By Richard Sheckler –  Wayne, Ohio.

An R24 brought back. Scroll down for Richard’s story.











I met Garfield Smith (Petrolia, Ontario) more than twenty years ago. He mentioned that he had an R24 BMW which was made during his birth year 1949. This was also an important year for BMW, because they were in serious financial straights after WWII with the shackles of the Allied Military Command mandate not to manufacture motorcycles that could be used for making war. In 1949, the restrictions were lifted partially, allowing German firms to build motorcycles up to but not to exceed 250cc. The BMW factory had been severely bombed. Three quarters of the roof was gone, half the machinery was destroyed, and the workers kept coming in every day to make pots and pans out of the aluminum aircraft parts left over from the war, working in the snow and rain, carefully wiping the wet off the machinery and oiling it so they could use it the next day. Swords into plow shares! In 1948, when the ban was lifted, BMW was ready with their new model R24, similar, but not the same as their R23 from before the war. The engine and automotive type transmission were new. They had only one motorcycle to display at the Paris Automotive Show in December of 1948, and what a sensation it made! Europeans had not forgotten what the Germans had done to them, and they also remembered the fine quality of BMW machines! They opened their pocketbooks and bought 12,000 R24s by the end of 1949. Without this little bike, there would be no BMW today! When we fly Boeing or Air France, consider that those jet turbo fans lifting us up into the great blue were probably made by BMW?

Back to Gar Smith… I wanted an R24 for its historic significance. Of course, Gar would not let his bike go. Five years later, Gar phoned to tell me he had purchased another, better condition R24, and his first R24 was for sale at $200.00 USD. Was I interested? He said it was rough and he believed that it could never be restored. I bought it anyway. Like my dad used to say, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

I drove up to Petrolia and spent a pleasant afternoon with Gar visiting and sharing tales from the various events we had been to. Gar made lunch, consisting of buttered toast wit slices of melted bleu cheese and tomato soup. (Campbell’s no less). That was the last time I saw Gar. He later passed away from an unexpected heart attack while on vacation with his wife in Texas.

 The R24 that Gar had came from a farm in Ontario. It appears the engine quit, likely from the open gashes in the oil pan (even BMWs can’t run without oil), so an enterprising and inventive home mechanic got more life out of the bike by chopping off the cylinder, head, top of the crankcase, torching the connecting rod, and then mounting a lawn mower engine atop the remains of the R24 engine. It must have worked for awhile, at least until the main bearings in the BMW crankcase froze up. Note the pulley on the nose of the crankshaft.

 I love these projects! They offer challenges that require the development of new skills. The holes that were drilled and tapped into the case required attention. I tried welding one to see what happened. It filled the hole and left a furrowed ring around the area. No good. Next try was to clean up the tapped holes and insert threaded aluminum rod into them, clip off the excess and pein the rods into place. For this bit of work I call on my friend and colleague Slamaway Hamfist.

 A fellow BMW community member donated a busted up R27 case (The R27 is a single cylinder engine, nearly identical with the earlier R24, and some parts from it can be used here) that supplied the parts that were sliced off the R24 case.

Once again, Mark Laree. in Toledo applied his magic touch.

 And of course, another step in the procedure was finished. After this photo was made, the holes in the case were filled by drilling over the previous size, tapping threads into them, then inserting aluminum threaded rod, clipping the excess off and peening flush with a machinist’s hammer.

And then after rounding up and repairing the remaining parts to assemble the bike, we get this… Yes, I ride it. It’s not fast, but it reminds me of the fine gentleman who sold it to me. Even in the cold months, I go out to the shop to look at it and reflect.   Gar got to see photos of this bike before his untimely death.



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