This Upcycled BMW R80 bobber is a real-life Tonka toy

BMW R80 bobber by Upcycle Garage
If the thought of Firestone tires on a custom motorcycle makes your blood boil, avert your eyes now. Johnny Nguyen hasn’t just fitted his 1978 BMW R80 bobber with Firestones—he’s gone the whole hog, and fitted military-spec Firestone tractor tires. It’s turned the R80 into a real-life two-wheeled Tonka toy, and although it’s nowhere near practical, it sure makes us smile.

Johnny runs Upcycle Motor Garage, which recently relocated from California to Austin, Texas. Most of Upcycle’s builds have been café racers—but Johnny was inspired to take this project in a radically different direction.

“One of my first ‘idol’ bikes was a white airhead bobber, built by Mark Van Der Kwaak, that was featured on Bike EXIF,” he explains. “I kept a photo of it as my wallpaper on my laptop for years. This build was my take on the proportions of the wide airhead engine, paired with the long frame of a hard-tailed bobber.”

The concept called for a rigid frame, a springer front end, and the chunkiest tires possible. Johnny started with the 16” Firestone tractor tires and used them to set the tone for the rest of the build.

The only thing left of the original BMW R80 frame is the neck and parts of the down tubes; everything else was fabricated from scratch. This allowed the engine to be repositioned too, so that the engine sump now sits flush with the bottom frame rails.

The front tire is mounted on a dished 16” Harley-Davidson wheel, which is straddled by a TC Bros. springer front end and brake setup. The rear rim is from Excel, re-spoked by the team at Buchanan’s Spoke and Rim. Believe it or not, the new rear rim and tire are much wider than the factory items, so the rear wheel had to be offset to clear the driveshaft.

Borrowing an idea from his friends at Sosa Metalworks, Johnny ran the rear brake rod through the rear frame triangle. Up front, custom split handlebars are bolted directly to the billet aluminum top yoke, sporting Kustom Tech levers and ODI Vans x Cult grips. A triangular headlight lights the way, mounted upside-down on a custom bracket.

A 1.25 gal fuel tank sits on the new frame backbone by way of custom mounts. Johnny says that fuel stops occur often, but this bobber sure looks good with a tank barely as wide as its airbox. Just in front of the tank is a tiny Motogadget speedo, wedged vertically into the headstock.

The 797.5 cc air-cooled lump sits proudly inside the custom frame with a handmade two-into-one exhaust and a Werkes USA muffler. Johnny rewired the bike around a Motogadget control unit and relocated the horn, regulator, and coils into the engine cover. An Antigravity Lithium-ion battery and the ignition switch are housed in an aluminum box, hidden behind the transmission.

Like the bike that inspired it, this BMW R80 bobber wears a saddle-style seat for one. Tires this big are sure to help slightly with cushioning—but at the end of the day this is a hardtail, so the seat is mounted on a small shock absorber. The bike’s custom taillight uses a small bulb (found at Home Depot) that’s been retrofitted with high-powered LEDs.

Johnny made the BMW’s myriad brass bushings and fittings on his small workshop lathe, then turned his attention to the color scheme. “The paint was sprayed in-house with a few different shades of green,” he says. “I’m a big Harry Potter fan, so I call it my Slytherin bike.”

BMW R80 bobber by Upcycle Garage
The finished product has a long, low, and agricultural look that we adore, with hand-finished details aplenty. While we think Draco Malfoy would be far too scared to ride this, we’d give it a go—preferably in the dirt.

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BMW R80 bobber by Upcycle Garage