© Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer
This is a story I wrote & published about my white R60/2. It was also published in "Motorcycle Owners News" (now "BMW-ON") in September 1987. I am a Life Member of BMWMOA, #17058. Below is an edited version.
Whitebeard, a factory original white 1957 R60, had a European style sprung solo saddle, and a large fuel tank, and was purchased by me in essentially new condition, with a very low number of miles accumulated. The original purchaser accumulator, sporting much gray hair attesting to many years of his own fun and games, had last owned, many decades previously, a Crocker motorcycle. He decided that the R60 and Los Angeles traffic was too much for him. Contributing to that situation, and the low selling price, was a badly damaged rear transmission cover, caused by failure (of dealership?) to check the universal joint bolts (with the failure-prone split-lock type washers). I fixed the cover by heliarc welding and minor machining, checked the shimming ...and never had another problem with it.
Prior to relieving this gentleman of his burdensome R60, I had owned an early 30's Indian, and a 1951 BSA single, and had ridden many different bikes; and, was planning to collect a few disassembled antique motorcycles I knew about. At the time I acquired Whitebeard, I was also trying to find some sort of better-paid part time job, so as to finance college time. With Whitebeard equipped with some truly ugly but functional boxes I had made up (VERY crude versions of the modern ones made by Jesse; without lids ....all this in the 1950's!), I was now able to obtain a pickup and delivery job.
For me, 'job' meant that I picked up real blueprints (yes, those smelly old things) at a Hollywood office that made them, and went immediately to the Hollywood freeway, where I proceeded to put on a lot of miles delivering them to various places. To this day, the smell of blueprints in the making have remained in my memory. The deliveries took several hours. It was not unusual to do 500 or 600 miles weekly. Most of it was at fairly high speeds, around 75 mph or so, which was FAST for THAT freeway back then, and, approaching the practical speed limit for the motorcycle. I did this for several years, with only two traffic citations for speeding. It is still my belief that the white bike color, quiet exhaust system, and my clean appearance, accounted for such few citations, as co-workers, riding outlaw-looking Harleys, received many traffic tickets, at substantially slower speeds. Adding to my mileage was the weekend ride and maybe a beer bust at the beach. This was all long before 'you meet the nicest people on a Honda').
I had few problems with the R60. I was a VERY regular customer for the dealership's tires. The Earles front fork (my R60 was thusly equipped), and the separately sprung and very large plush solo saddle that was on this particular R60, made for a soft comfortable ride. While true that the R60 was a poor handling machine compared to today's Japanese crotch-rockets, it handled quite well enough, and had many sterling attributes, the first of which was comfort. The second of which was utopia as far as reliability was concerned ...at least in those years, compared to other bikes. The battery was of little importance, as it was not needed for starting, as it had a magneto and a kick starter. Tuneups took little time. Seeing as how the R60 was transportation and livelihood, I totally rebuilt it every 80,000 to 100,000 miles. This meant a total engine teardown, as well as disassembling and working on wheels, transmission, rear drive, etc., all as needed. Of course, regular maintenance was done along the way to that mileage. The removal of the crankshaft for slinger cleaning (no oil filter on these models besides the slingers) was the primary item here at 25K to 30K; then, as engine oils improved, that was extended a modest amount. It was usually surprising to find out what was NOT worn out at 100K. The bike was cleaned, waxed, and lubed weekly, the oil changed at least monthly, and wheel bearings and other such items were serviced regularly. So many tires were used that I had modified the wheel hubs for easier servicing. Tires did NOT last like today's tires do, and neither did engine oil.
At this point in this tale, I will change names and details a wee bit, to protect a few who are still alive and were involved.
Whitebeard was sold soon after the R75/5 became available. The sale of the R60 was to a close friend named 'Jerry', who was a long time admirer of the bike. Whitebeard then had 274,087 miles. Jerry was a True California Character. His burning desire was to own the White Beast I called Whitebeard, ride it to the tip of Baja California, no doubt consuming vast quantities of tequila and Acapulco Gold along the way. Having heard stories about the dangers of riding at night south of the border ...and being a fool, ...Jerry planned to do at least some of his riding in more comfortable night weather. Thus a new battery was fitted, the electrics gone over, and Jerry asked me to modify the bike for 'large driving lights'. The next few days found me just beginning to make up brackets to mount a pair of Harley headlights ...when Jerry showed up with two Lucas FlameThrowers, in 12 volts, and ...I think ...100 watts each. It was now time for more beer and more discussion. The conversation drifted between 6 versus 12 volts, sidecars to hold batteries, conversion to 12 volts, etc. After enough beer, I stupidly agreed to mount any and all lights and electrical equipment that Jerry thought he would need.
Some beers later I found out that this would include my oldest vacuum tube HAM radio station, together with its power robbing dynamotor power supply (I had begun to put another version on my replacement bike purchase, the R75/5). Jerry agreed to pay handsomely for all this work. It was not a problem to temporarily reduce my blueprint delivery hours, and work on the R60 for Jerry, a man of some means. Being a minor machinist at heart, and having access to all sorts of machine shop equipment (Hughes Aircraft Co., another story), I adapted a 12 volt high output Leece Neville alternator of the type used on California Highway Patrol cars. I had to convert the R60's lights. The bike generating system would not be powerful enough, even if converted to 12 volts, hence the Leece Neville unit. With the stock alternator gone, I had plenty of room too.
The battery area was modified, and an oversize battery fitted. With access at Hughes, I made parts of stainless steel where I could, and made a new wiring loom as appropriate, and then had the Hughes wire looming machine make it all look pretty. This was truly an overkill installation. The alternator drive and mount was relatively simple, but looked ugly, as it does on all outside belt driven conversions on all BMW boxer twins. The machine was wired using very heavy duty copper-silver aircraft wire with all weather covering (thanks to Uncle Sam and Hughes). The suspension was modified as well. I had so much fun doing this, as well as working part time for the local BMW bike dealer, that I only went back to blueprint deliveries for a short while, on the new-to-me R75/5; ....instead, I continued my part-time job at Winklemann Motors (BMW bike dealership).
The R60 now had an even larger fuel tank ...a $$$ Heinrich 9 gallon tank and $$$ Heinrich hand made aluminum fairing. Very pretty $$$ items. There is a photo of this bike in this website's photo galleries. Jerry had NO problem with money at that time ...he was into the California-Friend-to-Everyone business ....that is, he imported Mexican and South American marijuana, which he distributed widely.
One Monday morning, Jerry was ready, he thought, and over at my house Whitebeard was ready, I thought. Jerry arrived and loaded up Whitebeard with many personal items. Jerry leaves, planning on meandering down through Baja California. Baja and Jerry had the same sort of reputation. Jerry, and the R60, would travel most of the length of Baja, also known as Baja California Sur, and eventually take the ferry to Mazatlan.
UNfortunately, this very immediate first section of the trip was cut short after about 50 feet, where Jerry dumps the R60, just past the end of my driveway, as he was turning into the street, sliding into my "always grumping about Bob and his noisy motorcycling friends" neighbor ....well, not the neighbor himself, rather, it was the neighbor's Cadillac. My neighbor was very proud of it, as it attesting to his wealth (he wasn't wealthy) and HIS perceived status in the no-Cadillac's neighborhood (which sported Fords, Chevies, and the occasional Buick and Chrysler). The Proud Cadillac now sported some nice new scratches with a substantial dent in the driver's door. Attesting to this was my neighbor, who at the time was in the driver's seat.
Back goes the R60 into my garage-shop for some repairs ...neighbor following ...Jerry following ...loud words ...cussing ...neighbor's wife gets into the act ...night shift policeman who lives on other side and is trying to sleep ...opens his window to check on the action.........
........amid all the screaming, cussing, and general fun, Jerry's possibly pregnant girlfriend shows up.
Turns out she did not know that Jerry was planning on this trip. Meanwhile, I have escaped into the kitchen, where I follow the action sneakily, and where my 6-pack of California Valium (BEER) is being rapidly depleted, by me, to a 4-pack.
With neighbor(s) and fellow groupies eventually satisfied that I am going back to College full time, (instead of being drafted, or going immediately into the Marine Corps) and, that Jerry is leaving the U.S., and that Jerry will pay for Cadillac door repairs, things calm down, and Jerry decides to leave Wednesday afternoon.
I remember that Wednesday afternoon very well. I had been showing off for MY girlfriend on one of MY bikes, and I slid for maybe 30 feet, after trying a very dirt-riding-like maneuver, through an unseen (if you saw my girlfriend, and how ever-so-lightly-dressed, you'd realize why) stack of curbside slippery leaves, in front of girlfriend's parents house. This was in full view of her older sister ...who I was dating at the SAME time ...and ...all was being watched by her parents. The only thing I ever learned from this was to NEVER date sisters (at the same time.......or....otherwise times); and, wearing gloves was a good idea. Having returned to my own house, and, doing minor things for Jerry and the R60, was encumbered by a large thumb bandage.
My bandaged thumb was still trying to bleed through its bandage when Jerry arrived, about the time I finished the R60. It wasn't easy doing mechanical work without a quite usable thumb. Jerry said he couldn't stand the sight of blood, and, last night, why did he ever do something stupid like proposing to his girl (wine), and she was coming over, and he wanted to leave, NOW!! ...and make Tecaté by dark ...ETC. Jerry takes off on the R60 after paying me and we dealt with paperwork, finishing up the ownership transfer, etc. Jerry didn't crash again.
Somewhat later, Jerry's recently Affianced drops by. "Gee, honey, yeah, I did see Jerry, he's out test-riding the bike; and, no, I don't know exactly when he will be back ...I'll tell him you dropped by ...and, hey, congratulations ....".
Later, with a third-time bandaged and still rather painful and throbbing thumb, I took my Vincent, with a sleeping bag and tarp, and caught up with Jerry, after a tiring days ride of ....about 5 miles ...as I saw the R60 outside a local disreputable tavern. I am smart enough to drink ginger ale. A while later, after many sarcastic remarks from me, towards Jerry, about his un-happening long tour, we are off for the border. This 130 mile trip took 3 days, as we stopped to 'party' along the way, upon meeting some of Jerry's friends who were everywhere.
After a thorough checkout of the manufacturing methods and quality of the product at the Cerveza Tecaté facility, and having some fun at the old abandoned airstrip near the even older abandoned leprosarium outside Tecaté, Jerry heads south, and I head back North.
The trip back North was on a favorite road, just then occupied only by myself ...and a CHP officer ...who is eagerly anticipating catching up with me, as I rode by his Chrysler Patrol car at a quite brisk pace. He loses me, or I lose him, as I take off across the desert, off-road, ...at warp 12.
Back in Los Angeles, after a considerably shorter period of time than it took to get to Tecaté, I decide that an advanced degree, settling down, getting married, and increasing my stable of motorcycles, sports cars, and basket cases of antique motorbikes, are all great ideas. I did not do all that at the same time ...putting marriage off for quite awhile, and, having periods of Life Adjustments...including learning how to live, on a limited amount of income. I was well into un-planned programs when I noticed that many of my older (age 21-1/2) friends were getting drafted. I decided to, at the prompting of friend Bucky, and his Marine Colonel father (whose daughter was my chase of the moment), take my life into The Government's many Hands (?), and join the Marines. I gave up two wheels ...for 3 months actually. I even had a French Poopette (a type of wee tiny motorcycle, actually called a Mobylette, that was the basis for the later MOPED) on Base ...and drove it after hours into an unmentionable field facility in the wee hours ...quite a mess to clean us both, hell-of-a stench too. There is a photo of this bike on this site.
After my initial servicing of the Service, and their reciprocal and heavy-handed life-changing servicing of ME, I found the pleasures of perks that go with being an employee of a few companies who, somehow, were willing to pay me a lot more than I was previously used-to. Yes, I was in the Service, AND in Civvy life at the same time! As the years passed, the ready-to-ride motorcycle stable thinned out somewhat and increased somewhat along the way. I was also collecting large amounts of antique bike parts/pieces/ and even some 'won't run, but it's mostly there' items. I married. I found out about the fun...and costs....of racing sports cars and bikes, including a Vincent and Norton Manx(s). Luckily, I was paid well. I drove to work in a Porsche RS550-1500. I raced and set a record at Bonneville, on the day before my birthday in 1971, on the Norton/Vincent hybrid that I built. My Boss, and his Partner, the owners of Linear Corporation (I was the Chief Engineer) were my Pit Crew Members. Yes, I really was in the Service, and in Civilian employment, at the same time. Don't ask. By early 1970's I was really into R75/5 bikes too. More and more. I was doing 'lotsa fun things'. Truth was, I had gained a modicum of 'respectability & responsibility'....and there was the flying and the Marine Corps ...not to hardly mention my involvement with BMW. I was wearing a uniform ...or, suit and tie ....much too often. The transition to VietNam was, well, not of my favorite memories.
Just after the 70's began, and I was back in a comfortable civilian situation, I started to burn out on the Corporate Engineering version of life, and L.A. Lifestyle. I quit my well-perked job as Chief Engineer with Linear Corporation, and did some odd consulting, got divorced, and burned-out some more. I gave up L.A. and moved to beautiful Lake Tahoe, where my lifestyle became far more laid-back. I hunted in Montana, fished locally, hiked everyplace, etc. I even learned how to ski ...on snow. I mostly stored my bikes in the Winter after the first year of riding the R75/5 with mounted outrigger skis (no car). I did re-acquaint myself with serious mountain roads carving. Eventually the Service and I parted company; well, for awhile. It was a fair deal ...I eventually would have a Pension to look forward to (which I eventually gave to charity), and they got rid of me; but I went back a couple of times for a few years or projects. I started several businesses, and even started doing custom BMW Airhead work ...again. I was long long past my involvement with Winklemann BMW Motors, which, itself, was long gone...but I was always 'into' BMW bikes....it had become an obsession. I was even teaching shop techs.
In early 1985 I decided that my last R75/5, of several, was getting long in the tooth, and it was time for a brand new BMW. After all, I needed a newer fashion (and, practical) statement. ((I wish I'd kept the /5!))
I made the Sacramento dealer (Capitol Cycles) a bit nervous as I tried out his new K100RS demonstrator, along the river road. I did not like it, except for its power. The store owner had TWO nearly identical, unsold, late 1983 R100RT bikes on the floor. I found out, while outside shmoozing with someone while eating lunch nearby, that this BMW dealership owner was going to jail soon, something about a trunk load of pot, ....and that I might be able to make QUITE a deal. So it was that I went back to the dealership, not just to look at the two 1983 R100RT's ...but to chat more seriously. While chatting, I noticed a strange weird type looking at my R75/5. There was NO sign on it offering it for sale. We made a deal on the spot; and he would pick the bike up at my place at Tahoe in a week or two. He even paid me, most of the $, in cash ...right there ...I wrote him a 'receipt' on a NAPKIN. I am NOT KIDDING!
I now needed a road touring bike, as the purchaser of the /5 was coming to Tahoe soon to get it. I made a deal for BOTH of the new RT's, and purchased them at WAY under dealer cost. Never quite understood all that, but, putting together what I think had happened, was something like THIS:
I THINK they were under a financial flooring situation, and since he was 'silently' going out of business, he was screwing either BMW or the flooring company, or both.
I rode one RT, the Maroon colored one, and sold the other for nearly as much as BOTH had cost ME. It was during this period of time that Oak and I had most of our longest conversations, and I had expanded my own BMW business. I helped Oak get gray hair with my phone conversations (no E-mail back then). Oak and I had already become pretty good friends.
Meanwhile, I stayed in touch with Jerry over some years. Jerry did not do ANY of the same things I did. Jerry was having a lot of fun keeping up with his own image. He was riding all over Central and South America, making deals of some sort or other. Occasionally I would hear from him when he needed some sort of advice on maintenance or repairs. The R60 was still running just fine with normal maintenance; but he was nearing time for the crank to be removed to have the slingers cleaned. That got done by some knowledgeable person in some now forgotten city.
September, 1986: Jerry was in New Zealand if I remember correctly, with Whitebeard, and was shortly leaving to visit friends in OZ. OZ .....just that slang name .... seemed to fit Jerry. In early 1987 Jerry is riding back, at his usual slow pace, with many stops for weeks at a time, up through South America, to visit me, at Lake Tahoe. He mentions, via very $$$ international phone call, as how 'maybe I could put him up for awhile', and WE could have lots of fun. I explain that his projected 'late 1987' arrival is likely to mean the COLD time of Winter and very snowy at Lake Tahoe, surely he has had enough of cold, and slippery surfaces, and I like being warm, and my present lifestyle is NOT conducive to long term house-guests ...but ...but ...why not have the R60 serviced at this place I know of in L.A., which will do a good job; ...and; ...oooops; ...comes the additional words "and we'll go to Escanaba for the MOA National together".
Jerry thought THAT was a great idea, and so it was all planned. Jerry was back in the U.S. earlier than he had originally planned. Yes I had him as a houseguest for a few days, before the proposed tour to the East, planning to ride side by side, going east on Highway 80, towards, we hoped, Escanaba. Another longish story, best left UNSAID, here.
I lost track of Jerry after 1989. In the original website version of this story, I had said: ".....a bit after I returned from a wee stint back in Government Employment, I heard from his sister. Jerry had gotten cancer. Since he never smoked tobacco, you can draw your own conclusions. I was told by someone that he only lived a short while after the lung cancer diagnosis. He supposedly left me a few things. One of which was the R60. But, I never actually saw it or anything else. I gave Jerry's sister the name of a few folks I knew, and, yes, she sold the R60 to one of them. I still had a few other wee items he had long ago previously left with/for me, motorcycling memorabilia, and some flyers and other items from my racing days. Someone in October 2006 actually read this story, and asked me if I had heard from Jerry...and I facetiously responded that I had "not heard from him in some years ....of course, I "knew" Jerry was long dead. Jerry's sister lived in Boston, and I had not talked to her in a very long time. On a whim, I called her. She informed me that Jerry had NOT died. The truth was, and probably still is, that he was, then, in a Federal prison someplace, for the second time, this time for a VERY LONG stretch, for selling drugs. I haven't been able to be sure I have all this factually. My last contact with his sister was a few years later ....nothing new to report ...she died not long ago. I have no idea where the R60 is. I suspect Jerry is long dead too.
© Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer
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Last check/edit: Wednesday, December 09, 2020