BRUCE’S BEAUT BEEMER
When it’s time to get ourselves a project bike, to provide quality shed time as well as the potential for a lot of personal satisfaction, there’s a smorgasbord of delicious choices available. There’s something to suit every budget and personal preference.
Many enthusiasts are drawn to bikes that have made their mark for giant leaps in design or for setting performance benchmarks or just because they’re oozing X-factor. This covers a range of genres that includes everything from classic Brits, beveldrive Ducatis and early CB750 Hondas to Z1 Kawasakis. These days it also includes first models of all the litreclass superbikes from Japan and avantgarde examples like the big Suzuki Katanas and Honda and Kawasaki sixes.
But once you choose a standout model you’re in competition with many others for the few in-demand examples still languishing in sheds. It’s a search that requires planning, focus and a healthy bank balance.
Then there are those of us who would just like to do up a bike. The glamour thing doesn’t matter. How the particular bike was regarded in the day doesn’t count for much either. Whether it was a real bitumenburner or not doesn’t come into the calculation.
There’s no real search happening in this case, either. It’s more about being ready to make a quick decision when something suitable turns up out of the blue, grabbing it and getting stuck in. I’ve seen very happy outcomes when enthusiasts have taken on bikes like CX500 Hondas.
I reckon that when reader Bruce Hale from Sydney decided to tackle this 1987 BMW K75C, he was a pretty good fit in this latter category. To be clear, I’m in no way damning his choice of a little Beemer triple with faint praise. Personally I have a softspot for the K75s. The three-cylinder 750 donk is a sweet thing, a nicer engine than its four-cylinder sibling in my experience.
Tell us about your project, Bruce…
“I picked up my 1987 model BMW K75C in sad condition from a man in Tamworth, NSW. It cost me $500. The seller was entering the New Norcia monastery in WA, so it was time for him to part with a lot of his worldly goods. He’d bought the bike new and dropped it in about 1993 on a gravel road, punching holes in the engine bottomend cover as well as doing other damage. Luckily he cut the motor instantly before it could be damaged internally.
Although he got some less damaged pre-loved parts to repair it, he had never got around to doing the job. When I got it from him in November 2009, I think it was, it had been sitting in his shed for all those years.
FIRING IT UP
“Getting it running didn’t require much in the way of parts or even much effort. I picked out about four pieces of the side-cover casting from the sump, each about the size of a 10-cent piece. He had given me a spare cover which had a slight crack in it, which I initially epoxied as a stop-gap. But I have since replaced it with a brand new cover. I had to buy a second-hand tank and a new fuel pump.
“With the parts fitted and with some fuel in the tank, I hooked up a battery and gave it a try. After about 30 seconds of cranking it started up. For a minute or two it blew some smoke and then settled down and started to hum. It has kept humming ever since.
“The only mechanical dismantling I had to do was to grease the spline of the driveshaft. I only needed professional input from two businesses, both in Sydney. Motohansa in Rydalmere repaired a vacuum leak in the throttle bodies for me, while M.I.S. Instruments at Kings Park overhauled the speedo. I struck it lucky with them, tracking them down by word of mouth. The fellow there had done little but work on these BMW speedos for the police in his apprentice days. They apparently needed to be calibrated, for police work, every month. After about six months they used to give trouble and never got any better. As one of the first electronic instrument panels on a bike, they apparently found the humid Australian climate a bit hostile.
“I needed some guidance to sort some problems with the bike’s wiring. That was fixed by going back to the wreckers who had sold me the replacement tank. They were happy for me to check out the wiring details on the bike the tank came from.
“One thing about BMW I have discovered during the process is that almost any part is available new from them, even for 1987 models.
“One of the hardest parts of the overall project was the unreal hassles that I had with the NSW RTA, as it was known then. First it was about endless VIN number difficulties that stemmed from changes to the approaches of authorities regarding VIN records in the bike’s native Queensland and then in NSW. But despite all the delays and frustrations the paperwork was eventually sorted and my BMW was street-legal. When I later fitted the sidecar there was a second amazingly frustrating delay in regard to the RTA’s response to the engineer’s report. Finally that too was sorted.
ADDING THE CHAIR
“The decision to add the sidecar came after I’d been riding the bike for a while. The basic sidecar also cost me $500, which turned out to be little more than a down-payment on the overall cost of engineering it and setting it up and adding the leadinglink front suspension.
“You soon learn that sidecars aren’t universally popular. The guys at Motohansa reckon that adding the sidecar was a waste of a good bike, but they said it with a smile. My view is that my BMW K75 is now handier as an outfit than a ute would be. To be honest, I was never really totally comfortable with it as a solo bike. It’s a bit heavy and the seat is a bit high for me. I dropped it a couple of times doing really slow manoeuvres in carparks etc, because it was hard to get my feet on the ground.
“Once the sidecar was fitted I used it for a few months before spending the extra on the leading-link front suspension conversion.
“It made a huge difference to steering the bike. It felt like power steering and you’re no longer fighting the handlebars for control of the outfit.
THE WASH UP
“I’ve done about 7000km on it and the clock is showing 65,000km. I’ve used it mainly for rides around town and some weekend rides. But it has been great for shopping with the sidecar attached. It draws attention in car parks occasionally from women ‘of a certain age’. One wanted her husband to get one just like it, so he’d, “piss off around Australia”. I think she meant on his own…
“I would like to get it painted professionally one day – I don’t have the expertise to do a proper paint job. I just used aerosol acrylic on the bike and yacht paint on the fibreglass sidecar.
“But it might be time to think about moving on. My wife gave me funding for a Moto Guzzi Nevada for my 60th birthday, so the outfit now takes second place.”
Thanks a lot for sharing your story and photos with MT’s readers, Bruce.
Readers who, like me, wouldn’t mind having Bruce’s three-wheeled ‘ute’ under their carport might want to call him on 0413 499 847. But don’t insult the man. While it started out for $500 it owes him a power more than that now.
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