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1938 BMW R51: Preservation Restoration Progress Update


1938 R51 on the lift at Vintage German Motorcycles

Mike Dunn of Vintage German Motorcycles is hard at work sorting out the R51. Like peeling an union, we are going layer by layer to uncover more of the story behind this highly original vintage machine. We may have one of the finest original R51’s in existence and we intend to preserve as much of the original history and patina as possible. Anyone can have a fully restored motorcycle, but how do you replace a documented two owner original numbers matching machine from 1938? This preservation work is hard work! Much like building a new home, its much easier just to start anew than to repair and preserve an existing 1850’s farmhouse! Preservation classes have become all the rage and we intend to preserve this wonderful motorcycle but also make it a fully functional rider. You can refer back to prior posts to learn more about the history behind this one-of-a-kind R51.

Update from Mike Dunn:

Yesterday I started on the R51. I removed all the old wire work, junk cables and now have a nice base to start with. We kept only the advance cable, it was cloth and still original.

I adjusted all the valves yesterday, that’s now done and I placed new gaskets on the cylinder head covers and fixed the studs in all the covers. I Removed the old carbs and I will clean them and see if I get lucky with a set of good working ones? I also started to wire the bike all over with new cloth wire. We added cloth spark plug wires that’s done as well. I have some chrome to remove off just a few parts as well. Things are progressing and moving forward.

We also cleaned the inside of the caps and I added new felt inside them. We added new cloth wire and new leads going to the generator. As you can see there is no more black tape holding wires to the frame. I also added all the missing correct rear tail light wire clips. We added cloth clutch and brake cables and we have removed the black paint off the drive shaft and the chrome is coming back to life. The bike even has the original DRP mufflers!

Little by little things will get done.


Cloth cables being added


Drive shaft with black paint removed


Electrical tape replaced with proper stays


New gaskets installed


Original rims are pretty rough….


Rear brake light cable is now properly attached to the fender


The tear down begins….



Tank stripes have been done and have patina to match the bike.



We have freshened up the license plates but they still maintain their originality.


Oil pan has been cleaned and all fluids have been changed.


Videos show an easy start up and ride after 30 years in storage:

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