An Art Deco Treasure. 1934 Concept Motorcycle.

bmwr7I have a huge passion for the Art Deco and the “Streamline Moderne” movements, both popular design styles between 1925 and 1939, and yes, invented by a small group of French designers, then exported all over the world.  Just look at this 1934 BMW R7 concept motorcycle just restored to its former glory.

After languishing in a box during more than 70 years, it was re-discovered in 2005 and then restored by BMW Classics. If it went in production it would probably have become one of the most important, innovative and visually stunning motorcycle ever produced. The R 7 was a stunning motorcycle but it was deemed too heavy and expensive to
go into production, so BMW changed its direction towards producing more sporting models. The project was shelved as World War 2 was approaching. It was conceived as a high-end motorcycle, a “gentleman’s express” as they said at this time. Motorcycle engineer Alfred Boning produced the R7 to demonstrate to the world the design and engineering capabilities of BMW. The result is a total departure of what a motorcycle looked like at this time.

The engine was a one-piece tunnel design with a forged single piece crankshaft. The con-rod big ends were split (like those used in car engines) and ran on plain bearings. Unusually the cylinder and cylinder head is a mono block unit, removing the need for a head gasket, at the time a weak point in engine technology. The camshaft was located below the crank, which placed the pushrod tubes below the cylinder and so gave a better position for the valves and sparkplug. These innovations, when combined with a hemispherical combustion chamber, produced an engine with performance advantages over the BMW engines in production at that time. The motor hangs in position in a pressed steel bridge frame, something completely different to other motorcycles produced in the 30’s. A first was also the use of telescopic front forks.

For design, the R7 takes may visual cues from the cars of the era. An expansive body work, hiding many components, an intensive use of chrome and steel, swoopy fenders with valanced mudguards, art deco shaped exhaust and sculpted taillight, etc.  After 3 years of restoration the R7 is not a static display at BMW headquarters.  It goes on the road at classic event and rallies. Hope I will get a chance to see from close this Art Deco treasure.


21 Responses to “An Art Deco Treasure. 1934 Concept Motorcycle.”

  1. 1 Alan Feb 23rd, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Wow, what a phenomenal piece of history. Thanks for showing that to us, Cyril. Hopefully it’ll make it to the U.S. someday. I’d like to see it.

  2. 2 Jayson Feb 23rd, 2009 at 8:38 am


  3. 3 Boss Hawg Feb 23rd, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Nice, very nice!

    It is so wonderful to see piece of history repeat itself.

    Boss Hawg

  4. 4 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian M/C Co Feb 23rd, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Brigg’s Weaver was Indians top designer from 1929-45 under E Paul DuPont’s reign and he was the main person resposible for bringing styling to American m/c’s. Because of him, Harley had to do something and their answer to Weaver and indian was in 1949??? when they came out with the Hydra Glide front, end straight cut fender and head light surround. Even in the automotive industry circles Weaver was well recognised and highly respected. This guy was the master which to me he was catching his stride towards the late 30’s and then again with skirted fenders in 1940. Long live Briggs Weaver. A true American stylist. You are not forgotten n my books mate

  5. 5 J Feb 23rd, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Huge Art Deco fan here- Ness does some great work now and then, and a guy down the street- Teddy Jr- did a fantastic bike a few years ago. Fantastic metalworking with this stuff, I’d love to see it integrated more with the current Bagger fad….

  6. 6 Nick Feb 23rd, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Beautiful work of art.
    Both Form & function.

  7. 7 Brandon Feb 23rd, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Great post Cyril. You should do one in this style. Your art-deco lines…

  8. 8 The V Feb 23rd, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    An amazing motorcycle, and one of my favorite ‘should have been’ bikes.
    Just a few points of clarification:
    – there were many Art Deco motorcycles produced before the R7, they were all were in Europe and therefore little-known to Americans; the Majestic, the Ascot-Pullin, etc.
    – ‘beam’ frames of pressed-steel were introduced in the 20’s, and all of BMW’s motorcycles had pressed-steel frames at this point
    – until the mid-1920’s, almost all motorcycles had one-piece cylinder heads and barrels, even the few ohv machines made. In some sense this was a retrograde design – not many bikes since then have used this system; it makes carbon cleanup and valve changes/porting more difficult.
    – the plain-bearing bottom end was an innovation, as even in 1934, fully recirculating oil systems on bikes were only about 5 years old on most machines, and roller bearing big-ends were common. Plain bushes on big-ends and mains were typical up to the ‘Teens and early 20’s though.
    – telescopic forks have been around since the ‘Teens as well, but BMW really ramped up the strength of the tubing/fork clamps, and sorted out the hydraulic damping.

  9. 9 Jeff Nicklus Feb 23rd, 2009 at 12:36 pm


    Over & Out,


  10. 10 Lyle Feb 23rd, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    It figures that BMW would be at the forefront. And just think, it was all because of the Treaty of Versailles.

  11. 11 Doc Robinson Feb 23rd, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Milwaukee’s world famous industrial designer Brook Stevens was responsible for the ‘Hydra Glide front, end straight cut fender and head light surround.’ Mike Tomas mentions. I highly recommend the book, “Industrial Strength Design-How Brook Stevens Shaped Your World” for lovers of design.
    Stevens also did tank badges for Harley-Davidson and a fresh faced young Willie G. was sent to work at Stevens firm for several years before returning to the family business.

  12. 12 Gabby Feb 23rd, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Very nice except when they say to its natural former glory was there pin striping and chrome wire wheels on the first one

  13. 13 Mike Greenwald Feb 23rd, 2009 at 5:15 pm


  14. 14 Nicker Feb 23rd, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Old and Bold.
    A great design.
    Could “the industry” embrace the Old to reenergize the New…???
    Kiwi Indian has a good start.
    There must be other avenues.
    Ya think….???


  15. 15 David Feb 24th, 2009 at 12:22 am

    It’s no telling what the Germans could have done and where the world would be now if we wouild have never known Adolf Hitler or Joesph Stalin. Great looking bike.

  16. 16 Biker Bob Feb 24th, 2009 at 1:39 am

    cool beans.

  17. 17 John Feb 24th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Love to drive it

  18. 18 Matt Olsen Feb 25th, 2009 at 10:06 am

    this bike gives me heart palpatations

  19. 19 Roid Feb 25th, 2009 at 12:08 pm


    “IF” a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass either!

  20. 20 Scott Feb 27th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    This harkins back to an era when automobiles had style but motorcycles were designed a little more for practicality. Today’s production chopper manufacturers could certainly take some cues from this beauty. Surely a modern bike with this kind of style would be a big seller.

  21. 21 burnout Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    when I look at those lines the hairs raise on my arms!!!!! peace

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