When talking about the most substantial motorcycle designs in history, BMW’s R7 is seldom left out of the conversation. The wonderfully Art Deco-styled two-wheeler boasts a radical aesthetic that’s managed to stand the test of time profoundly well. For well over half-a-century, owning an R7 example has been limited to something of a pipe dream. Thanks to a shop in Florida, that’s changed.
The R7 project started in 1933, just year prior to the prototype’s completion. The idea for the model stemmed from a need to replace BMW’s R16 with an all-new flagship bike. Instead of merely hobbling existing parts and off-the-shelf components together, BMW instead allowed its people to generate an entirely novel concept, employing a monocoque chassis, fully-telescopic forks, heavy Art Deco styling, and a revised version of the Bavarian marque’s trademark power plant, utilizing bespoke gearbox castings and crank cases — the latter of which was designed to work in tandem with the mono-unit frame. The barrels and cylinder heads were cast in a single unit, and the R7’s gearbox incorporated technology that wouldn’t be seen on BMW’s two-wheeled production offerings for another several decades.
At the heart of the R7 was 793cc mill that inhaled via Amal-Fischer carbs, reportedly put down 35 horsepower at 5,000rpm, and boasted a top-speed of around 90 miles-per-hour. Despite the R7’s cutting-edge performance and wildly attractive style, the proto was never publicly shown or exhibited, and instead was sadly relegated to a crate in a dank corner of BMW’s warehouse where it sat for the next seven-decades. Supposedly in 1936, an article about BMW’s then-new R5 included a single side-view of the R7, along with a caption reading “what could have been”. That individual photo ended up acting as the catalyst to an enigma surrounding the mysterious R7.
While the R7 was an objectively impressive motorbike, timing just wasn’t on its side. On top of the looming Second World War, the R7’s high production costs, inter-company politics, and general bad luck prevented the Art Deco bike from seeing the light of production, even after the conclusion of WW2. For a more thorough look at the R7 and its history, I highly recommend checking out vintage moto guru Paul D’Orleans’ writeup on the Beemer.
Though it doesn’t appear BMW ever lost track of the lone R7 example, it wasn’t until 2005, 71-years after its creation, that the marque green-lit the restoration of the iconic prototype — an undertaking tasked to Armin Frey (who was responsible for the R7’s mechanics), and Hans Keckeisen (who dealt with the R7’s bodywork) of BMW’s Classic Department.
Because only one R7 example was ever completed, even the most diehard (and affluent) BMW moto aficionados have little to no chance of ever adding the Art Deco proto to their respective stables, though that’s now changed. Sorta. Meet the “Nostalgia BMW R nineT R7 Kit” from Florida’s NMoto Studio. First unveiled a few weeks back at the 2018 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, the new kit is designed to transform the Roundel brand’s modern heritage model (the R nineT) into a recreation of the iconic R7.
Comprised of 74 (mostly aluminum) parts — roughly a dozen of which come from top-shelf aftermarket outfits like Motogadget — the Nostalgia-kitted R nineT actually weighs in at less than the stock nineT. Customers can also opt for any one of the 13 color scheme combos available from the Florida shop.
While there are a number of minor aesthetic differences between the original R7 prototype and NMoto’s kit, the Florida-based shop has done a remarkable job of capturing the essence of the iconic German proto. Some liberties were taken such as the inclusion of modern (Brembo) disc brakes, and elements like the hand-shift knob have been ditched, though the guys at NMoto did at least opt for old-school bar-end levers with internally routed cables.
Since debuting the new kit, NMoto says its already received some 47 pre-orders. This is all the more impressive considering the kit retails for nearly $50K (technically $49.5K), though that number includes a brand new R nineT donor. At the moment the Nostalgia kit isn’t offered a la cart, though NMoto says self-install kits (sans donor) should become available around Spring of 2019. As of the time of writing, there is reportedly a three-to-six-month waiting list following the completion of the first batch of kitted bikes. To order one for yourself, go to the NMoto site.