The Cost Of Restoration

The nature and extent of the consequences of these traumas and indignities are oftentimes hidden from view and can only be known upon disassembly of the motorcycle. We are often asked for an estimate of the cost of restoration. Each time we are asked for such an estimate, we understand all too well why the estimate is being asked for. Unfortunately, such estimates on these old motorcycles can only be given in the most vague and imprecise terms due to the hidden nature of so many of the unforeseen problems and are never a promise or guarantee of final costs. Restoration can only be performed on a parts and labor basis.

In relatively recent years the Euro and the Dollar were at par. In early 2005 one Euro cost approximately $1.30. In late 2007 it now costs $1.49 to purchase one Euro. The effect of this currency change is that it now costs 49% more for the parts used in the restoration of a BMW motorcycle than it did when the Euro and Dollar were at par. Where the Euro to Dollar relationship will go in the future is unknown and unknowable.

The best chance at arriving at even a vague and imprecise estimate of the cost of restoration is for the machine owner to clearly and honestly reflect upon a list of questions that can point the way to a clear understanding of what the desired final product would be. Perhaps the two most important questions are:

  • What is your goal and for what purpose?
  • What is your budget?

Restoration is a costly process because it is a fabulously time consuming process and requires a considerable list of technical skills, shop tools, and parts. The cost of restoration usually, perhaps always, is greater than the current market value of the machine being restored. With time this difference between the cost of restoration and market value will narrow and close. And this will happen at the same time as the difference between the cost of your Ford, Acura or Mercedes automobile and its market value widens ever more.

At the outset it must be recognized and appreciated that a vintage BMW motorcycle can be “original” only once. The most competent restoration of a vintage machine may return the machine toward originality, but the machine will no longer be truly original. We encourage the retention of original paint when possible and restore only that paint which requires such restoration.

Once the above two questions are answered there are many choices to be made in the process of restoration and the initiation of same. Each of these questions has its effect upon the cost of restoration from the standpoint of both parts and labor. A non-inclusive list would include the following questions:

  • What mechanical work should be done?
  • Rebuild the engine? What, if any, special parts should be used?
  • Should the transmission be overhauled? Should it be exchanged for a sidecar transmission or vice versa?
  • Should the final drive be overhauled? Should the final drive ratio be retained or changed?
  • Should the exhaust system be repaired or replaced? If replaced, should it be replaced with a chromed steel system or with a stainless steel system?
  • Should the wheels be rebuilt? If so, what type of rims. And what type of spokes?
  • What type of tires?
  • Should the frame and related heavy parts be painted or powdercoated?
  • If the sheetmetal is to be repainted should it be done in a single stage paint or in basecoat/clearcoat?
  • And whether the frame is to be painted or powdercoated and if the sheetmetal is to be painted, what color? Black? Dover White? Grey? Granada Red? Blue? Other?
  • Should the the original fasteners be replated as original in cadmium? Or replaced with stainless steel? And if stainless steel, mill finish, dull or polished?
  • What shocks? And what springs?
  • A dual seat? A wide one or a narrow one? Does the seat require reupholstery? A single operator seat only? Or that plus a rear passenger seat? If a rear passenger seat which one? A “breadloaf” on the fender or on a fender rack? A “tractor seat” on the fender or on a fender rack?
  • Luggage?
  • Original chrome, replated chrome or stainless steel handlebars, risers, nuts, bolts and washers?
  • What handlebars: Europa, US, Hoske or other?
  • Front brake light switch?
  • 6 volt electrics or 12 volt electrics?
  • LED tail light or original incandescent bulb?
  • Halogen headlight or original incandescent bulb?
  • Barend signals?
  • Headlight, barend or upright mirrors?
  • Small tank? Sport tank? Hoske tank? Heinrich tank?
  • Sidecar? Which one?
  • With or without a sidecar, what final drive ratio?
  • If with a sidecar, sidecar or solo transmission?

When these wonderful BMW motorcycles were designed and built in Germany it was done to a high standard. As members of the BMW vintage motorcycle community we aspire to work to a similar high standard, honoring the designers and constructors of these machines as well as their current custodians.

v.3 8-31-06