Book Review

‘The BMW story’

Second Edition
Production and racing motorcycles from 1923 to the present day
Author: Ian Falloon
Published by: Veloce Publishing Ltd, Veloce House, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester DT1 3AR
Tel.: 01305 260068 Email:
Fax: 01305 250479Hardback, 270 x 210mm (portrait); 304 pages with 270 colour and black and white photographs and illustrations.ISBN 978-1- 787113-58-9/UPC 6-36847-01358-5£40 (UK); $60 (USA)

Max Friz’s side-valve shaft-driven R32 of 1923, the first BMW boxer twin motorcycle, set BMW on a path that would continue for the next 96 years.

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BMW has never been afraid of innovation, from the supercharger of the 1920s and 1930s, to the telescopic and then Earles front forks, wind-tunnel-developed fairings, anti-lock brakes and Paralever rear suspension.

Here is the full story of all BMW’s road and racing machines, and the people that designed them, including the classic Kompressor, RS54, R69S, R90S as well as the latest R1150 and K1200 models.

The book includes a background history to the company founded in 1917 to produce aircraft engines; their first motorcycle, the R32 of 1923, followed in 1925 by their first sporting model, the sophisticated and very expensive 500cc R37, boasting fully enclosed overhead valves.

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It’s interesting to read that whilst they were the first production motorcycles to be fitted with hydraulically-dampened telescopic forks, they did not get four-speed foot-change gearboxes until the mid-1930s and still had rigid frames.

On the sporting side, encouraged and subsidised by the Nazi party, the specially-built dohc Kompressors were used to regain the worldspeed record by Ernst Henne, with Georg Meier winningthe 1939 Senior TT.

The post-Second World War resurrection, including the RS54 production racers that were virtually unbeatable in grand prix sidecar racing and the R75/5 – the first postwar 750cc model – which heralded a new generation of boxer twins lasting until the early 1990s.

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A surprising revelation is that the rather slow and very expensive (in the UK) 250cc models, R39-R27, from 1925-1966, were actually their best-selling models, until succeeded by the single-cylinder Rotax-based F650.

An amazing range of machines is covered from the Indian-built 313cc single-cylinder 34bhp G310R to the 193bhp four-cylinder S1000RR; the F800 vertical twin to the 160bhp six-cylinder K1600 Grand America.

Written by one of motorcycling’s renowned historians, Ian Falloon’s excellent second edition brings the BMW story right up to date.

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This 300-page tome is aided by the addition of two appendices – one listing BMW production from 1923-2008 and the second with the complete specifications of all production BMWs.

Motorcycle types are not included in either the contents or the index and sometimes models are referred to by the factory reference numbers rather than the model names, which can be frustrating.

Reviewed by Jonathan Hill.

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