There’s no denying that BMW’s classic R-series models are enjoying the limelight at the moment. While they’re a popular choice as donors for custom projects, many are also left in original condition or restored to period-correct perfection.
Thankfully for Airhead owners, BMW Group Classic has a comprehensive catalogue of spares—as is evident with this R90S. While it appears to be an immaculately restored 1974 model, it is, in fact, a brand new motorcycle—built from the ground up using genuine BMW parts.
The project was conceived two years ago by BMW Motorrad USA dealer MAX BMW. With dealerships in Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York, MAX BMW is officially recognised as a classic BMW specialist. “The BMW classic scene is big and continues to grow,” says owner Max Stratton. “I think many motorcyclists are at a point in their life that they want to go back to the first bikes they had or wish they had. The bikes are available and so are the parts, making it very easy for anyone to get into the vintage BMW scene.”
Max and his staff decided to conduct an experiment—pick a classic BMW model, and see how many parts were still available for it. They settled on the historic R90S, a bike that was considered high-performance when it launched in 1973 and went on to win the inaugural A.M.A. Production Championship in 1976, piloted by British racer Reg Pridmore. “For fun, I decided to see how many parts were still available for the R90S”, says Max. “Because the pages piled up and most of the numbers were good, I said, ‘I think we could build a bike!’”
The R90S’ engine had to be built up from a short block (which already has the crank cam and chain installed) but there were none in stock. Fortunately BMW Motorrad has retained most of its original tooling—so many parts that might not be in stock can be reproduced if necessary. The short block arrived after six months, and MAX BMW began ordering the remaining parts and planning the build.
Technicians from all three MAX BMW locations were finally brought together in December of last year to complete the build. Using original and updated manuals, they took three days to transform the R90S from boxed parts to a working motorcycle, after which they spent an additional day painstakingly inspecting it before taking it for a test run.
An impressive timeline, considering the work involved—not only did the engine need to be assembled, but many other parts, such as the wheels, had to be built up from individual components. Particular attention was paid to authenticity—right down to ensuring that original fasteners were used in their correct mounting points.
All the body parts, including the 24-litre fuel tank, came from the factory in the original two-tone paint scheme. A few parts, however, couldn’t be found—such as the spring clip for the airbox, rear brake lever rod and right front fork slider. R100RS parts were sourced as replacements.
The team also had to improvise when it came to wiring, combining the wiring harnesses from a 1976 R90S and a later R-series model to accommodate BMW’s newer electronic tachometer (the original mechanical tachometer had been discontinued).
The final parts count came to roughly 1665, at a total cost of approximately $46,000. The build itself was documented daily, with photos and video posted to Facebook and a blog dedicated to the project. According to Max, the response was overwhelming. Prospective buyers have already come forward, but for now the R90S is going to be on display at each of the MAX BMW dealerships, with staff riding it.
And how does it ride? Max was the first to test ride it and says, “the bike feels solid, has great usable power and the gearbox shifts are smooth.”