so long to pick one up. My phone’s camera just doesn’t do this paint justice. To say it’s dazzling in real life is a gross understatement. It’s actually a bit baffling because my eyes see a bit more green in this paint than my camera does, which is a shame.
A Century Of Boxer Reliability
To get to the root of where this beautiful motorcycle came from, we should start at the very beginning. BMW says its roots go back to 1913 when Rapp-Motorenwerke GmbH began aircraft engine production. Rapp supplied aircraft engines to the German Empire during World War I. Rapp-Motorenwerke GmbH was located in Munich along with Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik, the factory where Rapp’s engines were fitted into aircraft. Otto went bankrupt in 1916, becoming Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG. Rapp later changed its name to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH and BMW was born. For a weird diversion, apparently, BMW initially didn’t have a logo.
As BMW explains, when Rapp became Bayerische Motoren Werke, it initially didn’t need a logo. BMW didn’t have public customers as it served the German Air Force. The first BMW logo appeared in October 1917 and continued Rapp’s tradition of a black ring around the company logo that contains the company’s name.
It’s actually pretty awesome how the BMW has evolved over the years. BMW also notes that its logo is not depicting a spinning propeller, but colors of the State of Bavaria in Germany. That said, in 1929, the manufacturer released an advertisement showing the BMW logo inside of a spinning propeller. BMW then stoked the myth further in 1942 Flugmotoren-Nachrichten backed up the story of the BMW logo being a spinning prop.
So, the logo isn’t supposed to be a propeller, but BMW itself really hasn’t made an effort to say that it’s not a propeller.
Anyway, getting back on track here, the Treaty of Versailles halted BMW aircraft engine production, leading the company to manufacture railway brakes, household goods, farm equipment, and other machines. In 1919, BMW made a flat-twin industrial engine for Victoria Werke AG.
This engine found its way into Victoria and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke motorcycles. One of those motorcycles was the Helios, a sort of makeshift motorcycle with a transverse-crankshaft layout that led to poor cooling of one of its cylinders.
When Bayerische Flugzeugwerke merged into BMW, BMW General Director Franz Josef Popp asked Design Director Max Friz for his opinion on the Helios. Reportedly, the designer said the best place for the Helios was a lake, apparently citing handling and engine design issues.
Friz was given the mission to fix the Helios and then design a new motorcycle. That new motorcycle hit the show circuit in 1923, starting at the Berlin Motor Show. The BMW R32 was shorter, lower, and lighter than the Helios, and crucially, BMW designed a motorcycle that would be easier to live with:
The quality of the machine was a major factor for success. All the parts likely to need repair were encapsulated and the drive shaft was easier to service than standard chains or belts. The Boxer engine with cylinders mounted transverse to the direction of motion remains a characteristic feature of BMW motorcycles to this day, alongside the cardan shaft. The very successful overall design of the R32 was penned by Max Friz and is regarded as a milestone in motorcycle history.
That first R32 had a 494cc flat-twin making just 8.5 HP and had a top speed of just 58 mph. The R32 was a smash success and the company decided to follow it up with a sports model, the 1925 R37. That motorcycle was one of the most expensive bikes in Germany, so that was followed up with the 1925 R39, a lower-priced single-cylinder Beemer.
BMW started slapping a slash onto some of its motorcycle models in 1950. BMW used slashes to distinguish models and sometimes it was a bit confusing. The BMW R51/2 was the first slash bike and it was followed up by the BMW R51/3 and the BMW R25/2. BMW mechanics say that R51/2 is only a “Slash 2” in name only and it’s technically a “Slash 3” bike The R25/2 is also a “Slash 3.” Then there were motorcycles that didn’t have slashes in their names but are still a part of of a new “/2” series in 1955, which also sold alongside the older “/3” series.
I’m pretty sure you have a headache now and don’t worry, we’re going to skip to the good part.
As BMW writes, the /6 Series was replaced in 1976 with the /7 Series. BMW notes that the R60/7 did not gain power over its /6 predecessor, but did get a bigger tank and a more modern design:
After only three years of construction, the /6 series was replaced in 1976 by an upgraded new model generation. The /7 models received some detail improvements and modifications. The most striking visual difference was the new 24-litre tank, which until now was only available on the R 90 S. However, with a small but effective change. The fuel cap was now recessed and was given a roll-over valve that prevented fuel from spilling out in the event of a fall. In addition, the change made it possible to better attach and use an accessory that was very popular at the time, namely the tank bag. With the new tank and the new front mudguard, which now had to do without a strut, the /7 models looked more elegant and modern overall. The valve covers also got a new one, Angular shape and greater wall thickness to increase puncture security.
Though it did not get more power, BMW says the R60/7 got improvements to reduce valvetrain noise. Meanwhile, the front wheel saw its drum brake replaced with a perforated disc brake. BMW notes that during the 1970s, customer interests shifted toward larger displacement motorcycles. Thus, the most popular motorcycles of the /7 Series are the likes of the influential BMW R100RS. The R100RS is notable for its full frame-fixed fairing, which was designed by Pininfarina and optimized with wind tunnel testing.
BMW says the R100RS is “the first production motorcycle in the world to be equipped with a standard full fairing.” I suppose that depends on what you consider to be a full fairing because the Vincent Black Prince had a large fairing in 1954 and the Ariel Leader had an even larger fairing in 1958.
Anyway, back to the R60/7. BMW says the entry-level model wasn’t very popular and it was discontinued in 1978. Despite just a couple of years of production, BMW was able to move 11,163 units, most of them to government agencies. For comparison, BMW sold three times as many R100RS units.
As many of our readers know, I love when a vehicle has a story to tell and my new-to-me 1977 BMW R60/7 is no different.
I bought the motorcycle from a friend of the original owner. He told me that the original owner was a man who adored teal and had all of his vehicles painted teal with metal flake.
The original owner purchased this motorcycle new and apparently didn’t wait long before taking it to a custom shop to have it painted teal. The motorcycle started life painted black with white pinstripes and it appears it stayed that way for just two years. Then, the original owner ditched the motorcycle’s original fairing, mounted a Luftmeister fairing, then had it all painted in the glorious color that you see here today. Apparently, this BMW was joined by a Chevy truck that was also painted in a matching teal.
The original owner then loved this motorcycle, riding it over 46,000 miles between 1977 and about three or four years ago. Then, his friend explained to me, he lost his balance and was no longer able to ride the bike. It was stored indoors and sadly, the original owner passed away. The caretaker of the man’s teal vehicles was his widow, and recently, she decided that she no longer wanted to keep his old stuff around. The original owner’s friend was enlisted to see his prized belongings sent to new homes.
The friend explained to me when the motorcycle was parked over four years ago, gas was drained out of the tank and carburetors. Thus, the teal Beemer fired right up after fresh gas and a battery.
Sadly, with the passing of his friend, parts to the motorcycle may have been lost. What I did get in the sale was the fairing the motorcycle was sold new with, a spare engine cover, the original seat, a spare seat, a new rear tire, and the original title alongside the original financing paperwork. Aside from a crack and a few scratches, which are believed to have been caused during storage, the fairing is in great shape. The friend told me he found the fairing in the attic, where it had perhaps a half-inch of dust on it.
The financing paperwork is a fascinating look into how loans worked 46 years ago. In 1977, the BMW R 60/7 had a base price of $2,995 ($15,620 today). The paperwork says that the original owner financed $2,200 ($11,474 today), racking up another $538 ($2,805 today) in finance charges and fees. He had to pay off the note for 36 months at $76 ($396 today) a month at 13 percent interest. Accounting for inflation, that’s more money than I spent to finance a $17,000 Smart Fortwo, which was just $272 a month. Of course, keep in mind that the 1970s experienced double-digit inflation, unemployment, an oil crisis, and more.
On Sunday, I became the first person to take the motorcycle on a long ride since it was put into storage. I gave the seller $3,000 and pointed my tires toward home. It was just an 80-mile ride, but one that would prove if this old Beemer still had it. At first, the bike seemed a bit too tight, the engine a bit too cold-blooded, and the suspension way too harsh. I confirmed everything was torqued correctly and safe, then got back on the road. As each mile passed, the motorcycle loosened up. The engine woke up, the suspension smoothed out, and the tires got back in the groove of running down the road. With every mile, the motorcycle rode better.
The specs of the R60/7 may not inspire confidence in the modern day. Its 599cc boxer made just 40 ponies and 35.4 lb-ft torque when new, and I’m pretty sure horses don’t live that long. When new, it was more or less double the bike of my 2023 Royal Enfield Classic 350, and I avoided highways to ride that home. Though, notably, the BMW weighs the same as the Royal Enfield at 430 pounds. So, twice the bike but the same weight and roughly the same stature, too. The R60/7 is small, which is something I love!
Anyway, I put the BMW through trial by highway. Sadly, the speedometer broke during storage, so I had no idea how fast I was going. I had Sheryl match my speeds for a rough estimate and apparently, I had it as high as 80 mph. That’s when I was just trying to keep up with traffic. The BMW definitely had more left in it, so I reckon it’s still making close enough to its original power figures.
How does it ride? For now, it rides like a vintage machine that could use some refreshing. It seems the carbs could be tuned better and the suspension feels a little worn. Both of which are easily solved with some minor wrenching. Otherwise, the ingredients are all there for a great ride. The engine sounds fantastic, the motorcycle will lean into corners, and the transmission has a confident bite. It’s also somewhat comfortable, too. I wouldn’t do an Iron Butt on this BMW, but it also doesn’t give me back pain, so that’s a win.
Not What I Wanted, But Better
Admittedly, I wasn’t looking for an R60/7 at all. Since March or so, I’ve been searching for an R100RS, R100S, or perhaps something like an R75/5. All of my searches were for the bigger airheads out there. Yet, I kept striking out on buying them. I saw a fabulous dark metallic green R100S for sale, then I went to Hawai’i for the Toyota Tacoma reveal. It sold before I got back home. Then I saw another dark metallic green BMW, but that one was an R100RS. I think that one sold while I was in Detroit driving the Ford F-150 FP700. I also tried to buy a handful of /5 Series bikes, but their sellers said one thing while the bikes were in far worse shape.
The entry-level R60/7 never really crossed my mind. But when I saw the listing, I pounced on it, trying my best to secure the deal before anyone else could even think about it. I’m happy I did because this bike is too cool. Teal is easily my second favorite color, second only to hot pink. So, when the paint glistened on my phone screen, I was ready to buy it, even if the motorcycle didn’t run. I paid $3,000 for it, which doesn’t seem too bad.
I had this idea that when I bought a classic BMW, I’d give it a sort of mild racer look. I’m not going to do that here. I want to continue this motorcycle’s story. It’ll go on scenic rides and be one of the lucky vehicles in my warehouse of favorite toys. It has just a few problems, namely the broken speedometer, some paint chips, and a really excited tachometer. The rear tire is right on the wear bars, too. It seems the original owner was about to service the machine right before he stopped riding it, so I’ll complete what he started. Freshen the bike up and keep riding it.
Come to think of it, I am still a bit wowed by the idea that I’ll be the second legal owner a full 46 years after the machine was put on the road. Hopefully, here’s to another 46 years, if not longer, of this little BMW sticking around.
(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)
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