Among the rare classics that traditionally populate the motorcycle class of the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, this year BMW unveiled a one-off supercharged custom called R5 Hommage as a tribute to the original production model that set the sportbike standards some 80 years ago.
In the mid-1930s BMW was at the forefront of motorcycle technology, introducing the first production motorcycles with hydraulic telescopic front suspension. At the time BMW was racing a supercharged version of its 500 cc boxer engine; throughout the second half of this decade the infamous Kompressor racers conquered the Isle of Man TT and set world speed records that would stand for many years.
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In 1936 the R5 was introduced with looks that mimicked the racing boxers and a technological arsenal that set the standards for sportbikes of the era. Lightweight and potent, the 24-hp (18-kW) R5 soon became the entry-level racer's weapon of choice, managing top speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph) in stock form. One year later BMW responded to popular demand with the R5 SS (Super Sport), adding a few extra ponies for a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph).
World War II put an abrupt end to motorcycle evolution and racing but, as soon as normality gradually returned, BMW employed the R5 design as a prototype on which it built a series of production models. Practically every boxer-powered motorcycle designed by BMW during the 1950s was more or less based on the R5.
Eight decades after the initial launch of the R5, BMW decided to recreate a custom motorcycle as a tribute to the iconic 1936 model. The task was undertaken by the Noren brothers, Ronna and Benna, from Sweden, who are custom builders with more than 30 years of expertise in creating tailor-made customer bikes.
The modern interpretation of the R5 was built around an original engine, supplied by Sebastian Gutsch. The team set off to rebuild the 500 cc boxer that was used and damaged in racing a long time ago, using whichever spares BMW could supply and fabricating everything else by hand in the Norens' workshop.
The same meticulous process was employed for everything else on the bike, including the steel frame. Most of the parts of the R5 Hommage have been constructed by hand, based on sketches provided by the BMW Motorrad Design Team.
The final design is much more than just a reproduction of a classic, as the team decided to equip its custom with modern suspension and brakes, including discs with a six-pot radial caliper up front and a four-pot at the rear, as well as a rear monoshock suspension – in stark contrast to the hard tail original. Finally the R5 was armed with a supercharger, making for a welcome power boost that doubles as a tribute to the Kompressor racers of the '30s.
The R5 Hommage is not the kind of motorcycle we expect to see in production; instead it is a very special one-off custom model that rightfully earned its place under the spotlight – next to the BMW 2002 Hommage – in an event that is traditionally dominated by very elegant, rare and expensive classic cars.
Source: BMW MotorradView gallery - 31 images