Showing BMW engine numbers, BMW frame numbers and the frame plate
VIN means what?
The legal description of a vehicle is often defined as the
Identification Number or
VIN. When you hear someone say VIN number, that is
redundant, repetitive, tautologous and pleonastic :-) In other words, if you say
"VIN number" you sound stupid.
In the prewar days most models didn't have matching numbers on the frame and
engine. After the war they matched up, until about 1980 and they again
In California, 30 years ago, a model was whatever year the dealer said it
was. Commonly a dealer had an "old" one and lied on the title to make it appear
to be what he had told the customer. I have seen this happen with a 3 year
error. One customer actually bought a 1974 R90/6 in 78 as a 77. Boy, was he mad
when he found out.
We have seen the California DMV transfer ownership and mess it up by 20
years. I have seen several BMWs that didn't even exist. That is, the VIN wasn't
in any number system. I have seen BMW mis-stamp the VIN with an extra digit or
miss one. I have even seen them overstamp it and it looked "stolen."
I owned a model that didn't "exist." The Germans weren't allowed, by the post
WWII occupation forces, to produce anything larger than 250cc,. They
needed money, collected bits from the war rubble to make and sell them "under
the table." Joe Groeger owns it now, a post war 750 from 1950. It is a sport
version of the military 750 cc engine.
I would trust the stamped frame number before a title. In California one can
change engines all day long without changing the title. Not so with the frame,
as the title must be modified. If your title is correct, consider it an
accident. I am not implying that any government agency could make mistakes:-)
If a new engine was ordered out of the parts book as a spare part, it came
with no serial number stamped into the case. Different countries had
different procedures for documenting a replacement engine, so it was left
Samples of a BMW motorcycle VIN
This is an example of the engine number of a /2. It is located on the right
side of the engine and just above the cylinder. This photo shows the cylinder
removed. See the BMW logo stamp on each side of the 6 digit number? I believe
you should find that stamp on any factory engine from 1950 to 1970. If an owner
had installed an engine as a spare part, it would come with that same place
completely blank. Since 56 BMW has used only that font for the /2. If you see a
different font, no logo or anything suspicious, I suggest that you be very
careful. If you plan to show a bike I suggest having the numbers match and be
correct. A judge will notice errors.
This is an example of the engine number of a /5. See the factory logo
only on the end of the 7 digit number? The /6 also has the logo at the end of
the serial numbers.
The VIN is in the lower right 1/3 of the photo, a close up is
Here it is close up. See the logo at the end of the 7 digit string? It
is the same on the /6 and maybe later too.
This is the VIN on a R51/3 engine. The engine is basically the same as the
/2, but the VIN is on the left side, not the right side. See both BMW
logos stamped in? Photo courtesy of Darryl Richman, thanks.
This is the VIN on the frame of the same R51/3. It is on the left side of the
bike and on the casting that holds the rear plunger spring. The thick
paint is covering up the two BMW logos. This is the location of the post
war bikes until the very last of the /3 production, when the frame number was
moved up to the side of the steering head.
This is the removable aluminum VIN plate (BMW frame plate) that is attached
to the steering head. It came on every BMW until the /5, which has a
paper/plastic one. This one of from the sport model, the R68. The photo was
"lifted" from the German R68 site, thanks. The number on the plate has no legal
standing. Authorities need to see the stamped in VIN with the BMW logo on
A superb example of a plate. Photo provided by Duncan
For an explanation of 1980 and later, go to snowbum's site.
For a list of VIN's by model go to
Click here for information on the BMW logo,
Do you want to know the date that your BMW was built? Send the VIN to
Andreas.Harz@partner.bmw.de and politely ask for
information. He is a very nice man.