I 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.