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Written by BMWVMCA NEWS   
Thursday, 31 July 2008

Biographies:

 

The purpose of this series is to share thumbnail sketches of the lives  and activities of our fellows and to further reinforce the fact that we are all regular folks doing some extra-ordinary things.

 

 

“My Long and Winding Road to BMW”  

 

by Larry Hassard

  

I’m a child of the 60’s and was fortunate enough to live outside of New York City during that magic period of time. “Love Ins” in Central Park, live music at Fillmore East , hanging around the East Village, being drenched in the sights, sounds (and smells)  of  the time.  And then, of course, there was Woodstock.

  

My father had never owned a motorcycle and no one I knew from the neighborhood had motorcycles.  One day we went to visit my father’s brother, Uncle Bob. Sitting at the curb was this huge shiny hulk of a machine- an old Harley Davidson. He went through an arcane starting ritual and the beast came to life roaring and shaking wildly. He motioned for me to take a place on the back of the huge sprung seat, jammed the tank mounted hand shifter into gear and away we went with me hanging onto his waist for dear life.  It was a raw, visceral experience with not a thing subtle about it. We weren’t gone long and soon returned to the house. The adults went inside and I stood at the curb, still wide eyed, staring at the steaming, now-silent behemoth stinking of gas as it marked it’s place on the Jersey City asphalt with a puddle of oil.  I couldn’t help but climb back up in the saddle and suddenly recoiled from a painful stinging in my leg. The Harley had “branded” me and that brand has stayed with me to this day.

  

The late sixties found me out of high school and headed to college. One afternoon I went with friends to see a new movie called “Easy Rider”. That was it. I HAD to have a motorcycle. None of my friends really understood this desire and none followed suit. Having no idea how to ride one and no one to teach me I bought my first- a brand new 1970 Honda 175.  There being no MSF back then I borrowed a trailer and hauled it home from the dealership with my 1949 Plymouth sedan.  I learned to ride it in the driveway of our home venturing out on increasingly distant journeys until I felt confident in my skills.  My first trip was from New York to my Uncle Bob’s vacation home at Greenwood Lake, NJ.

  

Not knowing the limitations of a vehicle is liberating. Although I would never chance a trip over the George Washington Bridge and up the Bear Mountain Parkway on a machine as small at that one today, back then I didn’t know any better. I did learn that if I was to travel like Captain America and Billy I would need a bigger horse so within 6 months for $700 I bought a 1948 Harley ‘panhead’, with tank shift and foot clutch, from a co-worker of my father’s on the Long Island Railroad. I rode that old girl all over upstate New York, through the Adirondack Mountains, and across New England. I’ve since owned many bikes of different marques – Hondas, Suzukis, an OSSA  and more new and old Harleys. Although I always admired them I didn’t really get interested in BMWs until around 6 years ago.  I bought a 1955 R50 from a fellow in New Hampshire. It was like a pig with lipstick.  He seemed to have no real knowledge of the bike and spent a lot of money on paint and cosmetics without concern for it’s mechanical condition. Once the bike was put together it looked pretty but wouldn’t run. It smoked, fouled plugs and was impossible to start. He had exhausted his budget on the bike and now was anxious to get rid of the thing. He really didn’t like that bike.  I went to see it and fell in love.

  

I made all of the mistakes one could make in buying a vintage bike. I just saw it and fell in love immediately. Aesthetically it was the most beautiful machine I had ever seen. Simple, elegant, balanced and possessing a certain spirit that called to me. I was a dead duck. We loaded it in a trailer and home it went. I tried to ride it but it would not run reliably enough. It would foul it’s plugs in less than 10 miles.  I finally got to the point where I knew it would need to come apart. Not having any books or information I did some quick internet searches and found the fountain from which information, parts and advice seemingly springs- the Godhead of Vintage BMW-dom, in Sturgis, Mississippi, of all places. Books ordered, I began to dissect. The motorcycle quickly become several large piles of parts on the garage floor. As I became increasingly involved it was like falling into Alice’s rabbit hole. I began to hear about strange things called slingers, discovered worn out cylinders, horrible pistons and rings, worse heads and valves.  With time (and mucho dinero) all of these things were slowly addressed and rectified. With each exercise I became more proficient and confident in my mechanical skills, bolstered by the knowledge that if I became stumped there was a raspy Southern voice available on the end of the phone line to save my bacon. I also noticed that as my involvement with this project continued I was becoming more and more enamored of the result.

  

With each completed item, I wanted it to be better and better. Ignorance was indeed bliss because with my increased knowledge I began to know which parts were “right” and of course I had to have the right parts. I cared less and less about the “eau de brake cleaner” that became my everyday cologne and no longer cared about appearing in my office with grease stained cuticles. I wore them like badges of honor.

  

The project was interrupted by a move from Maine to Arizona and the cartons and boxes of parts took up considerable room in our 14 foot UHaul trailer.

  

The day finally came when all parts were refinished, the motor was re-assembled and the piles of parts became a motorcycle once again.  With much fanfare, preparation was made for starting and an inaugural run.  To my amazement the machine started with 2 kicks and I was actually able to ride almost around the whole block before it died and would not start again.  Over time with some tinkering and adjustment I would get it started again and begin to make longer and longer forays from the garage.  Before leaving I would make sure my wife Carol was near the phone and had the keys to my pickup, just in case. 

  

My R50 is now about as done as it will ever be and is my most prized possession. It runs like a sewing machine and sometimes I go out to the garage just to start or look at it.  I took great pleasure in sending pictures of the bike ‘made right’ to the fellow I purchased it from. He was very thankful that I had come to the aid of this machine after he had lost interest and abandoned it. I find myself walking backwards away from it as I enter stores and enjoy talking to the people who always seem to be examining it when I return.  Most of all I think both the bike and I have shared this experience, grown together and have come out better than we went in.

  

Being the custodian of this machine, I’ve been brought into contact with a group of wonderful people who share the BMW spirit. They understand. If I get stumped or stopped by a problem they are generous and gracious in their desire to provide help.  Now that I know a little bit about these things I try to pass on my limited knowledge to people who may know even less than I. I’ve been both the recipient and donor of parts to other BMW owners.  Although I’m new to this, Carol and I with our 2 dogs in tow,  made the 3 day pilgrimage to  aforesaid Sturgis, Mississippi for the recent rally where I met even more fantastic people, put faces to voices and was amazed at the depth of knowledge and commitment that people have with these old machines.

  

I never intended for this to become an obsession and I never thought I’d own more than one old BMW but now that there isn’t much left to do on the R50 I find myself somewhat discontented. Fortunately, just in time, I recently discovered a 1958 R26 that had been laying in a barn since the death of it’s original owner in 1973.

  

Regards,

 

Larry

 

 

From Don Plocinski:  

 

I'm a nuts and bolts guy...started as a kid when I probably took my crib apart for something to do much to the angst of my parents!

  

50 years later, I'm still at it and have always "tinkered" with anything mechanical. Love the BMWs; my love of fine engineering, precision craftmanship, and mechanical heritage left the Yamahas, Hondas and homemade stuff with lawnmower engines way behind with my first BMW in 1974.  Still have her, a '71 R75/5 SWB I call "The Mistress".

  

The garage/workshop is home for six Beemers: '65 R27, '71 R75/5, two '74 R90Ss, '76 R90/6 and a '76 R90S.

  

The next "ground, up" restoration project starting this coming winter is the first of the two 74 "S"s; the other one , "Ms. Georgia" is in my family room, under 200 (two hundred) miles on her and in perfect showroom condition, all original, just like she came outta the box. The thumper is really sweet 'cause she's the only single but the /5 has been with me a long time. The '76 "S" is a honey too.

  

I'm glad we have support groups for our passion! Other than the '74 Silver Smoke "S" in the house, I'm a Ride 'em - Don't hide 'em guy here in Central PA. Life MOA member, ABC Airhead and R90S Sport Owner's Club. Best regards,

  

Don


"As Good as it Gets,"   by Barbara Schuler-Brooks:
  

The sun shone down in liquid splendor on the cut grass, turning it to burnished gold. We were wandering along the rolling California hills, peopled with dark Live Oak trees and scrub brush lining the sides of the road. The R69S Steib combination was in its element although a bit hot, dusty and over-loaded. But then so were we. But I kept thinking as we rolled along, "Baby, it doesn't get any better than this shining moment. We are headed home after a glorious two weeks on the road, and were about to roll on up the fabulous Mendocino Coastline of Central California. The bucolic, sweet serendipity of the soft landscape as we rolled into Petaluma just does something to the heart of you."

  

As does riding along behind the sidecar rig as it starts suddenly to weave vigorously back and forth, for my husband to slow down and pull over. Which he eventually did, a few more miles and a dozen wriggly hills later when we entered a little community near the coast. As I pulled up next to him Kevin turns to me with a grumpy smile and says "Flat tire in the back. That wasn't much fun the last couple of miles. Why does it always have to be in the BACK!" The sun was now flirting with the horizon, creating romantic purple shadows and a nervous sense of urgency - what we needed was a campground and/or a shop. The previously 'romantic' shadows were deepening as we stared up and down Main Street Littletown Nowhere, CA and noted that none of the three commercial buildings had anything that even vaguely resembled a solution to our problem. If they were open that is...which they were not.

  

I peeked over a fence and into a field near a house. There was a man there. For want of any alternatives and emboldened by desperation I hollered over the fence. “We have a flat tire, can we possibly camp in your yard while we fix it? We would be quiet...we would pay...you can have our grand chrildren…” as I spoke, my aching back, my swollen feet, my scratchy dried out wind burned eyes and my full bladder all lent a ring of truth to my woes.

  

He acquiesced, but really very ungraciously.

  

Not the sort to have ever tilted at a windmill, here I was, a damsel in distress, and for him an opportunity for chivalry." Well ... you can go in the back,” he said, “but no toilet. And don't make a fire. And don't be starting them motorcycles up before nine o'clock in the morning. And don't you be eating none of my Apples off my tree.”

  

“No matter,” I thought as we pushed our bike to the back of his lot, “I already have my Prince Charming...". And we set up our tent under the scraggly apple tree and in the rapidly failing light and perused humorously the three tiny Pippins hanging thereon. Even the hordes of local deer had passed these over...

  

The tent was thrown up, the bikes secured and there was just enough light left in the wide open California sky for my best buddy to see by. The tools were clinking and quickly the wheel was off. I reached deep into the saddlebag, pulled out precisely ONE really good beer - all we had - and twisted the top. Sitting down next to him as he began to work the tire free of the rim I handed him the beer.

  

“Darling" I said, “It couldn't get any better than this, could it?”

  

“Better than what?” he grumped. “Stuck in a field, fixing a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, in the dark on a Sunday night?!”

  

“No” I replied. “Traveling with my own personal mechanic and watching him do it!!”

 

Barbara Schuler-Brooks

 

   

Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 July 2008 )
 
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