A few of us sat outside a pub last night recounting tales from the weekend’s racing at Sideburn Magazine’s Dirt Quake whilst one of the crew unleashed his finest Arthur Daly impression on a chap in need of a new ride. Well, the patter consisted of, “It’s a BMW R80, do you want it?” Said vehicle’s tacho had covered the equivalent of the equator, twice, and wasn’t exactly what you’d call a custom. It had small indicators and at some point Autosol and a rag had flirted with the silencers, yet as a mode of transport it was hard to fault.
There’s a reason why the Bike Shed and the other custom blogs and websites are awash with evermore creative adaptations of the Bavarian stalwart, they make sense. Ok, so the silly engine pokes out, by now original wiring will be shot, on the R100 you find yourself changing gear with the Bing’s float bowl and refinement is on par with a Masey Ferguson yet there is an intrinsic and far reaching appeal. And as we’ve recounted many times there is one British outfit that has capitalised on this demand and built a successful business giving people with exactly what they want, good looking and reliable BMWs. Kevils Speed Shop down in Paignton, Devon has the process dialled-in and as a result been able to deliver his customs all over the world. This is build number 75 and the workshop is as busy as ever.
Octavian, the new owner of this 1980 R100 is from Bucharest and knows a thing or two about build quality, his day job is organising the charter of mega yachts for the world’s well healed to enjoy the delights of the Mediterranean. He wanted a timeless custom that be might confused with a model rolling off the production line in the 1950s. Dealing with gem-encrusted flamboyance all day led Octavian to request a subtle and classical style. OK, so an Anvil isn’t exactly subtle but “a heavy iron block with a flat top and concave sides, on which metal can be hammered and shaped”, would be one way to describe the BMW’s fuel tank, and perhaps the inherent strength of the boxer motor.
As it turns out, this isn’t a BMW tank but a handmade alloy version, hammered-out by the Kevils team for a more vintage, 6 series feel, the brushed finish suggesting patina developed over many decades. Genuine patina isn’t something you’ll find on a Kevils build though, they learnt on the very early builds that the only way to ensure a bike’s reliability once it’s been shipped abroad is to start from scratch. Donors are literally taken back to their component parts and anything perishable is binned, no questions asked. This means a full engine refurb, wheel build and complete re-wire are now standard procedure.
Back in the good old days a headlight offered the perfect home for a speedo and the R50 style is often repeated today. A slightly retro-faced Motogadget gauge sits in the new bucket, complete with visor and period lens. Rebuilt forks, the early ATE version, are clamped by a Kevils own brand top yoke and gaitors further wind back the years. It wasn’t until the seventies when giant indicators began appearing on production bikes so tiny LEDs on unobtrusive brackets and hidden ones in the subframe rails will save Octavian from remembering the local arm signal code, whilst maintaining a historic aesthetic.
Black barrels and reverse megaphone mufflers go a long way to reduce the R100s bulk, especially important on this build as the Firestone Deluxe Champions are a normal width, as opposed to the cartoon proportions some of us have become partial to. The stance and silhouette is well balanced. A minor point maybe, but the Mikuni carbs fitted here offer a more classic visual, throttle response is also crisper than the bulbous Bings, despite retaining the original intake tracts and airbox housing.
Out back the subframe swap is a simple task. All the R&D was done years ago, so the guys need only unbolt the stock unit, reach up to the shelf and unwrap a fresh Kevils version. This also makes the seat pan fabrication much easier. Not only that, should one of the overseas customers have a prang Kev can ship the necessary replacement parts and there’s a good chance that a repair can be undertaken locally without having to repatriate the bike.
The normally shiny chrome shrouds on the Hagon shocks have been flatted down to match the tank and mudguards, the last thing Octavian needs is more bling in his life.
Timeless, perhaps that’s it. BMWs are timeless. Could that be the reason that we see so many of them are dusted off, tricked-up and sent out for another innings? From a glance, or to the non-aficionados, this bike could be two or even four decades old, or somewhere in between. That’s why Octavian chose this design and why he asked Kev to bring it to life. I wonder how long it will be before one of the wealthy yacht-goers makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
To speak to Kev about your dream build or to order parts for a project follow these links.