This is a rare BMW R68 ISDT Special, in many ways one of the early ancestors of modern enduro and adventure bikes and it certainly is the godfather of the icon BMW GS series.
The “ISDT” in the name stands for “International Six Days Trial”, the oldest and one of the toughest off-road motorcycle events in the world. The R68 ISDT Special received a more powerful engine and upswept tubing for off-road use – BMW would establish a long history in ISDT competition.
Fast Facts – The BMW R68 ISDT Special
- The BMW R68 ISDT Special was one of two variants of the R68 offered from 1952 to 1954. There was a street-oriented model with downswept exhaust pipes as standard and the ISDT Special, which had upswept pipes and was intended for off-road use.
- The R68 was closely based on the earlier R67 but had a more powerful engine, at 35hp it was up to that point the most powerful BMW production motorcycle ever built and the company’s first motorcycle to exceed 100mph.
- BMW took part in three official WorksÒ R68 ISDT Specials at the 1952 ISDT, held in Austria. Silver Vase Team’s Hans Roth had a perfect points card and almost won the event, unfortunately he suffered a mechanical failure during the speed trials on the final day – after hitting 104mph.
- The BMW R68 ISDT Special you see here was restored at a concours, it has triple matching numbers, it has the manufacturer’s nameplate on the frame and engine and it is a Best of Show winner.
The BMW R68 ISDT Special
The BMW R68 ISDT Special is an exceptionally rare motorcycle, so rare that it is difficult to obtain reliable information about its history. For this article we mainly used two books, The art of BMW by Peter Gantris and BMW motorcycles: the complete story by Bruce Preston.
The BMW R68 was released in 1952 as the German brand’s fastest and most expensive model. It was essentially an upgraded version of the earlier 594 cc BMW R67, with higher compression pistons, a more powerful camshaft, upgraded dual-jaw front brakes and larger 26mm Bing carburetors.
Power was increased from 26 hp to 35 hp at 7,000 rpm and the R68 was capable of over 100 mph.
Two key versions of the BMW R68 were offered, the most common by far being the standard road-going model, characterized by its twin exhausts routed under the heads of the horizontally opposed twin engines.
The cross-country or “Gelandeporte” version is much rarer, recognizable by its 2-into-1 exhaust routed via the right-hand cylinder with a tall rear silencer.
The left cylinder exhaust manifold is routed between the bottom of the fuel tank and the top of the engine to keep it out of the way.
It was this Gelandesporte variant used by the International Six Days Trials participants on the Silver Vase Team in 1952with driver Hans Roth driving flawlessly and within reach of winning the event before suffering a technical failure on day six.
BMW marketed the R68 as “Das 100-Mile-Motorrad”, but sales volume was somewhat limited by the price, at 4,000 DM it was one of the most expensive motorcycles in post-war Germany.
They only sold 1,452 examples between 1952 and 1954 before being replaced by the BMW R69.
The 1952Ò R68 ISDT Special shown here
The bike you see here has been listed with a professional restoration to concours level by a BMW expert and racer. It has triple matching numbers and the original manufacturer’s nameplate on the frame and engine.
This R68 was previously awarded Best of Show and is now scheduled to roll across the auction block in Las Vegas with Mecum at the end of January.
If you want to read more or register to bid You can access the list here.
Images courtesy of Mecum
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