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My barn find

Posted By Tom Letourneau #27060, Sunday, January 14, 2018

In all the years I've been doing Barn Find photos and articles for two magazines here in the States and one in the UK, I am here to tell you that the following has to be my best find ever. As it almost always is, it ain't just the find – it's the story that goes with it!

Wayne Carini of the TV Show Chasing Classic Cars Fame would have a field day here. Maybe even those two Brits that do the show Wheeler Dealers, too. It’s worth at least a one-hour show.

I went with my best friend, John DeWaele, up to Quebec to pick it up my barn find. I rented a six-foot-wide trailer from U-Haul, as I could not find one anywhere! The trailer had to be wide as my find and its sidecar were 68 inches wide.

After an almost seven-hour drive to west of Montreal and driving down an almost half-mile-long driveway into the Quebec woods, I backed the trailer up to the garage door where my find had been stored for 38 years. We opened the door, pushed my find out into the fresh air it had not seen in decades, dropped the ramp down... and the damn thing would not fit! Pay close attention to the rig and to the rear of the trailer and tell me WHY it would not fit - and why we had to turn around and head back after blowing about $500 on the trip.

Fellow Canadian Alfa Romeo Club member Alex Csank, a native of Hungary and retired NATO serviceman, told me of the rig, a 1972 BMW R 75/5 with a custom made sidecar from England. Alex, a Ural owner sent me pictures of the BMW. He told me it belonged to an elderly, disabled friend of his. The rig had been sitting for something like 38 years and only had approximately 12,000 miles on it. I bought it sight unseen.

Alex met us just off Canadian Highway A40 and guided us to his friend's place on hundreds of acres off in the wilderness. Under the guy’s humongous home was a garage where the BMW was located. Next to it was a 1957 T-Bird. Next to that, a 1970 Olds Black on Black on Black 442 convertible. Next to that a beautiful 1927 Rolls Royce. Outside under a canvas-covered storage unit was a 1964 Mustang and two circa 1932 Fords.

In another large Quonset-style metal storage unit were some other vehicles, including a 1947 MG TC. The entire side of that building was filled with old motorcycles piled on top of one another. Another building had a few more vehicles, including a Willys Jeepster that was being restored.

All in all, I could not get pictures of all of these vehicles as there were so many, and they were all so close together you could not move. One I really wanted to see was a 1979 Mercedes 300SEL. Unfortunately, it was crammed in a corner with a car cover on it.

We were told there was a fully collapsed barn further in the woods. The barn's roof now sat on approximately 20 Ford Model A and Model T cars. John and I believed them and passed on the muddy walk to see the Fords.

After the tour of the property, and realizing that there was no way that my find was going home with me, John and I decided to do an overnighter and head home down through Rouses Point, New York, and then island-hop our way across the many beautiful islands at the northern tip of Lake Champlain to get home.

The very next Saturday, loaded with photos, I drove down to Rogues Island’s longtime BMW dealer, Razee Motorcycles of North Kingstown, to show Gordon Razee and others my find.

Tags:  Airheads  Barn  Green  Sidecar 

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If you build it, they will come: R 100 RS 40th anniversary celebration

Posted By Phil Sikora #9135, Monday, November 20, 2017

R 100 RS 40th anniversary celebration, Harleysville, PA, 14-17 September 2017

Just as he did for the commemorative R 90 S rally in 2014, Todd Trumbore dug deep and put together an amazing 40th celebration rally honoring the R 100 RS. Todd flew in Hans A. Muth from Germany at his own expense. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Mr. Muth had many recollections on designing this groundbreaking motorcycle. My favorite one was when a Japanese designer asked him for heuristics on design. How do you do it? Muth's answer was you have to feel it. He likened rider and machine to a centaur: rider and bike become one.

Back in the day, when I purchased my RS, I read that the flat finish on the fairing paint was due to supplying wind resistance to keep the front of the bike grounded, similar to the side pieces of the fairing. Mr. Muth said that the flat finish was chose to hide some of the surface bubbling imperfections from the molding process that was unacceptable to BMW.

Some of the other presentations included tech talks and recollections from Udo Gietl, Tom Cutter and Karl Myers. On the riding side of things, Ed Bach gave a presentation on his five year trip around the world, when he dropped off the grid in 2012, visiting 110 countries.

There were many more items on the agenda, such as a private museum tour of vintage motorbikes and motorcars in nearby Skippack Village each night.

This was a very poignant time for me. After a trip from New Jersey to Colorado to do some work for the National Park Service in the summer of ’76, I tired of my Honda 750's drive chain splitting and being thrown into the case. The repair required epoxying to keep the engine oil in. I decided to purchase an R 100 RS that October. I sold my Honda (with requisite Windjammer), sold my car, cleaned out my meager bank account and took out a loan. I never looked back. While I love my ’94 R 1100 RS to death, nothing will replace the feeling of pining over and acquiring that R 100 RS.

I have many anecdotes about owning that bike, including getting pulled over just so the officer could admire the machine. The funniest story was going around the green in Morristown, New Jersey, with my club just as church was getting out. A young boy pulled his mother to the curb, pointing at my bike, and exclaimed, "Look, Mommy! A space ship!" That bike did rocket me through some of the best times of my life.

As with any good rally, the time spent with new and old friends is immeasurable. Here’s a nod to friends Lou Stellar, Steve Bauer, Naomi and Bob Lonergan (of MOA National vintage display fame), the William Dudleys and Jim Danhakl.

Possible next rally: a combined R 65 and R 80 G/S commemoration. Maybe even a smaller one, peeking into Todd’s garage?

When all is said and done, the thing I think about still is Todd’s commitment to hosting these rallies. I can’t begin to appreciate the financial commitment. His expenses were not nearly covered by the paltry rally fee. He flew Mr. Muth over; Muth invited the Siebenrocks to come, and Todd covered that. He built the pavilion just for the rally; even more staggering was the time and mental and physical effort put in for our benefit. Wild. Then there was the support staff. Even the universe ponied up and kept the passing showers away from the grounds.

Ed Bach's blog is the most-followed thread in the history of and has over five million hits. It's split into two parts: the First Two Years and the Last Three Years.

Tags:  Airheads 

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3V Racing's maiden voyage

Posted By Dave Kaechele #4562, Thursday, October 12, 2017

About a year ago, I responded to an advertisement for a Slash 5 front end for sale at Dutch Trash Choppers in Portland, Oregon. The owner, Noll Van Zweiten, builds choppers and sidecars. Thinking I would not be long, my wife, Deborah, decided to wait in the car. When I went in the shop, I looked to the side and there was a BMW sidecar chassis in the shop.

I walked out of the shop and called my friend, Jason Vaden, and told him about the sidecar chassis, asking if he was interested in going together to buy it. He paused about a few seconds and said yes. That was the start of 3V Racing, named after Jason and his sons Vincent and Hans.

My wife said, “You go into the shop to buy a front end and come out buying a sidecar, too. I thought we were done with racing. I should have known better.” I raced a R 75/5 BMW vintage twin road race bike for 20 seasons, then sold it in 2012 because my lap times had increased. I missed the friendship and fun on the track, so I thought a sidecar would be fun to race.

The chassis was built, but not finished, by Bob Bakker for Larry Coleman near Sacramento, California. Jason and I analyzed what we needed and started developing the bike. One of the things we needed were 3"x16" wheels and sidecar road racing tires. After two months searching in the U.S., we ended up sending two Slash 6 hubs to Central Wheel Components in Birmingham, England, for spokes, rims, tires and tubes. That put the bike at the correct height. The 10” wheel needed a spindle and height block welded at the correct height and angle for sidecar's toe-in. Jason and Noll worked on the chassis and body development while I built the motor and transmission.

AHRMA rules require a 1972 appearance and 750 cc engine. I obtained a 1981 engine, with a flywheel carrier for lightness, and a 1979 five-speed transmission. The narrowed Slash 5 swing arm was on the car. I worked with Dan Baisley of Baisley High Performance to install and degree the sport cam, dual-plug the heads and raise the compression. As neither Jason nor I had driven a sidecar rig, we wanted a reliable rig for the first year as we learned what we were doing. Ozzie Auer from Chico, California, gave us some tips on the chassis and car setup, which we as novices, really needed.

Our first race was on July 13-14 at The Ridge in Shelton, Washington. The engine and chassis were ready, but we did not have the full fairing installed for the first race. In practice and the first race, we had a fuel delivery problem. We eventually replaced the fuel pump and the rig ran well on Sunday.

Sunday morning practice was fun with no problems, but it provided a good story for Jason. He works as a contractor and, at 41, had high cholesterol problem. About a year ago, he had a heart attack, which resulted in a defibrillator being installed. On Sunday, Jason’s defibrillator recorded a high heartbeat at 10:30 a.m., 10:33 a.m., 10:36 a.m. and 10:38 a.m. When Jason got home on Sunday around 10:00 p.m., the modem for the defibrillator downloaded to the hospital the recordings. At 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Jason got a call from his doctor’s office and the nurse was quite concerned about him. Jason explained about the racing, claiming it was better to apologize afterwards than ask the doctor permission and be denied. The nurse laughed and told him to come in on Wednesday for a defibrillator adjustment.

The race on Sunday was smooth with no new defibrillator events for Jason. We were the one vintage outfit in the race, so we got a 30-second head start over the four modern F2 outfits. Two outfits passed us and the other two stayed a few seconds behind us. We had lap times of 3:00, 2:58, 2:57 and 2:54. It felt good to finish third out of five the first time out.

We have several things to improve on the outfit: the handholds for Jason and shift linkage for my left foot. We had fun and were successful for the first time out. We were drifting and occasionally lifting the car on right corners, which made the spectators happy. The modern outfits made us feel welcome and were glad to have another outfit out on the track. Even though our knees ached and Jason’s arms were pumped up, we really enjoyed ourselves.

Our next race was the AHRMA 8th Bonneville Vintage GP road race held at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah over Labor Day weekend. Jason, Noll, Vincent and Hans drove Jason’s motor home and trailer 12 hours east for the event. Ten to twelve sidecar outfits were at the SRA points event. The sidecar went through tech and was approved to run on the track for Friday practice. We got more practice time on the track at Miller than ever before.

Jason and I were getting more comfortable as a team and working together in synchronization. When we came in after each practice session, other sidecar passengers advised Jason on how to move out to the right and back to the left as we cornered. I started picking up speed as we cornered more aggressively. We were drifting and using more body English to move smoothly through corners, so our lap times dropped with each practice.

During Saturday morning practice the motor began to slow, so I pulled off the track and rode back to the pits. We pulled the right valve cover and saw a broken exhaust valve spring. We had 90 minutes until the race so we had to find a fix quickly. We knew that there were no shops that would have our parts; we asked around the pits and found out that Larry Coleman had a core engine for his new outfit in a bucket. I asked him if we could use the parts we needed and he lent us the right head, which we quickly installed. The borrowed head was not dual-plugged, so I secured the extra spark plug to the block. We made the starting grid by two minutes and had a good race. We were running second and slowly lowering our lap times each lap.

Vincent (left) and Hans Vaden.

We went through tech inspection again for the Sundays race, but we had ignition problems. I thought the problem was fixed, but on the warmup lap, the rig went on one cylinder again and we had to pull off the track.

We had a good race weekend and really appreciated the help from other fellow outfits to keep us going. Larry Campbell and his son, Larry, lent us tools and advice, Larry Coleman loaned us the spare head and Bob Baker provided setup tips.

From a raw chrome alloy chassis to a running competition outfit, it took a full team of people. We will remove the bugs for next season and will be back for more fun on the track!

At Miller.

Tags:  Airheads  Racing  Sidecar 

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Pilgrimage to the 2016 Airhead SuperTech

Posted By John Phillips, Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I got my entrance fee check in early when the Maryland chapter of The Airhead Beemers Club (ABC) announced they would be running the much anticipated annual ABC SuperTech weekend February 19-21, 2016 at the Tuckahoe Steam and Gas Association museum of vintage steam engines in Easton, MD.  In 2014, when it was announced that SuperTech must find a new venue, MD Airheads grabbed the torch and have done an outstanding job for the second year.  The event drew attendance  from around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, but also from as far away as Washington state.  As quick introduction for those who might not know, the ABC is an international network of owners of air-cooled BMWs (discontinued in 1995) founded in 1991 to help fellow Airheads keep their classic bikes on the road   There are ABC chapters in every state, in four Canadian provinces, the UK, Japan and Australia.  The activities of each are orchestrated by an elected Airmarshall. 

Through local riding events and tech workshops, the monthly newsletter Airmail and the on-line Airlist forum, members connect to help each other answer wrenching questions, troubleshoot problems and keep abreast of upgrades and a growing network of commercial resources for airhead parts and services.   Sometimes the help can be one on one, like when NJ Airmarshall Dave Cushing called with an offer I couldn't refuse: "Hey, if you haven't learned how to lube your clutch splines yet, bring the bike down and I'll show you."  For five hours, Dave patiently instructed while I turned the wrenches.  It was a gift of time and knowledge I hope I have the chance to pass along to a new Airhead one day. 

For the 70 or so Airheads fortunate to attend this year, the payoff was once again the collegial pleasure of catching up with old friends and making new ones, kicking tires about our favorite bikes, sharing knowledge and comparing experiences, taking copious notes at the tech seminars and refueling at day's end with the culinary delights arranged for by MD Airhead organizer, master of ceremonies and head chef Mark Lipschitz.  His booming voice and frequent use of a Bengal taxi horn kept the program running on schedule. 

A special BMW airhead retrospective was presented this year by Ian Clarke from the UK.  A rather interesting fellow, Ian.  He has toured extensively through  Europe and the UK on airhead BMWs since 1967.  His personal collection of motorcycles numbers more than 40. Though not all of his bikes are BMWs, he is best known in the shire as a restorer of, and acknowledged expert in, pre 1970 BMW airheads.  He haunts the auto jumbles (flea markets) of the UK and Europe to buy/sell/swap rare BMW bits and contributes regular articles to the UK BMW Riding Club Journal and the e-zine, The Airhead.  With Ian's arrival earlier in the week,  Mark wangled invitations to tour the private BMW motorcycle and memorabilia collections of Jim Hopkins and Bob's BMW dealership in Jessup, MD (see links) both terrific time capsules of BMW artifacts dating to the 1920s.    A variety of "how to" technical sessions, from upgrading fork dampers, to replacing the rear main seal to proper gearbox shimming was supplemented by a much appreciated club update given by NY Airmarshall and ABC Board Director Mike Friedle.  Membership and finances are growing, a good thing.  SuperTech 2016 closed with a recognition award to Bob Sipp  for his many years of contributions to ABC education.  Bob's traveling display of expertly machined airhead component cutaways is a hugely helpful teaching  aid at every SuperTech.  

I've been an MOA member for almost 20 years, but an ABC member for only five.  I can honestly say  say I've  not met any  group more closely knit, more passionate and knowledgeable, more engaged or more eager to share than those who ride and maintain BMW's classic air-cooled twins.  Because of their dedication, beautiful 30/40/50+ year old airhead BMWs are ridden to almost any motorcycle gathering.  Once again, SuperTech proved that  providing "continuing airhead education" not only helps bring the airhead community together, but also strengthens the ties that bind it together.  Thanks again to all Airhead volunteers who made the 2016 SuperTech a success.  While at it, another round of thanks is in order to the Air Marshals and ABC volunteers everywhere who arrange for all the ongoing local airhead events.  Their efforts inspire the rest of us to help out whenever and however we can, and that after all, is the whole point.  

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Tags:  ABC  Airheads  Maryland  SuperTech  tech 

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