Stalls – May ’89

Stalls – May ’89

by | May 18, 1989

Solid Gold

The ’78 R I00/ 7 is nearing 70,000 miles. Its paint looks like the skin of a recent emigree from Florida; its charg­ ing system is a creation of Heirony­ mous, not Robert, Bosch; and its hand­ ling is, well, past its prime. It has experienced so many flats that my tire man changed its name from “Rain­ bringer” to “Nailcatcher”. So I have been looking at newer bikes, despite my determination to cross the century mark with this one, whose engine and transmission still have the strength of ten.

Some time ago I noted in this space that the new BMW bikes, the K-series, are not particularly easy on the eye. I have let them grow on me for three years, and still find them to be fungal in appearance. A wart on the heinie of styling, to be blunt. And the first year or two had the usual new-model prob­ lems, mostly cybernetic in origin. To its credit, BMW has been very good about warrantying the water-cooled motorcycles.

In their 1988 iteration, these bikes (in touring or commuting trim) cost about Ten Big Ones. But Ijust received the announcement that BMW is dis­ continuing the standard models. In 1989, you have your choice of a loaded cycle with ABS braking for (sit down and take a deep breath)  $11,500 to

$12,800. Or, you can buy a used one for about $5,000. (A clean, low mileage, used R-series boxer runs $3,000 or less.) Or, you can not buy one at all. But your choice does not include a “standard” model, because none is offered.

Despite parallel inflation in parts prices, I think I’ll be wringing at least a few more years out of Nailcatcher. It is simple, durable, of more than ade­ quate performance and bereft of unre­ pairable electronic and fuel systems. Maintenance is very reasonable, since most of it can be done at home. The K-series bikes have tremendous power, brakes (even on the non-ABS models) the likes of which I never believed could be on a two-wheeler, and sparkling handling. But they are  ugly, sound like sewing machines and are hideously expensive, both before and after purchase. Better the devil you know than the devil you can’t afford.

You Just Can’t Win, Part II

Former (and soon to be again) club member Lee Rombaugh just bought a ’72 tii in a basket. The body and drive­ train are there, but not much else is worth saving. So we met to discuss parts buying strageties, as he is about to be many kilobucks poorer. A fair trade for a sparkling fresh tii with round taillights, I’d say.

Lee borrowed my Bimmer Parts Company catalog and price sheet, which were of May ’84 vintage. (My expe­riences with BPC are mixed. The main difficulty is that they cannot tell right from left (three errors in two orders), but  I was unhappy  that  they shipped aluminum drip rail moldings folded in half. They also sent me a gas tank without boxing it, and not surprisingly it arrived with a pretty healthy dent in it. BPC is honest, but not particularly competent.) Lee obtained a newer cata­ log with a November ’88 price list.

One of the neat things about BPC is they sell kits for restorers, like all body rubber, bumper packages and so forth. Here is what has happened to 2002 kit prices in 4V2 years:

Kit                                       5/ 84     11/ 88
Weather  strip                     $135.00 $195.00
Molding kits                         170.00  255.00
Grilles                                  92.00   140.00
Bumpers (both)                   190.00  295.00

This is an average increase of 11.3% (simple) per year, or more than twice the rate of inflation. And remember, these parts were not particularly inex­ pensive to begin with.

I am grateful that the parts are readily available, though this is more a function of the original equipment manufacturers than of BMW, which is less interested in keeping old cars on the road than in selling new ones for sums exceeding the GNP of minor Asian states. It saddens me that nice cars become unroadworthy because the cost of parts goes up even as the value of the car declines. I recognize that the crossing of these trends is an economic inevitability; that the 2002 must disappear from the road for the same reasons the Lockheed Constella­ tion disappeared from  the air.  This makes the result no more palatable, however.

At some point, of course, the value of a used car will rise from its nadir (sometimes rather steeply, like recent madness in the Ferrari, Maserati and Jaguar markets, and sometimes for no good reason, as in Tuckers). Usually by this time parts are unavailable or prohibitively expensive. It would seem that restoration is a labor of love, and that it is better d one today than tomorrow.

This article was originally published in the May 1989 edition of Zundfolge