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1984 BMW R65 Café Racer – “The Wasp”

Posted on October 18, 2012 by Andrew in Café Racer. 39 comments

“Barn find,” they call them. And the ‘they’ in this case would be an American-dominated coalition of nations that do actually have barns. Which kind of leaves those in the world who don’t actually have barns as part of their local bucolic repertoire kinda in the lurch, don’t you think? Well, not being a nation of people who take these kind of things lying down, us Aussies refused to put up with second best and trumped the barn with a marvelous creation we call the “shed.” See, whereas a barn can contain many things that aren’t even remotely cool (take the humble yet smelly cow) the average Aussie shed will always have something cool it it. It’s the law in some states. Forget animals, ploughs, and nesting birds – sheds are much more likely to be inhabited with things like engine parts, bar fridges, welders and greasy tools. Oh, and BMW motorbikes, if Tony Botrall’s find is anything to go by…

Never being one for rules, Tony decided to park his ride in the subway

Here’s Tony. “It all started when someone said to me ‘Would you like my motorbike? It’s an old BMW, but it’s in pretty bad shape.’ What was I meant to say?

Immediately ‘café’ sprung to mind. Having seen some great bikes done like this, my mind started working overtime! Wanting a R series BMW was my goal, but the owner not being sure of exactly what the bike was, I was taking a bit of a gamble, sight unseen bike, not sure of model, but hey, doing up any bike will keep me out of trouble, even if only for a short amount of time!”

“So after talking a mate with a trailer into coming and picking it up with me, I got myself a 1984 BMW R65, and yes, it was in pretty bad shape! Having been stored in a shed, on a coastal property for the last 8 years! If they made a paint colour ‘corrosion,’ then this bike looked like it had been painted with it… But still, it had plenty of potential. And wasps, thanks to the nests they had built on the bike. Once parked safely in the garage, it was time to start removing everything that didn’t need to be there.”

“Rust and corrosion had certainly taken their toll on all of the alloy and metal parts. After a few treatments of sulphuric acid, the alloy started to look like alloy again, so it was out with the die grinder and wire wheel to make it all nice and shiny again. The wheels got the same treatment, then a coat of metallic silver.

The frame and associated parts were sand blasted, and rust treated, before being painted gloss black. The heads and a few covers on the motor got hit with gloss black engine enamel (after the wasp’s nests were cleaned out of the cooling fins!)

Not loving the shape of the R65 fuel tank, I tracked down a R100 tank, which I promptly purchased. A few mods needed to take place to fit it on, relocate electrics, another petcock, but all in all, it just simply looks better…”

The donor bike – we’re guessing it’s not the small, pink one

“A second hand set of ‘straight’ forks were found in America, but unfortunately, when they arrived, and after I had spent a few hours cleaning the legs up, discovered that they had been in an accident, bent, and some hairline cracks, so I had to refurbish the original ones. Some new fork tubes were sourced, and the rebuild began.

Final assembly happened pretty quickly, after replacing the Bing’s with Mikuni carbs, it also fired up straight away. After replacing a lot of wiring, nuts, bolts, bars, in fact, almost everything except the rolling chassis and drive train, it was rolled out of the garage.”

  • That’s class that is. Very nice.

  • KP

    I love it. It is a typical “Cafe” build but this thing actually looks comfortable to ride! The bars look high enough to have good posture and it looks as though the original peg locations have been retained. Nice thick pad for your backside too. I agree with changing out the tank, you made the right choice. In adittion to the body work, the engine looks very clean and tidy. Just the right amount of accent paint. Well done!

  • A lot of people don’t realize the hard physical labor and hours it takes to create a beautiful bike like this, The transformation is fascinating – from a corroded ugly duckling to a brilliant cafe racer, Great job and I wouldn’t change a thing, It’s a bike I would be proud to own and ride.

    • revdub

      So true. I can imagine the 100’s of hours it must have taken. The before and after is just amazing.

      • ditto

      • Jonathan Noble

        I bet a lot of hours went into the wheels, lord knows I spent an age prepping my snowflakes.
        Christ, i’ve spent an age hand polishing the tank and it’s still nowhere near done.

        • revdub

          Those snowflakes look awesome, man. Black mags are my favorite.

    • tonyb

      Thanks! It lives inside the house when I’m not riding it!

      • Colin Larkin

        Hey can you email me at I am planning to undertake a similar project with my son. I’ve seen a few of these old r65’s all cafe’d up but yours looks the cleanest so far. I would be really appreciative of any pointers or knowledge you could share.

  • Guest

    So the site who admits they don’t know our geography in the US also doesn’t think we have barns? No we don’t have barns in downtown L.A. , NYC, Chicago or Miami, but where most of us live (out in the countryside), have lots of barns and “barn finds” are very common.

    Very nice bimmer though.

    • CJ

      You should probably reread that first paragraph bud

    • I think you read the first paragraph wrong. USA has barns. Australia doesn’t – we have sheds.

    • I don’t blame him. My smartass wordery even confuses me some times…

      • Cliff Overton

        You too huh?
        BTW – I try to make a living discovering what is in old sheds, and it is getting harder to do it. I have resorted to urban garages now as a source of goodness, and in the older Melbourne suburbs there are still a few gems – like the old Italian guy around the corner from me who has a 1950’s BMW R60, a Moto Guzzi Cardelino, and a Yamaha 350 all stting in there doing nothing.

        • Garages in the older parts of LA are the “new old barns.”

      • Well, I agree with your wordery comment. With that said, we also have sheds in the US. The barns were farm oriented and the sheds contained either wood or yardcare equipment. Not so likely to find anything better than an old push mower in a shed around here. Now garages and backyards (aka fields) in the older parts of towns are prime locations to find treasures. Like I stated in the past, an old dude across town from me has not one, but TWO Vincents in his garage.

  • tmcsp

    Awesome bike and a great transformation. Double points for real tires.
    Only thing I would change is to lower the seat and cowl by a half inch so they don’t float over the frame rails… Other than that I really like it. i’d be proud to ride it.

    • Ziggy

      Running a bit late !! I disliked the fork reflectors too and chipped them out. I made a small FG mould and found a couple of small BMW Motorsport badges on EBay. They were then set in clear casting resin and finished off with a thin background layer of black tinted resin. They are held in place with double side tape as used for car badges. I’m really happy with the way they turned out.You can of course encase anything you fancy providing it’s thin enough.

  • I love, love, love this bike. I’m starting a build and this bike is just about exactly the direction I would like to go. Can anyone tell me what that headlight is?

    • Sure. It’s the thing that helps you see when it gets dark. Glad I could help.

  • itsmefool

    Really nice work; too bad I”m so distracted by those yellow reflectors on the fork tubes! Is that a requirement on bikes in Oz?

    • I’m pretty sure those reflectors were standard on all beemers. It’s a pain removing them as they have a metal mount cast into the forks to hold them, so removing them entirely requires the forks to be machined in a lathe to make them smooth.

      • How could one machine that on a lathe without taking off the fender mounts as well? Just do like I did; pop out the plastic reflectors and call it a day.

        • Tom

          …or grind them off and smooth them out…

  • A great bike, but since so many people get crabby about Firestones, (which I love, and despite being rather ubiquitous, are not on this bike), may I point out that a disproportionate amount of builds these days are using these very mirrors, which can be had on EBay for about $10. See Bridge City CB500, All Business CX500, No. 27 CL350, which has both Firestones and UCCMs (see below)! I have/had them on my KZ400 street tracker and like the look, but after going through two sets because they fall apart if they are looked at crossly, have replaced them with some nice rectangular models. So may I humbly suggest that since all of the bikes featured are too beautiful to find much fault with, that we all race to be the first to point out every build that crops up with these cheap chinese mirrors. Now we just need a catchy name for them! UCCMs? Cheers, and again, nice work on the BMW!

    • Cliff Overton

      With you on the mirrors! i use those exact chaep ones on my daily ride as a temporary solution only. I had a good look around for some better bar end mirrors and ended up buying a quality set from Dime City Cycles for my CB450. Fantastic BMW cafe though – chocolate just works as a bike colour.

  • I saw this bike in the flesh at CR coffee on Wednesday night. Even got a sit on it. I’m 6’7 and could have quite comfortably taken it for a quick belt 🙂 (but I wasnt gonna push my luck).
    Everything on the bike just looks perfect. Nothing overly flash or over done, just nicely detailed. And the quality of the engine resto really is something to behold.

  • I’ve always liked BMW’s. This one is a real class act. I appreciate even more seeing a before shot. It really helps the reader appreciate how much work goes into one of these things.

  • Kitty

    I’ve loved the airheads ever since I bougfht my first new R90/6 in 1976. This particular one is a beautiful customization and restoration. I just received a free barn find 1980 R100RT with about 60K on it. The prior owner did a ton of performance mods to it, and then it sat partially disassembled (indoors thank goodness), for about 10 years before I just got it in pieces. I spent about 14 hours putting all of the major pieces back together, put some fresh gas in the tank, sprayed some starter in the air intake – and it fired right up! I am looking forward to an item-by-item restoration over the next couple of winters, while I ride it in the meantime.

  • EMC2

    Awesome! Love the BMW cf style. I'm still crossing my fingers that someone will offer me something like this one day! 😉

  • good work!

  • Don

    I have my own barn find in my own barn/shed. My 1983 R80g/s has been waiting many years for a resto something like this. The OZ production racers of the era preferred the g/s on the track because of it’s extra ground clearance, and I have long felt that it would be a period authentic rebuild to do it as a cafe racer. How to get over the inertia though?

  • Matthew

    Can you tell me about sourcing the front fender and the seat (Airtech?)

    • tonyb

      Hey, the seat I got from Vonzetti in England, and the front fender came from Motolanna

  • Casba9091

    your engine howd you paint it?

  • Tom

    How do you find the R65, have read alot about them handling great but getting alot of vibration from 4,500 up. What are your thoughts?

  • Paris_ZA

    That bike looks amazing! I have a BMW R45 which is very similar to start. I too have fitted a R100 tank. The tail piece on “The Wasp” looks amazing. Is it a custom piece, or did you buy it? if so, where can i buy one, please?

  • Robert Simpson

    Why did you replace the bings?