In 1966 I was living in Cleveland and read an article in a bike magazine of a
guy, Delbert Needler, in Indiana that put a Volkswagen engine in his BMW /2. I was so
enthralled that the next day I was able to visit him. My job took me to within
50 miles of his place by total coincidence. It was even better than I imagined. My good friend, Steven White, and I decided to build one each. Delbert had made
up a couple of extra sets of castings and we bought those. My father machined
them for us. We used Steve's basement for a lot of the frame work. I finished
mine and wanted to test it and then tour Europe with it. It was fall, so I moved
to California to test it during the winter. Eventually Steve moved to California
and we finished his bike up together. He is now an architect in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. His daughter and son-in-law now own it.
One thing led to another and I still have never ridden in Europe. I haven't
escaped California either. I still have the bike, but it hasn't been started or
ridden since 1976. The bike handles poorly, but was very reliable for me for
several years. It has so much torque that one can feather the clutch in fourth
gear, at an idle, and walk away. The top speed is limited by the rpm, as it
still has BMW gearing and the low rpm of the Volkswagen motor. I doubt that my bike ever
went over 95-100 mph. In it's day it was very fast, but the Honda 750 4 cylinder
model was faster. The /5 BMW was almost as fast, but handled much better
and would even stop.
The bike put me in the BMW business and for that I am very thankful. When I
started the project I had never worked in a motorcycle shop of any kind. I just
got out some tools and cut up a perfectly good BMW to install a Volkswagen engine. The
only way one can get the audacity to do such an outrageous thing is to be young
and stupid. This ignorance continued and with no experience, or training
of any kind, I opened a BMW repair shop in San Francisco in early 1968.
This appeared on some motorcycle magazine from a Vintage Motorcycle Rally in
Visalia, Ca. in about 1969.
This is the same bike as it was in Galt, Ca. It is gone now.
Right side view
Left side view
Upon finishing the bike, I moved to California in late 67. The presence of
this bike on the streets of San Francisco created a large demand on my part to
do repair work on normal BMW's. There is no relationship between building this
and repairing production BMW's. I found a small rental space in early 68 and
opened a shop called "Duane's Shop." Business was very good and in 1969 I
petitioned Flanders Co. for an official dealership across the Golden Gate bridge
in Marin County. Gene Shirley, an employee and friend, became my partner
and we opened "BMW of Marin," in San Rafael. This was just in time for the
release of the 1971 models. Business was good and we grew rapidly.
By late 72 I bought Gene out and continued alone. By early 1975 the
business was as large as I felt that it could easily get. We had the
lion's share of Northern California's BMW business.
I sold out in April of 75 and moved to Fort Bidwell, California. My former
employees had become discouraged with the buyer of my old shop and left. They
opened a private repair shop in San Francisco called Bavarian Cycle Works, or BCW. So, I opened another BMW dealership called Fort Bidwell Shop in late 76. I
provided BCW with new bikes and lots of parts. BCW was 90% of my business.
That is the unlikely story of what this bike did to/for me.
It is sold and gone