Bob’s BMW “never started” /5 bike.

I think it was in 1972, or so Butler and Smith offered a “floor plan” for dealers.  A dealer would get them for free for three months, and then if it hadn’t been sold, the dealer’s bank would pay for it.  That meant the dealer would be paying interest on the bike.

A floor plan allowed Butler and Smith to send me motorcycles that I didn’t order.  They would arrive at my shop and be a surprise. 

I refused to sign up for the floor plan.  I always paid cash within ten days, and that got me an additional 1½ % discount on the bike.

One day while depositing money at my bank, the bank manager (a friend) told me that BMW had called him to set up a floor plan for me.  He explained that I had already informed him that I had no interest, so he refused.  They had gone behind my back, and I wasn’t happy.

BMW had bikes that were in demand, and some that had little demand.  This was in early 1974, and we had discovered that the /6 had very serious mechanical issues.

In late 1973, the BMW motorcycle importer in Italy went bankrupt.  BMW repossessed about 225 new motorcycles.  They sent them to the USA to be sold.  These were long swing arm models with large tanks.  We knew these as 73 ½ bikes.  They had the European low handle bars.  They were very desirable.  We had been stuck with the small “Toaster tanks” that most people hated.

The European bikes didn’t have the legally required reflectors.  Butler and Smith cut a hole in the plastic that covered the crate and tossed in a bag of reflectors.  We never mounted the cheap reflectors.  They also didn’t have license plate holders, so we ordered the 70-71 type.

Matt Capri from Butler and Smith called and told me that they had “reserved” two for me.  The price was even less than they sold for in 1973.  He was trying to make it sound great, and I should feel honored to get two of them.

I said, at that price, I would take 20 bikes.  He had no comment.  I suspected what he was going to do.

The Butler and Smith parts department manager, Eddy, hated the way they treated dealers.  I had given him my home phone number just for such issues as this.  That night he called me and told me that his bosses were delighted because they would ship me 20 bikes, and I would have no choice but to accept the floor plan that I hated.  I told him not to say a word but to listen.

Sure enough, a few days later, a truck arrived with 20 bikes.  We spent the rest of the day taking them out of the crates. 

Since I got them for a low price, I had already contacted several customers and offered them a great deal.  A few were already pre-sold.

I mailed a check for the bikes.  Eddy told me that they were quite upset.  I asked him if they doubted that the check was good.  “No,” he said as they knew it would be good I mailed a check for the bikes.  I told Eddy that I could have paid for 40, but it would have taken me a day to get the money into my bank account. 

It was my shop policy to spend about 3 hours per new bike to fix the factory defects.  To do that, we would charge the battery and properly tune it. However, I kept one bike aside without starting it.  We didn’t fill the battery with acid.  We moved it upstairs for storage.

My shop manager, Rod Miller, was married to Roxanne.  She called me and asked if I would sell her that bike and she would give it to Rod as a present.  I consented as long as it remained “never started,” and she agreed.  Rod had no issue with that requirement.

I soon sold the franchise, and Rod soon left his employment.  He put the “never started” bike in the showroom of the Sacramento BMW dealer for display.

On a visit, he discovered that it was mounted in the showroom window.  He knew that the sun would fade the paint and rot the rubber parts, so he sold it to Bob’s BMW.

That is how it ended up in Bob’s museum.

Posted Sept 14, 2020