1972 BMW R75/5: a ‘Traditional Custom’

1972 BMW R75/5

There’s something magical about a classic 70s BMW airhead: Slightly oddball lines, that remarkable engine, and the promise of fine German engineering. An off-kilter charm, if you like.

This BMW R75/5, however, is not quite what it seems. It’s a subtly modified 1972 model that has been customized during a ground-up rebuild. And it looks as fresh as the day it rolled out of the BMW Motorrad Werk factory in Berlin.

1972 BMW R75/5
The craftsman responsible for this ‘traditional custom’ is Brandon Mungai, who restores old BMWs out of a garage in Costa Mesa, California. Since 2011, he’s been chronicling these builds on the Bavarian Cafe website, and this R75/5 is his latest creation.

1972 BMW R75/5
Brandon came across the /5 a few weeks after he survived a near-fatal crash on a similar bike. While taking time to recover, he felt that a new project would help his rehabilitation—and before he knew it, he was tearing the bike down, bolt by bolt.

It was an all-original 54,000-mile machine that had been parked under an awning since 1981. Brandon is a purist at heart, but also has a strong affection for cafe racers, so he decided to add a few period-correct mods and keep the rest of the bike original. If ever the day came when he wanted to convert it back to stock, a short time in the garage would be all that was needed to do the trick.

1972 BMW R75/5
The build was unusually thorough: “The crank journals have been re-polished, the cylinders re-honed and the valve seats and guides resurfaced by John Edwards at Costa Mesa R&D,” Brandon reports. New Karcoma petcocks deliver fuel to the rebuilt Bing carburetors, and Brandon secured a stainless steel exhaust and Hoske Silencers from the specialist S. Meyer in Germany.

1972 BMW R75/5
“I also located a five-speed gearbox from a 1977 R60/7, and replaced all the bearings, shifting cam springs, gaskets and seals. A 32/10 final drive was re-splined by Hansen’s BMW up in Oregon. The shocks are /5 replicas from Bob’s BMW.” Stainless steel spokes interlace the highly-polished Wiemann rims, and Brandon installed a reproduction SWB seat—complete with seat lock—plus a tool-kit, an air pump and a chrome headlight ring protector.

A new Brown-style sidestand and vintage Albert bar-end mirrors were supplied by Bench Marks Works in Mississippi. The ‘toaster’ panels were re-chromed and the speedometer was rebuilt. Tommaselli adjustable Clubman Bars were imported in from Italy to guide the controls, and a ton of OEM parts were located and delivered by the crew at Irv Seaver BMW in Orange, CA.

1972 BMW R75/5
The end result is a siren of a bike: The red paint and chrome meet perfectly under the sun. Brandon’s called this R75/5 Freiin (“Free Lady”), a title of nobility often translated as ‘Baroness.’

A suitability classy name for a grand—and slightly racy—old lady.

See more of Brandon’s work on the Bavarian Cafe website. Photography by Shaik Ridzwan from The Mighty Motor.