Featured: A BMW Airhead Built To Complement A Porsche 356

A BMW Airhead Built To Complement A Porsche 356

By Petrolicious Productions
September 5, 2013

After building himself a 1973 BMW Cafe Racer, Los-Angeles-based photographer Josh Withers was commissioned to restore a BMW R75/5 Cafe, this time for someone he’d never met and lived 1,200 miles away in North Dakota. Shane Balkowitsch trusted Josh’s work and his requirement was that he wanted something that would match his Porsche 356, that he’d recently restored, and be something of a “sister bike” (his words) to the car, using the same paint scheme and similar design cues.

Below is a bit of Shane’s thought process in determining what kind of bike he wanted and who he wanted to build it.

“I have always wanted to own a vintage motorcycle and after having such a great experience restoring my 1965 Porsche 356, I went on the hunt for a project bike. I have been following the new series on television called Cafe Racer and really fell in love with these modified bikes… The next part of the process was to find a competent builder and I was very lucky to stumble across Josh Withers. A simple search on the internet brought me to the magnificent BMW Cafe Racer that he designed and built several years back. A quick call to him asking if he would be interested in doing a similar design for me is all it took.

The resulting bike took two years and four months, countless phone calls, lots of brainstorming, and Josh working on nights and weekends after his regular job out of his two-car garage in Southern California.

We were lucky to catch and film the bike before it headed to Shane in North Dakota.  You can see more on Tuesday of Josh Withers and this R75/5 in our weekly video.

Photography by Kevin Vu, Josh Withers, and Shane Balkowitsch

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Andre C  Hulstaert
Andre C Hulstaert
10 years ago

Brings back tons of good memories. The /5 was my very first motorcycle and I covered about 60,000 miles with it. I bought iy used at a police auction having been a patrol bike. It had about 60,000 miles on it and had the solo seat. Not the one as in the example of the article but in fact a short version of the duo seat. It had also a small cubicle in the tank.
I put an “S” fairing on it, added the trunks, painted it midnight blue and added two big circular Bi-Oscar Cidie long range lights. It looked as good as it rode.
After I had it for about six months I had to go on a 600 mile trip and decided to take my /5. Never having driven it over an really extended distance and although I did not experience any problems, still I was a bit nervous. At the first gas stop I noticed a dark brown streak on my right exhaust at the level of the cylinderhead. Uhoh went trough my mind, an oil leak ! Thus every time I stopped for gas I checked the oil level which remained normal and constant This relieved and puzzled and worried me, what the heck could that be. Once well past Paris (I had to go to the French Pyrenees) and with the oil level remaining constant I regained confidence and started riding it spiritedly, most of the time in the region of 100 miles, all it could do. The last part of the jourey, past Bordeaux, if I remember rightly, was all winding two lane roads trough woods. It was late summer and there were plenty of insects, so much that, at two occasions I has to stop to scrape them off mi lights and visor to regain visibility. In a small city close to my destination I decided to bed down and find a hotel. As, at that time motorcycle riders were not too kindly regarded in France, I decided to leave my bike behind the corner and go in first to get a room. Once I was registered, the clerk asked my if I wanted to put my bike in the garage, I hadn’t mentioned anything about it. Had she somehow seen me arrive, I couldn’t figure. It is only when I came into my room that I understood. I had a light colored body warmer and this was covered with a layer of dead flies !
So, I did my business and the next day I made the 600 mile return trip, now confidently riding at a steady 100. The streak still puzzled me but grew very little. Once back I investigated, nada. It was my wife who found it, indirectly, by asking me what I had done with my shoes, especially the right one, most of the color was gone !!! It appears the my right carburetor leaked a bit, it dripped on my shoe and from there on the exhaust !!
All in all quite good, 1200 miles in two days, most of it flat out with a bike which had already 70,000 miles to start with and no problems.
The only thing I did not like on the /5 is the front brake, or rather slower-downer as it is not really worth the name of brake. Otherwise a ton of fun. iI liked them so much that I bought one the very first K100’s. At that time fuel injected bikes were not common and they did not realize te a fuel injected engine is in fact not nice to look at. So was the K100 too. Thus, I made fairng to close and hide the sides and painted in completely in pearl white with an eggshell colored leather saddle.
In the pictures (more on the site http://wp.me/P30bdG-WE ) you are able to see a bit of my /5 in the background on the last picture. When I bought it, it was white and on the pictures I already added a duo saddle. Once I had the K100 my wife learned on the Boxer as it is a gentle and low bike, she also enjoyed it for years.

Andreas Lavesson
Andreas Lavesson
10 years ago

Very cool looking bike. I love the café style and you can’t go wrong with an old BMW. I really hope it sounds as good as I’m imagining it will. Looking forward to the video!

Triumphs also make for good café racers. Sounds like you’ve got some cool plans. Be sure to post a picture if you follow through with it.

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
10 years ago

Nice, looking forward to the vid.
I am considering a Triumph bonneville cafe racer to complement my GT6 mk2, in matching Valencia blue with cream decals.

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