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Reviving an icon: A 1951 BMW R51 restomod from Thrive

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
The post-War R51/3 is one of the all-time classic motorcycles, and instantly recognizable as a BMW—complete with early boxer engine and ‘plunger’ rear suspension. But despite their venerable age, R51s can still be picked up at auction for less than US$20,000.

Over 18,000 R51/3s were built, and a fair few of those are slowly decaying away in sheds and garages around the world. Even in places you wouldn’t expect to find one, such as Jakarta, Indonesia.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
That’s the hometown of Thrive, undisputedly one of the world’s top custom shops and the team behind this very elegant build called ‘T-051.’

The client behind this commission has been a BMW aficionado since childhood. After meeting the Thrive guys and reminiscing over airheads from his past, he returned to the workshop with the engine and frame of a 1951 R51/3.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
Too many parts were missing for the R51 to be returned to its original showroom state. So the owner simply said, “I bet you guys know where to start. Make a great story for me to remember.”

Thrive’s media relations guy Putra Agung was surprised. “That’s not what we expected, but we took up the sentimental challenge. We came up with a restomod approach, updating some parts while maintaining the overall classic look.”

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
‘T-051’ was born, and proves that Thrive are at the top of the premier league. They don’t follow trends or take shortcuts: each new build has an original vision behind it, matched to exquisite detail work.

The R51’s frame, which can trace its lineage back to 1935, was an “interesting concept to tweak,” says Putra. Thrive began to play around with visual illusions, looking for ways to add a twist.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
Then fabricators Indra Pratama and Barata Dwiputra made subtle frame mods and began crafting slim new bodywork out of aluminum sheet. The squared-off tank cover echoes the shape of the engine, but clever paint on top of the brushed metal draws the eye towards the iconic plunger shocks.

Hand-beaten aluminum was also used for the rear frame cover, the housing for the Daymaker Projector LED headlamp, and a custom battery box.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
Thrive have also machined smooth new covers for the front suspension, and redesigned smaller parts like the license plate bracket, kickstand and rear hub cover. The front drum brake has been swapped out for a vintage Honda item, which looks a little more balanced on this build.

The single-cam motor also received its fair share of attention. After a total rebuild to counter its 68 years of age, Thrive added extra details on the valve and engine covers—accentuating the smooth surfaces of BMW’s Design-Meisterwerk.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
The exhaust headers are stock, but the sleek megaphone mufflers are from Thrive’s own ‘T/H/R/V’ parts catalog. That range has also supplied the new handlebars, the bar-end turn signals, switchgear, foot pegs, and air filter cover.

The new bars are home to a vintage dual-pull throttle assembly from Tommaselli, fresh grips, and a very discreet Motogadget Motoscope Mini speedo set into the headlight bucket.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
There’s a new seat unit, but it’s not a million miles away from the original ‘tractor’ style BMW seat. It’s the same style, but brought into the 21st century with a sleek aluminum base that also houses the LED brake light.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
The rear wheel has gone down a size to 18 inches, but the front remains at 19—to give a slightly more modern vibe. The sawtooth-tread rubber suits the vintage ethos though, with an Allstate tire leading the way and the ubiquitous Firestone Deluxe Champion at the drive end.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
There’s raw metal everywhere, and it suits ‘T-051’ just fine. Shiny stainless steel is juxtaposed with matt brushed aluminum and the odd touch of chrome. And the black paint—effectively large stripes with classic pinstriping—makes it hard to tell where the frame stops and the bodywork starts.

Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive
According to Thrive, the goal was to blend classic BMW DNA with “a piece of imagination from the near future.” And they’ve succeeded.

This R51/3 is not only a beautiful illusion, but also a masterful display of craftsmanship.

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Reviving an icon: A BMW R51/3 restomod from Thrive

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