Back to the basics (for the 1956 BMW R50)

As promised I am back to share and provide detail of the discovery, restoration, repair, accessorizing and riding adventures of my 1956 BMW R50!


It all started the summer of 2011… searching e-Bay for the “One of a Kind” motorcycle that would be… first off a good learner bike… second be mechanically sound to start a simple and easy restoration. I had never ridden a motorcycle and had never even though of buying one until I moved from Reno, Nevada to Colorado and realized the area I was now living provide almost year round “scooting”. A term now I like to use to let my wife know that there will be no crazy stuff occurring on two wheels and thus safe for her to ride along with me on an always certain adventure, a term is used to describe the easy going, back road, very balanced and smooth, warm sun in your face riding experience only a BMW can provide.

Thus the nickname I have fondly given my BMW… ‘Scooter’ which some people think I am telling them that the motorcycle I am describing to them is an actual moped or scooter…. but make no mistake when they finally see this ’56… they always appreciate that it is a great rider with good steady power, classic lines and a “gentlemanly” look to it.

My wife was a bit concerned that I might be a bit crazy to buy a 56 year old motorcycle, and with no previous riding, why would I want such an adult toy. But I convinced her that this would be a great purchase and for collecting a good bet that this BMW would only go up in price… thus if I never felt able or comfortable riding it, we could get our investment back with ease.

The auction for the R50 would end on July 4th in the evening… I waited next to the computer like a little kid until the very end and was the first and only bidder.. (you can be sure, that on the 4th of July, there would be few people that would be watching a computer screen instead of the fire in the sky celebrating the independence of our great United States of America ).

The gentleman I bought the BMW from was very nice and worked with me on the delivery as though he knew it was going to received as a prized possession and that it would be well looked after… he brought it down in his van while going on a trip to Arizona.

Here is, in his words, the description presented….

“1956 BMW R50 discovered in a basement in Duluth Mn. in 2005.  Bike had a 1960 Mn. plate on it so it sat in this basement for 45 years.  I know the guy who found it…he has a garbage route and was contracted to clean out the house.  He traded it to the fellow I got it from, whom I also know very well.  Second guy (Jim) likes to tinker…he played around with it, discovered that the magneto still had spark but was insufficient to get the bike running.  He patched in a coil and battery & it started right up and ran quietly and smoothly.  This was all in the last three months.  He wanted me to sell it for him, changed his mind and said he’d just sell it to me.  As I said, he likes to tinker, but isn’t really a rider.  He sort of loses interest or finds something else to occupy his free time.  He hangs out in his little garage/shop without a telephone or cell phone.  I bought it knowing the title was lost, and after advertising this bike on numerous occasions and on many venues, I finally took the leap, went to the DMV, picked up a one sided single sheet “lost or misplaced title’ document.  Got together with Jim, filled out the form, and along with 4 pictures, now have a clear title coming in the mail.  Bike is in my name and I have a temporary title and a brand new Mn. license plate.  Unfortunately, Mn. titles take 8-10 weeks to arrive at a person’s mailbox.  This should not persuade a person from buying this bike, as the temporary title is proof that the bike is sellable.  Title will be promptly mailed out to the new owner when I get it.  Odometer shows 16K miles and I know that this is correct.  Bike was sold at a dealership in Minneapolis, Mn. and was on the road from 1956 to 1960, when it was put in storage. “

Dent... what dent? I see some character.
Dent… what dent? I see some character.

He went on to describe the dent in the gas tank that could be fixed (which I would never have fixed, as I like the character) the few items that were “extra” and the two things he did to get the bike started with a coil and a battery (the original magneto was bad, and since been replaced at a very steep cost) and how the ”  Left muffler chrome is lifting, otherwise the bike is solid, straight, and not oxidized. “ thus began my love affair with this great motorcycle.

One of the first images I saw online of the R50.
One of the first images I saw online of the R50.

I was very excited the day the Scooter arrived… my wife and I planned to be at our home the entire day, as not to miss Rick as he delivered the motorcycle to our home. As he pulled in I can remember the nice Colorado July day, a bit hot, sunny day, but nice enough to sit on the front porch of our home. The van slowed near our home after a 20 minute wait. The time that had to pass since he called me to let me know he was near and on his way. Rick the seller was very nice and talked with my neighbor who was there to see my new purchase and I. As we all looked over the classic lines, the patina on the engine parts  and how the motor would be turned over by a side mounted kick starter.  I remember feeling like the past was now present and that the next chapter was going to be a dream come true with the adventures my wife and I would have on this R50.

I proudly showed my wife the extra parts and tools that came with the purchase.  “Look here !” I said to my wife… “a complete set of original tools in the canvas roll!”  like a young boy finding the next large box of LEGO Bricks under the Christmas tree .  What a find… what a treasure to behold… but now what?

The extra parts that followed the bike from Duluth.
The extra parts that followed the bike from Duluth.

What was I going to do with a motorcycle that needed some expertise and caring hands to make this R50 a road warrior again, with safe and correct operation?

I just started taking it apart, right there in the drive… in a way it was like just going “back to the basics”.




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