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1925 BMW 494cc R32

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Lot No: 120

Blueprint for future BMWs

1925 BMW 494cc R32

Frame no. 33645
Engine no. 33645

Very rarely can a motorcycle brand's DNA be traced back to its first model in a straight, unwavering line. There are usually side trips and dead-ends along the way. Not so with BMW and its debut motorcycle, the R32 of 1923. Today's Beemer rider would recognize it as a BMW even if the famed "spinning propeller" logo was taped over. Likewise a rider from yesteryear could easily pick a new BMW out of a lineup of modern machines.

Bayerische Motoren Werke, a maker of aircraft engines starting in 1917, came to motorcycles courtesy of the Treaty Of Versailles, which ended World War I. Under the treaty's strict rules, a defeated Germany could have neither an air force nor a domestic aviation industry. Faced with that ultimatum, BMW turned to producing engines for land-bound vehicles, including the Victoria motorcycle of Nuremburg. It used a Max Friz-designed BMW motor but with its opposed cylinders running north-south, the front jug benefitting from cooling air while the rear cylinder, "shaded" from the airstream, tended to run hot. When BMW decided to build its own complete machine, Friz thought he had a better idea. By turning the motor 90 degrees sideways, each cylinder jutted into the onrushing windblast like stubby airplane wings, cooled equally and effectively. The blueprint for all future BMW "Boxer" motors had been laid down.

Other features have carried over the decades. At a time when most motorcycles had separate engines and gearboxes, the R32 had a bolted-together "semi-unit" design that would foreshadow the combined engine/transmission housings almost universal today. The engine was lubricated by recirculating oiling system, an advanced feature compared to total-loss lubrication that was normal at the time. For reliability, clean running and low maintenance the R32 ran a shaft final drive instead of a chain, a feature that has remained synonymous with BMW.

Friz's masterwork 486cc flat-twin gave 8.5 horsepower, good for a top speed of about 60 mph, plenty for the roads of the day. Factory speed demon Ernst Henne rode a much-modified supercharged version to a world speed record of 173.88 mph.

The 1925 version on auction is one of perhaps 60 R32s thought to exist. Paperwork from the factory documents it as a matching-numbers machine and denotes its build-date. Stampings on the engine case halves, transmission case halves and rear drive housing all match, and the components show no signs of repair. The carburetor and most other running gear appear original to the bike. It has the rare Norris speedometer option while most other R32s – if they have a speedo at all – wear the more common AVC unit. The bike is also equipped with the higher-output "laydown" magneto, another rare factory option.

Part of a large collection of motorcycles the R32, fittingly, is owned by a mechanical engineer. He advises us that the BMW runs well and is used occasionally at meets and rallies. Most of the time, though, it is kept on static display at a private residence. Sold on an Arizona certificate of title.

Estimate: $140,000 - 160,000

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Ad Details

Property is Sold
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Price Info Sold at Auction for $139,000 including buyers premium to auctioneer.
Type: Classic Vehicle / Collector Vehicle
New or Used: Used
Year: 1925
Model: 494cc R32
Make: BMW
Price $140,000 USD


Type & Features: Classic and Collector Motorcycles

For Sale at Auction

Auction Sale? Yes
Type of Auction Phone Bidding, Internet Bidding, On-site Registration, Reserve Price, Retail Auction Event
Auction Date 05/14/2011
Auction Time 2:00 PM PST
Location Quail Lodge, Carmel, California
Name of Auction Bonham's Collectors' Motorcycles and Related Memorabilia
Auction Website

Unique Sale Issues

Type of Sale Auction Company Sale




Address 8205 Valley Greens Dr
City Carmel
State CA
Postal Code 93923
Country USA

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Phone +1 323 436 5470
Ad id: 16911598
Ad views:4739
Current rating Average score 0 after 0 votesAverage score 0 after 0 votesAverage score 0 after 0 votesAverage score 0 after 0 votesAverage score 0 after 0 votes Grade


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