Treasure-hunting in a garage.

Sebastian Gutsch and the fascination of classic motorcycles.

Sebastian Gutsch has been restoring old BMW motorcycles for decades. His bikes are more than just good-looking. The lawyer from Munich also rides his creations at vintage bike races and was one of the first to ride the R 5 Hommage at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the elegance competition for classic cars. After all, the original engine installed in the bike comes from his own collection. Just one of the many rare finds and stories from his garage.

Passion for motorcycles born in a bicycle shop.

Sebastian Gutsch has a knack for old mechanical parts.

Passion for motorcycles born in a bicycle shop.

The museum at the BMW Welt centre in Munich showcases iconic models from BMW Motorrad's 93-year history. Many of these motorcycles were restored by Sebastian Gutsch. After work, the 50-year-old lawyer changes into his overalls and disappears into his workshop. It's a veritable treasure trove for BMW parts and Gutsch is an expert in restoring old BMW motorcycles. His passion for vintage motorcycles began the first time he visited a bicycle shop owned by an old man. Gutsch was only 14 years old at the time. Actually too young to be interested in old mechanical parts. "I'm fascinated by how all these parts fit together. There's something magical about pulling an old wreck out of the shed and bringing it back to life," says Gutsch.

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The first kid with a real motorcycle.

Sebastian Gutsch in his favourite place: the workshop.

The first kid with a real motorcycle.

Every day after school he would head to the old man's workshop and have fun working on his mopeds. Besides bikes, the old man had a large collection of ancient motorcycles. "He was like a grandfather to me. He taught me a lot, even how to weld." Gutsch later bought his first motorcycle there. It was actually more of a trade. He traded his grandfather figure two mopeds for a two-stroke Rabeneick. He was incredibly proud to be the first kid at his school to own a real motorcycle. It didn't bother him that the six-horsepower, 150 cc bike was slower than the mopeds his schoolmates were riding. He had already caught the motorcycle bug.

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"
There's something magical about pulling an old wreck out of the shed and bringing it back to life.
"

Sebastian Gutsch

Don't throw it away. Repair it.

Before long, Gutsch invested his savings in his first BMW. The 1954 R 25/3 had twice the power of his Rabeneick. But it still wasn't much faster, which irked him. He put all of his free time into the motorcycle. It never felt like a waste of time to him. "It's much more satisfying to revive a motorcycle on your own rather than just buying a new one. Old motorcycles can last almost forever. If a bike is only 13 horsepower, its parts aren't under a lot of strain," he says.
Gutsch learned about all the BMW motorcycles ever built when he saw a feature article in "Motorrad" magazine celebrating the 50th anniversary of BMW Motorrad. He was especially fond of the 1936 R 5 and the sporty R 68 from 1952. But finding them was almost impossible. Only 1,400 R 68s were ever made. Gutsch finally found a 1952 R 51/3 in Switzerland. He restored it and presented the results to BMW. His work was impressive and Gutsch was immediately offered a part-time in the BMW vintage department. It was a dream come true for the young university student.
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Keeping the whole motorcycle in mind.

His first restoration for BMW Motorrad was a 1937 R 5, which is still on display in the BMW Museum. "It was fantastic," says Gutsch, fondly recalling the bike. "You have to have to keep the whole motorcycle in mind during a restoration. You have to know exactly how it's supposed to look and how the individual parts work together. When I'm restoring an engine, I know every last screw. It's an amazing feeling when the image in your mind's eye is transformed into a real engine that sounds good and runs well."
Sebastian Gutsch has brought many more motorcycles back to life since then. Sometimes it goes quickly. Sometimes it takes years before the results are satisfactory. BMW Welt showcases many classic bikes, such as the flawless R 51, which was also restored by Gutsch. But these classic BMWs are by no means museum pieces. Many motorcycles from the collection are still ridden, even raced. After all, that's what they were made for back in the day.
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Sebastian Gutsch rides his motorcycles at vintage bike races like the Goodwood Revival or the Isle of Man.

Ten years of work on one bike.

His favourite was the R 51 RS, a racing bike of which only 17 were ever made. It belonged to Hungarian Champion Endre Kozma, who worked at BMW/Puch in Budapest and raced the bike in late 1930s. The R 51 RS was sold to a buyer in Argentina after Kozma's fatal accident while test-riding a customer's bike. The motorcycle was bruised and battered after years of racing there. A German importer finally brought the bike back to Germany. Gutsch happened on the for-sale ad in the newspaper and persuaded BMW to buy the bike.
One cylinder was broken and half the engine housing was missing. But Gutsch was certain that it would be worth all the effort. "It took ten years to restore the bike," he says. "When it was finally finished, I took it with me to a race track in Hungary. An older gentleman saw the motorcycle and couldn't believe his eyes. I didn't understand a word of what he was gushing about. But someone translated for me, explaining that the man had washed and polished the bike as a young apprentice. That was in 1939, when he worked at BMW/Puch in Budapest. It was so nice to see them reunited," says Gutsch.
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"
You have to have to keep the whole motorcycle in mind during a restoration. You have to know exactly how it's supposed to look and how the individual parts work together.
"

Sebastian Gutsch

One man's junk...

Sebastian Gutsch on a treasure hunt.

One man's junk...

Looking for old BMW motorcycles is like treasure-hunting: You never know what's still out there to be discovered, wrapped in old blankets, long forgotten in a dusty corner of a messy garage. Sebastian Gutsch has not given up the hope of someday finding a 1935 racing bike. An era when BMW riders won every medal there was to be won. Gutsch suspects that those motorcycles fell victim to the desire for fame and glory and were completely destroyed in the tough races of that era.

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...is another man's gold.

Hommage and the original: two generations of the R 5 next side by side.

...is another man's gold.

Gutsch finally found an R 5 and an R 68. He is certain that his R 5 is the original racing bike that Endre Kozma rode to victory in the Hungarian championships. He found the R 68 through a friend who happened across it in Greece. It was in terrible condition. But it was for sale. Gutsch immediately set out for Greece in his old Ford Transit Van. When he finally laid eyes on the motorcycle, he knew he had discovered gold. He now rides the bike across Europe, going on camping trips with friends. So does Sebastian Gutsch only own old motorcycles? Indeed, the only modern bike in his collection is an R 80 G/S. But even that would be written off as old by many.

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A doorstop for the R 5 Hommage.

BMW custom bikes are springing up everywhere right now, making it harder and harder to find all-original bikes that have not been modified. Sebastian Gutsch is certain: Anyone with a 2-valve flat-twin lying around in their garage will be highly sought after one day. He too was highly sought after when BMW Motorrad needed help designing the brand-new R 5 Hommage. The tribute bike, which was unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in 2016, had to be a close replica of the original 1936 model. Original parts were needed for the project.
Gutsch rides in prestigious races like the Goodwood Revival or the vintage bike races on the Isle of Man, so it's no surprise that he keeps a large collection of old parts. It's therefore not surprising that he found important parts for the engine of the R 5 Hommage by going on a treasure hunt in his garage. "I really didn't want to cannibalise an original R 5 for a show bike. So it was even more exciting when I had the idea of using some old scrap parts that I was only using as door stops in my garage. We also used my friend Josef Heft's reproduction parts, which are made specifically for racing bikes, and the result was a truly impressive motorcycle. I really had some of what I call 'offerings to the God of Speed’ lying around in my workshop."
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The excitement mounts: maiden voyage on the R 5 Hommage.
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