The new ICON 1000 MH1000 jacket

1979 BMW R45 custom

It’s hard to believe that Louis Nel is only a part-time builder. The bikes that roll out of his South African garage are a testament to his passion and keen eye for detail. Until now, most of his builds have been personal projects—this 1979 BMW R45 is his first commercial build.

The owner had been following Nel’s progress on a R65, and wanted his bike customised in the same vein. Nel was reluctant at first—he’d had carte blanche with the R65, despite it being a friend’s bike. This proposed R45 was to be a near carbon copy, limiting his creativity. But Nel eventually accepted, and when the donor R45 arrived, he gave it a clean bill of health—leaving him free to focus purely on cosmetics.

Nel set about shortening the sub frame and fabricating a new seat, ensuring it was long enough to accommodate a pillion. The seat was then covered in brown leather – by the same gentleman that upholstered Nel’s grandfather’s Jaguar many years ago. The plastic air box was replaced with a more traditional R65 cast unit, and the engine covers with traditional “peanut” covers from Flatracer in the UK.

7 Metal West in the USA supplied the fenders, which are complemented by aluminium number boards. Nel fitted a PIAA headlight up front, with Posh indicators and rear light. The bars are from Renthal, with white Posh barrel grips to match the understated white paint.

Stock BMW mirrors and a Motogadget Mini speedometer keep things legal, while SuperTrapp mufflers provide the soundtrack. Kenda trail tyres further enhance the R45’s undeniably cool scrambler motif.

Could this be the start of a new chapter for Nel? Probably not. As he puts it, “I build for fun, and the enjoyment I get from fabricating and fixing…selling is just a way of financing the next project!”

Nothing wrong with that.

Photography by Sven Musica.