Thursday, October 29, 2015

Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance 2015 celebrating BMW, Land Speed Record & Police Motorcycles

Classic motorcycles were out in full force for the 19th Annual Radnor Hunt Concours.  Our featured marques for 2015 included BMW, Land Speed Record, Police and other classic motorcycles.

BMW built aircraft during World War I, and after things quieted down, motorcycles were launched in 1921. The breakthrough machine came in 1923, with the introduction of the brilliant Max Friz designed R32. It featured a 494cc flat-twin engine with a three speed gearbox and shaft drive. Its clever and stylish was design made all the more appealing by its high quality components and workmanship.  This simple layout was to provide the key design elements that would come to epitomize what BMW means to most enthusiasts today. Just as the V-Twin has become synonymous with Harley-Davidson, the opposed flat twin would be the signature BMW motive element.

During the 1930’s, BMW’s proved that speed sells by launching headlong into a top speed fight with rider Ernst Henne, taking the record six times in that period. Before pursuing all out top speed records, Henne was the German roadracing champion in 1926 and 1927. He also won the grueling Targa Florio in Sicily in 1928. In 1929, he rode the supercharged 750cc BMW to 134 mph. Eventually Henne topped 173 mph with the partially streamlined R37. Even the rider’s drag was taken into consideration and he was given a custom wind tunnel tested helmet to wear. In all, he claimed 76 world records, many on the newly constructed Autobahn.

The engineers at BMW were given strong support in their efforts to demonstrate BMW superiority to the rest of the world. 1938 European Motor Cycle Championship winner Georg “Schorsch” Meier was key to that next step. Their victory at the 1939 Isle of Man TT with the Type 255 Kompressor, on the supercharged 500 cc double overhead cam twin rocked the establishment. It was the first time a foreign rider, Meier, on a foreign machine won the Senior event.

Launched in 1936, BMW built the R12 until 1942.The R12 was the world’s first mass produced motorcycle with hydraulically damped telescopic forks. It was incredibly robust and produced in great numbers. Just prior to World War II, the Russians reverse engineered the BMW R71. Their version was called the M72. There is some debate over whether the plans were stolen or a license granted, but the basic design is still being used today by Ural Motorcycles, a testimony to the “rightness” of the original machine’s design.

After the war, BMW had to start with a clean slate. All engineering drawings and manufacturing machines were destroyed. Despite the setback, they got to work on producing both lightweight and some fine touring machines. In the 1950’s the R68 proved to be an ideal combination for solo and sidecar use. BMWs were often paired with Steib brand sidecars that were equally handsome and well made. The iconic R68, in solo form, was called “The 100 mph motorcycle” for good reason. Aesthetically, it was simply beautiful, with smaller, tighter fenders instead of the larger flared touring type.

As the brand clawed its way back to financial stability building roadsters, racing again provided a way to show the world that BMW built some of the fastest motorcycles in the world. The 1954 Rennsport utilized a bevel gear driven overhead cam 494cc flat twin engine to contest the 500cc World Championship. Try as they might, they were outgunned by the Italian four cylinder machines that were laying the foundation for all future world championship machines. Gilera and later MV Agusta had bested the British singles and twins along the way too, relegating them to the positions off the podium in the late 1950’s and 60’s.

BMW did, however, did dominate one class. They won 19 World Championships in the sidecar class between 1955 and 1973. That Rennsport engine was put to good use and would remain competitive until the early 1970’s until two stroke engines came to the fore. Riders Fritz Scheidegger, Max Duebel and Klaus Enders knew how to extract the best from the flat twin three wheelers.

As the 1950’s came to a close, BMW eventually had to concede that they would not be as competitive in the solo classes anymore as the Japanese entered the arena with a seemingly unlimited budget. They concentrated on building some of the best touring machines in the world. The R69S, at 594cc offered comfort, good road holding with British designed Earles forks, shaft drive reliability and ease of maintenance to an increasingly prosperous group of buyers around the world. The optional 6.5 gallon Hoske fuel tank expanded the riders’ range significantly from the stock tank. The R69s remained in the lineup until 1969 when BMW responded to market pressure to offer fresher styling and launched the more modern appearing /5 series. When the “Toaster Tank” models first appeared, the traditional BMW riders rejected them because of the twitchy handling and small fuel tanks. The items were resolved when a longer wheelbase model was added, but the next Big Thing came in 1974 when the R90S was launched. 


Designer Hans Muth was chosen to inject some sex appeal to this fast motorcycle. The Smoke Black / Silver paint scheme on the fairing and later Daytona Orange added a splash of color to the 900cc rocket. If anyone had doubts, the heavily breathed upon Butler and Smith R90S’s with rider Gary Fisher, Reg Pridmore and Steve McLaughin went on a tear in the newly launched AMA Superbike series. After winning the opening round, it was Pridmore who won the Championship title in 1976 despite strong competition from Cook Neilson’s Ducati and a host of Japanese machines all vying for the win. The secret to their success was largely due to Butler and Smith’s chief engineer, Udo Geitl, a former NASA rocket engineer. He later joined the successful Honda racing team and in retirement built racing yachts.

Radnor Hunt wishes to thank our Special Guest, former AMA Pro racer, Gary Fisher for judging motorcycles this year with our crew of experienced judges. 

The 19th Annual Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance also celebrated Land Speed Record machines and was honored to have the very first customer Britten V1000 this year. Owner Bob Robbins also brought the Britten streamliner for the LSR class. Following our event, the Britten V1000 was shipped to Barber Motorsports Vintage Festival to reunite 9 of the 10 Britten V1000's ever built, but that's another story. 


Photos by Dawn Deppi @

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yamaha Two-Stroke Threesome

This collection of Yamaha two stroke production racing motorcycles includes a 1969 Yamaha TR2 350, a 1979 Yamaha TZ125 and TZ750. The TR2 was the first production racer to take on the factory bikes at the Grand Prix level. 1969 was the year the 150 mph 350cc was launched and this machine is number 19 made. It still has matching frame and engine numbers, in fact, all three of the these bikes do. Owned by Jacques DuPont, aka Jack, it was lasted raced by Timmy Sussman in the 1972 Daytona 200 and was sent to the Isle of Man for the T.T races at some point, but no confirmation of results has been located thus far. It was recently sold from the original owner's family after being laid up since 1973.

In 1973, 500cc FIM World Champion Giacomo Agostini famously left Italian manufacturer MV Agusta for Yamaha. He took a stunning victory on the Yamaha TZ750 in the Daytona 200 race in 1974. Yamaha domination had began in earnest then and lasted for more than a decade at the speedway.

The TZ125 is a single cylinder, water-cooled 125cc two stroke with monoshock rear suspension. Weight is a mere 165 pounds and top speed in the range of 120 mph.
The TZ750 is one of the last mono shock ' OW31' replica's made by the factory. The TZ750 was made from 1974-1980, about 500 in total. Initially, they had twin shock rear suspension before getting upgraded in 1975 to the monoshock. Besides revised exhaust pipe routing that became a signature of the incredibly fast racer, numerous other changes, it was now capable of speeds in excess of  180 mph.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Yamaha TR2 production racer

1969 marked the introduction of the TR2 348 cc production racer from Yamaha Corporation. Starting with serial number 900101, the two stroke, twin cylinder engine featured twin carbs and a 5 speed gearbox bike also featured a featherbed Manx style frame and proper, massive drum brakes front and rear. Making 54 hp and revving to 9,500 rpm, the 111 kg. machine was capable of speeds over 150 mph.




I received a call a few months ago asking me if I had any interest in a TR2, one that had been in same family since new. The original owner, Jacques "Jack" duPont, of Delaware was ending his long career as a racer when the TR was launched in the spring of 1969. He immediately purchased one to race in the USA's AMA road racing series. I'm still doing the research on specifics but a few things are known. The bike was shipped to the Isle of Man to be raced in 1969 or 1970. It's crate was damaged en-route and the fuel tank cap was crudely but expeditiously repaired. The bike was last raced for the duPont's by Timmy Sussman. It was an early production, numbers matching motorcycle in 'as last raced' condition.

After a few prospective buyers opted out but the more I read the more I was intrigued, I had to have it. The TR's had enjoyed much success and would be succeeded by the TR2B and TZ350 in quick succession. Yamaha was entering it's 'Golden Age' of International road racing domination. Riders like Kel Carruthers, Don Emde, Rod Gould, Phil Read, Jarno Saarinen plus countless others realized they had a potential Grand Prix winner if they followed the exhaustive maintenance schedule and applied some creative tuning. Within a year, the dominance of the TR2 and smaller TD2 led to nearly entire grids made up of Yamaha branded motorcycles. If you wanted to win, you rode a Yamaha.


Eventually, Yamaha would replace the TR with the TZ series when water-cooling became the next great leap forward. A few years later, with the "Giant Killer" getting outgunned increasingly dependable larger capacity offerings from Suzuki and Kawasaki two-strokes, Yamaha unveiled the next arrow in its arsenal, the legendary TZ750. Thus began the next chapter in putting the average rider on world class equipment at a price nearly everyone could afford.