BMW’s astonishing art deco motorcycle
The ‘Spirit of Passion’ bike is a head-turning new twist on BMW’s retro cruiser
BMW’s R 18 cruiser isn’t just the biggest-engined motorcycle yet created by the German firm, it’s also a canvas for bike customisers to engage their wildest fantasies.
Anyone who watched the American Chopper reality TV series, and was spellbound by the outlandish two-wheeled creations of the Teutul father-and-son team, will understand the fascination of bespoke bikes and how many ways there are to re-imagine what is essentially two wheels, an engine and a petrol tank.
The latest variation on the BMW R 18 theme is from Dirk Oehlerking of Kingston Custom in Germany, who has created an art deco version called the “Spirit of Passion”.
With its large, bubble-like fairing, this very distinctive two-wheeled Beemer recalls the streamlined locomotives of the 1930s. It looks not unlike a giant scooter, albeit not the type that young ladies would typically ride to school, and whether you love or loathe the styling there’s no denying it’s a head-turner, and would be the talk of the Sunday morning breakfast run.
A motorbike racer, designer and craftsman, Oehlerking is well-known in the custom bike scene for his extreme creations and he’s built about 17 BMW customs over the past 35 years. He made this art deco R 18 for the “SoulFuel” series, a collaboration between BMW Motorrad and selected customisers.
Oehlerking reportedly plans a limited production run of the Spirit of Passion R 18, but the project is about demonstrating what can be done with a dollop of imagination and money.
Thanks to its conversion-friendly architecture, the R 18 is predestined for customising, says BMW Motorrad. In its standard, naked form (without fairings) the bike has a purist, no-frills vibe that references famous models such as the 1930s BMW R5.
Kingston Custom’s handmade bodywork includes a finned mudguard that wraps around most of the rear wheel, and the exhaust is modified in roadster style. And just so that its Bavarian provenance cannot be mistaken even without the blue and white propeller badge, the fairing has a double kidney grille as used in BMW’s cars — this one specifically modelled on the iconic BMW 328 of the 1930s.
The wheel suspension and “teardrop” fuel tank are original, as is the huge, 1,802cc alley-scraper engine with its two cylinders lying horizontally in boxer format.
“I left the technology as it is,” says Oehlerking. “The frame is 100% original.” Design touches such as the exposed driveshaft and rear wheel hub remain as they came out of the BMW factory.
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