CHASSIS NO: 4950971
• Excellent example of BMW’s first “Superbike”
• Lightly used and exceptionally preserved
• Improved model with drilled front discs
• Likely the most important postwar BMW cycle
898 cc air-cooled, four-stroke twin-cylinder “Boxer” engine, twin Dell’Orto 38mm carburetors, 67 HP, five-speed gearbox, shaft drive, tubular cradle frame with bolted-on rear subframe, hydraulic/spring front and rear forks, dual-disc front and rear drum brakes; wheelbase: 1,465 mm (57.7”)
While long revered as a maker of fast and well-engineered motorcycles, BMW suffered an identity crisis during the 1960s and reportedly once considered selling off its motorcycle division. The growing wave of fast, reliable Japanese motorcycles revolutionized the sport and by the time Honda released the game-changing CB 750 in 1970, it seemed the shift was complete and irreversible. That was until Bob Lutz, the Swiss American former GM Europe executive, joined BMW as Executive Vice President of Sales in 1971. A Honda CB 750 owner, Lutz railed against the stifling conservatism at BMW and campaigned for a large-displacement 900cc flagship bike from Munich to compete head-to-head with the renowned Honda, Kawasaki Z1, Norton Commando, Triumph/BSA 750 triples, Ducati 750SS and Moto-Guzzi V-7 Sport.
In addition to the outstanding engineering and performance that were BMW hallmarks, Lutz demanded the new BMW “Superbike” look good too. Enter industrial stylist Hans Muth, who penned what remains one of the finest motorcycle designs of the postwar era, featuring a purposeful and aggressive, yet entirely rational design featuring a sleek café racer-style front fairing, seat, tailpiece and exhaust. A hand-painted two-tone color scheme provided further visual appeal. Designated R90S, the new BMW’s engineering was overseen by Hans-Gunter von der Marwitz, including twin front disc brakes, aluminum-alloy wheels, dual Dell’Orto carburetors, and a five-speed gearbox with shaft drive. BMW’s legendary “Boxer” twin engine was enlarged to 898 cc and developed 75 horsepower at 7,200 rpm.
The R90S was an unqualified hit from launch and a revelation to ride, delivering exceptional performance with exacting relatively few demands of riders in return. Released for sale in 1974, the R90S was proven by Cycle World magazine with a then-sensational quarter mile run in just 13.50 seconds and a 123-mph top end. In a rolling start, the R90S was also capable of pulling away from Kawasaki’s vaunted 900cc Z1 at any speed, in any gear. Steady improvements during production included drilled front rotors, a disc rear brake, and a revised engine design in advance of the forthcoming R100 model, which superseded the R90S after 1976. Closing out the R90S chapter, British rider Reg Pridmore rode one to victory in the inaugural AMA Superbike Championship in 1976.
Showing just 20,513 miles at the time of cataloguing, this 1974 BMW R90S is a definitive, later-production model with solid red paint and drilled front disc brakes yet retains the early-specification rear drum-type brake. Appearing virtually “as new,” it simply stands as a high-quality example of one of the most important motorcycles ever to come from BMW.