Our Thoughts On Restoration

When the BMW motorcycles that we now call “antique, classic or vintage” were new, they were well engineered, well built, expensive, respected, coveted, and, for the most part, well maintained. One only needs to read the contemporary motorcycle magazine evaluations of these machines to understand just how good they were when compared to their competitors. When new, these vintage BMW motorcycles were the top of the line.

But then they became old motorcycles. And many became abused and/or neglected old motorcycles. Some of these old motorcycles are now, quite simply, all worn out. Many of these machines were subjected to less than competent mechanical, electrical and sheetmetal work over their long lives as well.

Today there is a well deserved resurgence of interest in these vintage machines and they are becoming increasingly sought after by both riders and collectors. Such riders and collectors recognize the inherent quality of design and construction of these machines as well as their high level of competence.

Over the past ten years we have noted a general decline in the quality of the machines available for restoration. Machines sourced in eastern Europe and Asia are particularly subject to this decline in quality. In addition, because of the effects of time, temperature and humidity on bearings, seals, and other parts, even low mileage machines oftentimes require significant work to make them fully serviceable and safe again.

As is apparent from the webpages in the “Services” section of the Barrington Motor Works website, we at Barrington Motor Works frequently do isolated work on an engine, a transmission, a final drive and so on. However, most of our work is that of full restoration.

The term “restoration” is unfortunately, because of its oftentimes too casual usage, almost without definition. Or, at the very least, without a uniformly accepted definition. Therefore, whenever the term “restoration” is to be used it must be defined.

“Restoration”, in some people’s minds, consists of a cosmetic cleanup, perhaps even a cosmetic restoration, work intended to improve the appearance of a machine to the point of equaling the appearance of the machine when first manufactured. Such cosmetic restoration oftentimes is performed to the point of “bettering” the cosmetics of the machine as it was manufactured, e. g. chrome plating parts which were not originally plated.

In other people’s minds, “restoration” may consist of an engine rebuild or that and a transmission rebuild. Or, perhaps a full mechanical rebuild.

And in yet other people’s minds “restoration” consists of both cosmetic and mechanical restoration. In other words, restoration to bring the entire machine back to where it was ten, twenty, thirty, forty or more years ago.

The point of all of this is obvious. And that is that all parties involved must be clear as to what they are talking about when they are discussing, planning, performing or paying for a “restoration”.

Our experience suggests that the best restoration is one which is tailored to the machine in question as well as to the agreed upon ideas of just what level of restoration the machine owner desires. With a clear definition of restoration a game plan can be laid out in which false moves and wasted motion can be eliminated. Once the game plan is determined work can commence. Each move in the shop can be tailored to the machine and what its owner wants done with it. Disassembly, evaluation and cataloging can occur. Parts can be searched for, ordered or set aside. Time limiting steps such as fabrication and welding, painting, powdercoating, cylinder head work, cylinder boring and crankshaft rebuilding can be initiated.

At Barrington Motor Works we feel that a full cosmetic and mechanical restoration is, in effect, a remanufacturing process. During this process each and every nut, bolt, and washer are held in hand, examined and a decision made as to how to treat that nut, bolt or washer.

Every seal and virtually every bearing is replaced as a matter of principle. Rubber parts are replaced as needed.

Sheetmetal is stripped of rust, paint, primer and Bondo to bare metal before beginning the process of welding, straightening, priming, painting and striping that sheetmetal.

Frames, forks and swingarms are stripped by sandblasting and evaluated for truth, fractures and failing welds before being powdercoated or painted.

Electrics and harnesses are cleaned and evaluated and repaired or replaced as needed.

Engines are routinely completely dismantled and rebuilt with attention to the original manufacturing tolerances using the best NOS, reproduction or used parts as appropriate and as available.

Tested and fully operational transmissions and final drives can often times be externally cleaned and reinstalled to be tested by usage over time or, with the agreement of the machine owner, disassembled, evaluated, and rebuilt as well. Untested or malfunctioning transmissions and final drives are typically subjected to disassembly and rebuild.

This remanufacturing process can also include certain upgrades to allow a machine from the 1950’s or 1960’s to be serviceable and safe on the roads of 2007 and later. Such upgrades can include GMT batteries, 12 volt electrical systems, solid state ignition systems, Halogen lighting, LED tail lights, and modern day brake linings. At the same time, we have come to recognize that changes should not be made for change’s sake. Too often 2007 aftermarket parts are not the quality equivalent of the 1965 part. These machines were and still are very capable machines when returned to their original state.

Our website demonstrates a broad selection of vintage BMW motorcycles and what we have done with them. Some of these machines have undergone a near complete cosmetic and mechanical restoration, returning to the beauty and function of their birth from a mass and mess of bent, torn and rusty steel and corroded aluminum. Others of these are original machines that serve as our guide and inspiration to do well.