BMW Motorrad Spezial

BMW R1200 custom

BMW R1200 custom
Most motorcycle marques can point to a single early model that set the tone for those that followed and established the brand. In BMW’s case it’s the R32. It was unveiled at the Berlin motor show in 1923, and it was a good fifty years later before BMW Motorrad shook off the R32’s iconic black-paint-and-pinstripes look. This ‘R1232’ is a very unusual custom built by a team led by Jean-Luc Dupont of the French BMW dealer Panda Moto 89. Jean-Luc is based in Villeneuve-Sur-Yonne, south east of Paris, and he’s known for creating BMW customs based on current production models.

According to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America website, ‘Jean-Luc had the idea of creating a modern interpretation of the R32 using current technology. This would be a complete motorcycle design and production exercise, and would require everything to be fabricated … “Harley-Davidson has built its reputation on having their motorcycles as a modern interpretation of the past. I wanted to do the same for BMW, and where better to start than BMW’s first motorcycle, the R32?” said Jean-Luc.’

It’s interesting to compare the specifications of the original R32 with Jean-Luc’s creation. The 1923 bike had 8.5hp and weighed 122kg. The R1232 has 107 horses and weighs 235kg (520 lbs), which is reasonable by today’s standards. So the power-to-weight ratio has increased by more than six-fold. (The six-speed gearbox will ease progress even further.) If there’s a question mark, it’ll be over the braking system and the 2.5” wide tires, which roll on 21” rims at the front and 19” at the back. But then again, you can’t have everything. The R1232 took US$95,000, 16 months and over 600 hours of work to create. [Images by David Ducastel.]

BMW R1200 custom
BMW R1200 custom
BMW R1200 custom
BMW R1200 custom

  • Scarcat

    Stunning. Now That’s what I call a custom bike!
    On the other hand, that is the single most useless front brake for a motor of that size :-)

  • Stephen Pate

    This is really interesting. The craftsmanship is pretty astounding…. the final product makes this look almost ‘easy’…. which I know it absolutely was not! Fascinating. Thanks for posting it!

  • Gray


  • Aaron Burke

    Interesting bike, did a double take when I first saw the pictures & hadn’t read the text properly. Fun changing gears with the 6 speed hand shifter.

    Be interesting to see BMW use the black & white scheme on a bike in it’s modern range.

  • lyle

    very nice job; would prefer to see r51/3 attempt w/more sensible tire choice though again very nice.

  • I’d ride that!

  • Harry Farquhar

    That is a beautiful machine but the front end is a little odd.

  • BMW R1200R has a colorway with the black and white pinstripe, classic! Also, here’s another vintage / modern mashup:

  • Sean Hamilton

    Very well proportioned. And very nicely finished. Which is quite necessary when you have 95k into it.

  • teo

    Uhm… I’m the only one scratching my head about the front plate?

  • Dave Hall

    Great craftsmanship…………………………. REALLY question the use of this except for possibly the ego trip.

  • Jiri

    Fabulous, mind-blowing, BRAVO!

  • Pamberjack

    I’m with Mr Farquhar – it’s a beautiful bike, but the front end is a little “difficult”.

    That plate is OTT, and the front wheel and guard seem to sit too far under the tank rather than in front of it.

    Still, it’s stunningly original and finished like a Louis Vuitton bag. I wouldn’t kick it out of my garage if it backfired…

  • Ryan

    Black out the finial drive box and it would be perfect. Sweet bike!

  • rob

    a lot of people here are diggin’ the french poodle

  • tim hanna

    This is a powerful bike. It is also a death trap. John Britten struggled to create a girder front end that behaved and this one looks primitive. Is it damped at all? When this bike goes into a horrible tank slapper there isn’t even a decent brake to help out. No rear suspension as a fashion statement I can almost understand but the overall concept of this bike frightens me. It is certainly not an interpretation using modern technology. No question it is beautifully built but you have to ask why anyone would set out to build such a meticulous folly. Or are we such fashion victims that function is now a secondary consideration.

  • Steve

    Like the details of plug spanner and screwdriver, rear indicators, footboards and hidden electronics. Its a complicated bike that looks simple, a bike that would put some custom shops to shame. But how does it hold a tankful of gas when the filler is so low down

  • Thomas

    The effort is more than commendable, but the proportions are off just enough to be really bizarre. Is the tank too big or the wheels too small?

  • I respect the time and effort required to make this motorcycle, it reflects the skill of the builders that it looks as good as it does.
    I have an opinion about it…

    It’s really difficult to fit modern technology into an old template. This machine has a lot of compromises, especially around the headstock and tank, where the space required to accomodate the modern engine and radiator have spoiled the original proportions of the R32. The forks look weedy next to that massive engine, and as other readers have pointed out, give rise to questions of safety. I could envision a different path for this bike, using the angularity of the R32 as inspiration for a modern machine with harmonious proportions all around.
    By cramming the new engine into the old parameters, the aesthetic quality of the finished product becomes a matter of taste, rather than a balanced marriage of all the elements – powertrain, chassis, bodywork.

    The original R32 was a delicate and beautiful thing, a paragon of the Bauhaus ethos of ‘truth in materials, design without ornament’. The products from that period of German manufacture are still held as standards of good, clean, modern design, and sit in the collections of museums like MoMA, for good reason.

    When a contemporary Custom builder achieves that kind of success from their efforts, it’s worth taking note…and it does happen!

  • Papa Bear

    Absolutely beautiful, but it must be one scary ride! 0 to 60 on 4.5 seconds. 60 to 0 in 4.5 minutes!

  • Harry Farquhar

    It’s interesting that there inevitably are a few individuals that try to validate their subjective opinion as some sort of objective, quantifiable technical analysis that every one can agree upon as indisputable fact.

  • Sean Hamilton

    But you must realize that most of us take proportions and safety into serious consideration because our careers (granted not the most fruitful) depend upon it. There is a reason that bikes have complimented engine design with technology worthy of either turning it or stopping it. This bike seems to confront both areas with a fair amount of compromise in favor of a nod to the past.
    I am also under the opinion that the front plate is out of place on a period bike like this is intended to be.

  • David Enfield

    Utterly brilliant job .

  • Greybeard

    Gentlemen, gentlemen, it’s an homage not a production prototype!

    And before you say “yes, but it should be this & that…” no, it doesn’t have to conform to any real or imagined standards or formula at all.

    It could have been many things.
    It could have been an OCC chopper or rat bike or brat style or cafe racer, etc. but it is what it is.

    If you possess the requisite 95 large, show the man where he went wrong.

  • Greybeard

    Oh…I see it WAS a “design and production exercise”.

    Fool frog’s gonna’ kill himself!!

  • Jim

    Interesting, but I hope it has traction control. Cracking the throttle will send the bike slithering all over the road.

  • joe momma

    ….youse guys need to review the “wall of death” info…….i’ll wager that front end handles as well as any……trailing link under leaf spring…..not much travel but little it has is smooth as butta……and by the way…..when someone’s creation causes all the sniveling and whining and hand wringing…..that’s ART…..

  • David Enfield

    Don’t care if it don’t even run , “Jean-Luc , cest magnifique”

  • PPE

    Félicitations ! Congratulations ! As french biker and faithful customer of the Panda Moto dealership owned and directed by Jean-Luc Dupont, I’m proud to say that he is a great man ! A dealer four stars !!!

  • kim of Copenhagen

    Nice idea, ok execution, pricey, and I hope it won’t get ridden very much.

  • If all that you have to complain about is the front number plate, then the builder did his job well. Good designers know that you always have to give the critics one thing to focus on, while the other things slide by unnoticed. As a one-off bike, anything that the builder wanted to do was 100% correct. There is no wrong way to do it. If he were trying to copy the R32, then he’d be in trouble. Regarding the front suspension, it should work fine. Leaf springs are self damping to some extent (much more so than coil springs). And trailing link leaf sprung forks are very forgiving. Ask the man who rides one, as the old saying goes. Do I want one? No way. IMHO it’s much more fun to ride old bikes than to ride new bikes that look old. But kudos to Jean-Luc for building his vision of a R32 street rod. the car guys will understand…

  • Harry Farquhar

    With 100+ hp and that chassis this bike would in my opinion be a handful but apparently Monsieur DuPont finds it acceptable. I’m primarily an off-road guy where everything is just the opposite with plenty of suspension and braking capacity but never enough hp.

  • tim hanna

    The comments about this bike are really interesting and go to the heart of the great debate about what constitutes good design. As a previous post states the original R32 was a masterpiece precisely because it embraced the notion that form should follow function. I have never had the honor of riding one but I imagine that it would be a delightful experience. We could argue the toss about the R32 actually being a piece of art but what is beyond dispute is that it is wonderfully artful.This machine, on the other hand, entirely abandons the idea that form should follow function. It is peculiar to me that an obviously modern engine should be teamed up with woefully inadequate brakes and suspension. Why not embrace the technology expressed by the engine and build something that pays tribute to the R32 while functioning as a modern motorcycle should? Which could mean a sturdier girder front end and the same bodywork etc. This machine is inherently dysfunctional and the sap that pays 95K for it will take his life in his hands riding it – to a greater degree than most motorcyclists. Or perhaps it really is supposed to be a pose and nothing else. Which would suggest that it is intended to appeal to a poseur.

  • Ethan

    God shut up you whining babies. You don’t have any idea how this bike handles or brakes or anything but you want to break out your internet engineering degrees and bash someone who did something amazingly beautiful. Christ, when did motorcycling become so full of uptight old assholes.

    PS: Like the motorcycle

  • Andrew

    Yeah well, when the sacred BMW becomes fodder for a look-alike contestant in a Sturgis Build-off’s Freestyle Class, all the anal retentives pipe up with how utterly useless the bike is… Go back to the glow of your CAD/CAM stations, draw straight lines that meet some functional design criteria and Save the World from the likes of this bike and the reasons it was created.

    Imagining that a ride on the orginal was a delightful experience? Are you kidding? I imagine it is more a pain in the ass to own, ride and maintain by today’s standards than this machine.

    Like it.

  • Bümmer

    Swing and a miss. A+ for concept and craftsmanship, but the overall look and proportions are off. Also the functionality which BMW has always represented and strived for has been seriously compromised for aesthetics.

  • tim hanna

    Interesting response. I am struggling to understand how I can be a whining baby and an old asshole at the same time but given the opinionated and ignorant nature of the criticism of my posts I suppose that kind of lazy confusion is to be expected.
    I certainly can anticipate how that bike will handle and stop. It’s not rocket science. The reason the original would probably be a delight to ride is because the weight and power are appropriate and because being a vintage machine you automatically make allowances. I have ridden many bikes of that vintage and some were a lot of fun. Some were not. To condemn the original as a pain in the ass is again simply ignorant.
    I would have thought that when a machine is put up on this site it is fair game for intelligent criticism. And yes, I think my comments were at least thoughtful. The grossly insulting and judgmental responses are not. They represent the kind of macho posturing that little people with large egos and small accomplishments are prey to.

  • Harry Farquhar

    An article on the BMW Owners of America website includes the following quote from Jean-Luc Dupont, “The power and the lack of rear suspension make it different to ride than modern motorcycles but it is still enjoyable,” The article goes on to say that, “With this R 1232 model, the rear brake is a disc brake, but it has been cleverly covered to give it the look of a drum brake.” Despite suggestions to the contrary the owner does not in fact appear to have a death wish as the piece further asserts that, “Jean-Luc thought it prudent after riding the bike to develop a front disc.”

  • hoyt

    Putting the dislikes and likes about the above bike aside for a minute and this bike points to a great opportunity for BMW to continue its excellent run over the last decade…

    As BMW gains market share in the established performance segments they can also gain market share in the nostalgic market by playing to the aging rider who wants to slow down a bit.

    BMW does not need to use their high hp boxer motor in their ‘would-be’ nostalgic line (probably should use a high mpg/low hp boxer motor instead).

    They could be positioned to do a more authentic job at the nostalgic market than HD. As the energy topic resurfaces again, this would-be high mpg model from BMW could also attract the hipsters who don’t want a scooter or an HD.

  • YJH

    “La culture, c’est ce qui reste quand on a tout oublié.”
    Édouard Herriot (1872-1957)
    R1232 : là, il ne reste même plus de culture.

  • great looking bike.

  • L Camp – USA

    How it must feel to create a modern classic.