BMW or EMW? PDF Print E-mail
Written by BMWVMCA NEWS   
Wednesday, 06 August 2008


Rich Edgley writes:

Can anyone tell me if this is an EMW or actual BMW. It says it is from the Soviet Union, so I assume EMW. I thought the front forks was a dead giveaway, but can’t tell here.

Rich Edgley

1949 BMW : R-Series R-35  (Auction ended Dec 13, 2006)
eBay Item number: 230062180808 

“This is a 1949 BMW R-35 350cc from the former Soviet Union. The motorcycle has had some restoration work done on the motor (complete overhaul), transmission, and cosmetics (not to spec) and it runs well . The bike is 85% original, the headlight and coil are off bikes that are similar 6 volt system and brake shoes are off a Ural.   Note that the bike has a hole in the transmission casing but this doesn't effect the performance of the shifting of the gears and running of the motorcycle . The bike needs a taillight assembly, minor work done to the front forks(fork stabilizers), front and rear hubs, and rear brakes. A great project for the winter months waiting to hit the roads.  The motorcycle comes with U.S import papers from country of origin, EPA documentation, and bill of sale.”

I just looked up the history of EMW on the net, and found two sources. The
sources agree on dates and information. They were written by Wolfgang
Schuenke and E.BREINDL-GROPE

It seems that the Eisenach factory was about 60 - 70% destroyed by the
allied bombing.

Eisenach was captured by the American forces, and not turned over to the Soviets until July 1945.

On July 3rd, the Soviet commander, Marshall Zhukov determined that his
forces needed motor vehicles and ordered that the Eisenach plant resume
production and demanded 3000 cars and motorcycles be produced per year.

Production began in October or November (depending on which source you read) and by year's end, they had turned out ten R35s.

The following year they produced approximately 1300 R35s.

On September 15, 1946, the factory was reorganized and now known as the  Eisenacher Motoren Werke.

In 1947 they produced approximately 2500 R35s

By 1949, the year the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republik) was founded, the EMW factory was producing 4000 R35s per year.

Also, in 1949, BMW headquartered in Munich filed their lawsuit.

Finally in 1951, the EMW plant ceased using the BMW name and logo. All further bikes now came off the assembly line with the new red and white EMW roundel on both sides of the tank.  By this time, the factory was churning out 25,000 units per year.

The question remains: Was this bike a BMW or EMW? They began production in 1946 with the serial number 200001. This bike is numbered 209173.

The seller claims the bike to be a 1949 BMW. The serial number certainly fits for late 1948 or early 1949.

But is it a BMW? BMW in Munich had not yet won their suit against EMW.

The bike was in fact built by a company reorganized in September 1946 as EMW. EMW produced a product with the BMW name and roundel on it. Are the 1300 R35s built before reorganization, between November 1945 and September the following year real BMWs?

This is certainly a grey area, and it seems the question cannot be definitively answered.

By the way, the bike at auction does not appear to have been altered to look like anything that it is not. Other than the usual wear and weathering and likely repaint, the bike is much as it came from the factory. It is what it  is.

What do you think?


Bruce Frey added this:

Another way to identify an EMW is that the front brake plate is stamped rather than cast (at least after they exhausted the original supply of BMW parts). My information source indicates that the engine number (assuming the first number is a 2) falls into the 1949 EMW production

The following is copied directly from the BMW Archives website:

“After the war, the R35 saw something of a renaissance when production was restarted in Eisenach from remaining stock. Over 80,000 of the post-war BMW or EMW (Eisenach Motor Works) R35 and the follow-up R35/3 models (with rear suspension) were produced by 1955. Some two-thirds of these motorcycles remained in their country of origin and were used in particular for state authorities’ fleets.

The largest proportion of exports was to the Soviet Union and to the neighboring Eastern Block countries. Some 5,000 bikes were delivered to Western Europe as a means of generating foreign exchange, but of these only seven remained in West Germany. If production in Munich and Eisenach is added together, some 100,000 motorcycles were produced between 1937 and 1955. This would make the R 35 the most successful model in BMW's motorcycle history.”

Postwar production of the EMW R35 is reported to be as follows:

1945 = 200 001 till 200 221
1946 = 200 222 till 201 500
1947 = 201 501 till 204 000
1948 = 204 001 till 206 500
1949 = 206 501 till 210 500
1950 = 210 501 till 215 000
1951 = 215 001 till 226 000

EMW R35/2, second Series modifications are: no rubber gaiter on fork, footshift.  Made only in beginning 1952, ±8,000 units 1952 = 226 001 till 234 000

EMW R35/3 made later in 1952 till 1956, ±56,000 units rear suspension like R25/2 or R25/3 footshift cylinderhead with two protection tubes.

1952 = 234 001 till 240 800
1953 = 240 801 till 259 000
1954 = 259 001 till 272 200
1955 = 272 201 till 289 950
1956 = 289 951 till 292 000

In total ±90,000 units were made after 1945 till 1956.

Based on this information, the 209173 number puts it as 1949 production.

Best regards,

Duane Ausherman writes:

The R35 is not the only model to undergo some of this confusion.

Duane Ausherman

I know of one CEMEC that was converted from an R6. CEMEC was in operation shortly after the liberation of Paris. They picked up abandoned motorcycles, rebuilt and made them ready for sale to the Government and general public. There was no connection with BMW.

The Ratier was a company eventually derived from CEMEC. I know of two early Ratiers that were built using R11 parts. CEMEC would have used what was available, probably the most plentiful first. Still no connection with the BMW factory.

Darryl Richman tells us that: “At least some of the Ratiers, and I believe all of the Cemecs, were derived from the R12, not the R75. I have a friend in Munich who is restoring a Cemec, and we have been chatting over which R12 parts, exactly, will fit. In fact, he made me a gift of a medium compression R12 head in very nice shape as he found a correct Cemec head.”

Dale Monson's 1955 L-7 Ratier.  This bike had been burned in a garage fire.  See VMCA News issue V1N2.

The Soviets acquired three R71s with 750 sidecars (Steib, Stoye and Royale all made this model, so it could have been one or all of them) by way of their embassy in Stockholm sometime in 1940. These bikes were shipped to Moscow, where they were studied, then one sent to IMZ - Irbitski Motozykletny Zavod and the other remained in Moscow. Both of these latter two bikes were disassembled and back engineered. The third remained assembled as a finished example for comparison. That bike exists today in one of the factory Museums. Some sources claim the Soviets initially acquired five R71s through Sweden. The machine that emerged from these two facilities in 1942 was known as the M72.

There was no connection with BMW or the German government, and no licensing agreement of any kind. So was it really an R71? Or was it what the Soviets called it, an M72?  History is contrary to myth.

Sometime in the mid 1950's, the Chinese government purchased some of the assembly line from what is now known as URAL to form the Chang Jiang Motorworks, and build their own copies of the M72. Still no connection with BMW.

Harley Davidson also produced the XA, a model based on the R71. There were no licensing agreements.

DuPont, then owner of Indian, had the 841 designed and built based on captured R71s. DuPont built them with a 'Vee' twin engine instead of a flat twin. Like the Harley XA, it too was expensive, could not compete with the JEEP, and the US Army purchased only a thousand of them.

The Allied Military Commission forbade motorcycles more than 110CC displacements from being manufactured in occupied Germany. This ban was modified in 1948 to allow 250CC displacement motorcycles, and dropped altogether in 1949.

I have heard stories about R75WH models being assembled shortly after the German surrender. Supposedly, these bikes were midnight specials and built and sold under clandestine circumstances. I have not seen anything to prove this claim.

I have seen R75WH engines in the unit built plunger frames. Every one I saw was built up using an R51/2 frame, a bike that did not emerge until after the Paris show in the autumn of 1949. These bikes were custom built by guys who wanted to compete on German race tracks. At that time, an individual could purchase a 'replacement' frame from a BMW dealer. These custom built bikes were made obsolete for international competition when the Germans were allowed back into the World Racing Championships in the early 1950's. Their requirements excluded engines exceeding 500 CC displacements. It was also the end of the Kompressors.  

Some competitors raced R75WH conversions in local events throughout the 1950's.

Returning GIs brought some of these R75WH conversions back from Germany. There is one up in San Francisco.

You can also check out 'John's Beemer garage' for photos of some of these bikes.


Note military R75 engine and early R5 transmission in plunger frame.

BMW’s aircraft engineering is evident in this design. The R75 engine was detuned for both military purposes and the poor fuels available.

This engine with hemispherical combustion chambers, large valves and sturdy crankshaft could be modified to great effect for racing applications.

The Schleicher factory, who manufactured camshafts for BMW back in the early days, still offers race cams for these engines.  RS

Last Updated ( Monday, 08 June 2009 )
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