Home » Why I Bought This Teal 46-Year-Old BMW Airhead Motorcycle

Why I Bought This Teal 46-Year-Old BMW Airhead Motorcycle

Teal Airhead Ts
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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.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

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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.

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BMW

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.

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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.

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BMW

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.

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BMW

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.

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BMW

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.

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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.

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BMW

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.

The R60/7

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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.

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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.

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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.

My R60/7

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

Its Future

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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.

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(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)

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Scott
Scott
9 months ago

Mercedes, this is NOT the first time I’ve felt such strong envy about one of your motorized acquisitions, though maybe this is the strongest I’ve ever felt such an emotion. 🙂 So far. 😉

I’ve sort of dabblingly been hunting for a starter bike (I took a CHP weekend course and obtained a M1 license years ago, but never used it due to an acute sense of my own mortality) and have, or course, watched almost every single Fort Nine video on Youtube with rapt attention (and some others too). My criteria for what could be my first bike are that it be comfortable (I’m a fellow of a certain age, and never in a rush to get someplace) and more-or-less a ‘regular/standard’ motorcycle in form, so: no dirt bikes, or racing bikes, or cruisers. Just a decent, semi-practical bike for short pleasure rides and the occasional errand.

I’d like to spend just a few thousand dollars, though the LA market seems to price what are $3K bikes elsewhere at the $5K mark (it does this on esoteric but otherwise mass-market cars too, like first-gen manual Kia Souls w/200,000 miles and running manual/AC small Toyota trucks with ANY amount of mileage).

I’ve sort of been hunting for a Suzuki TU250X or something similar: basic, but usable and with a bit of an enjoyable character. I had NOT even considered anything from BMW just due to the price. Also, some concern about cost of ownership for an older bike (I can wrench within reason, but would prefer not to have to too often). Sure, they make fascinating bikes and EV/scooters, etc… but I’m not made of money.

Would I have bought your teal metallic R60/7 for $3K?

OF COURSE I WOULD, even if I didn’t have time to google ANYthing about it first AND it wasn’t running AND I had to ship it to LA AND it didn’t come with that wonderful backstory!

THAT BIKE IS GORGEOUS AND SO FULL OF CHARACTER that it probably makes whatever it’s parked next to a bit more interesting just by association.

Congratulations on your new bike. It is simply and frankly epic. 😀

ScottyB
ScottyB
9 months ago

It’s beautiful. And teal or turquoise is always the right answer, unless it’s red.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
9 months ago

I believe that bike originally came with a bench seat that had a BMW roundel on the back, but someone along the way added an RS/S/RT cowl to it. It also appears to have had the R100T bars added to it when the Luftmeister fairing got added. They were factory options a few years after this bike was built. Solid find. I’ve ridden airheads for 45 years and have decent knowledge. I might suggest joining the Airheads Club or the BMW MOA, both of whom have deep and excellent knowledge of these bikes. The MOA’s forum is filled with cranky codgers, but they know what they’re talking about if you can get past that.

TT8787
TT8787
9 months ago

I also have a teal airhead and live not far from you! A ’74 R60/6.

GertVAG
GertVAG
9 months ago

Not really a motorcycle fan but Mercedes, your articles make me appreciate those twowheelers a lot more. And then this one, the colour, the history, I’m feeling warm in the chest looking at the pictures. Great find !

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
9 months ago

I friggin’ love this! Slap some new tires on, fix what needs fixing, and ride the hell out of it.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
9 months ago

I always thought old BMW bikes should be black, until now, gorgeous bike.

Steve Walton
Steve Walton
9 months ago

Nice bike, but it’s ‘way too new for me. I started my BMW journey on a 1956 R50 (which had over 100,000 miles on it), and later had a 1962 R60. Somebody had stroked the R50, so it wasn’t all that less potent than the 35HP R60.

Ah, many good times were had upon those two bikes. Alas, the first one was stolen, and the second one was demolished when I was T-boned by an airheaded college student who ran a red light trying to get to class. I still have a left leg because of those big beautiful transverse cylinders.

I’ve gotten away from bikes in the intervening 40 years, but I’d love to have another old R60.

Flinched
Flinched
9 months ago

That’s a nice find and a keeper, Mercedes, congrats! BMW bikes are and have been designed, engineered and built better than any other bike and now you’ll always want one in the stable. And many have first owners with the resources and enthusiasm for proper maintenance so there’re lots of nice used examples. Enjoy.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
9 months ago

Whatever you do, don’t futz around with the little seal around the base of the points. Mess that up and you’re looking at a total tear down. Ask me.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
9 months ago

Congrats on your BMW! Not my favourite colour but what the hell, if it suits you it’s fine by me. My one and only BMW was an R90/6 with a Jawa hack. Spent a ton of money and effort to do a proper adaptation of the two pieces to include a custom sub-frame. Beautiful rig that ran straight and true at 85 mph! That classic growl of the exhaust is one of life’s joys! Had to give it up when I hit age 70 as I just couldn’t straddle anymore. Enjoy your green beauty the way it was designed to be!

ProfPlum
ProfPlum
9 months ago

I owned an R60/5 for many years; it was a fun bike to take out for an afternoon ride. Mine was the traditional black with no fairing. I’ve owned several BMW motorcycles, and the R bikes are still a favorite.

John Patson
John Patson
9 months ago

You know they have used the motors in European microlight aircraft for years? Most tuned to 90 hp which is a sweet spot, the limit is 100 hp.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
9 months ago

Haven’t even read the article yet, but I just have to ask why the crap would anyone NOT want a teal airhead??? I love the pancake BMWs, and teal is obviously the best color for vehicles, so it seems like a no brainer. Now on to read the article and see what you actually have to say.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
9 months ago

Congratulations!
The non BMW fairing looks a little top heavy. A smaller one would be nice.

I’ve had my R75/7 for twelve years now with no issues at all really. Such a quality machine!
I really enjoy just puttering around in 5th gear teaching people how silent an old bike can really be.

Best thing I did to it was to dig out the tool box and original battery bracket under the seat to make room for a real car battery down there: 4 times the electricity for half the price, and it’s not light anyway (and neither am I) so not worrying about the extra weight, just enjoying always having enough power for the electric starter motor and never hearing the annoying not enough power clicks again.

Steve Walton
Steve Walton
9 months ago

Oh, come on! Be a man and buy an older one that you have to stand sideways and kick at it to get it started. I loved the funny looks I got, and I even mastered the method of doing it while sitting on the bike.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Walton

I would love for my /7 to have a kick start also, that would have saved me those times it didn’t have enough on the battery (but I carry jumper cables in the side panniers). But I think it was something with the 5th gear taking up the space, so they killed off the good old kick start in the mid 70ies.

I DID actually buy a URAL (the Siberian BMW knock off) with only the old style kick start, after 5 years with the R75/7, but the mechanical quality of those are just horrible, so never really became friends with it. Very heavy and sturdy frame though.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BSRrN7_gtmS/

Last edited 9 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
9 months ago

Since I boned up on this stuff back when I bought my R100S I can tell you that neither the seat nor fairing were standard. The regular /7 had a plain seat with a grab rail like a /5 or /6. The seat with the tail piece was o ly standard on the S, RS, and eventually RT and RS models often had a “solo” seat with a larger squarer tail piece. The Luftmeister fairing was an accessory item although it was so common that Butler and Smith commissioned a “touring” version of the R100S in 78 that came without the bikini fairing and with wide bars and pods for the gauges. Then the dealers would add a color matched fairing. The backrest and luggage rack is a Reynolds piece made in Utah, I have a black version on my bike, along with Reynolds bag mounts. They also made a ride off center stand and a much larger rear rack for standard seats.
Enjoy the ride and if it ever feels underpowered you can always swap in an R800 or R100 engine, unlike an R65. If they are still in business Rocky Point Cycle has Boyer electronic ignition kits that alter timing for better performance, Mikuni carb kits and good stainless steel exhaust systems. I run Epco Norton Commando style mufflers for a different look and sound

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
9 months ago

Yeah seat pan rust is an issue, that’s partly why my R100S has a Corbin seat. A Corbin with a fiberglass base was cheaper than a factory seat, which was still available from Capital Cycle in 2003. The other benefit is comfort since the 78 had a stash box in the seat nose for the first aid kit which left very little padding.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
9 months ago

Okay, this bike needs some hot pink graphics, STAT!!! Like, a hot pink heartbeat line!!!

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
9 months ago

I mean, just look at it!

Dave from STL
Dave from STL
9 months ago

What a beaut! Congratulations, Mercedes.

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
9 months ago

Awesome! I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of motorcycles, but this is a real beauty! I hope you get years of enjoyment out of it.

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