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1964 BMW R27

The 247 cc BMW R27, introduced in 1960, was the last shaft-driven, single-cylinder motorcycle manufactured by BMW.


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1954 R25/3 — R27 and R60/2 in the background.

After World War II, by proclamation of the USSR, USA, and the UK, BMW Aktiengesellschaft (AG) was prohibited from building motorcycles . Later, this ban was lifted and in 1948 BMW produced its first postwar motorcycle, the 250 cc R24 (see photo), which was based largely on the prewar R23. It was the only postwar BMW motorcycle produced without a rear suspension. BMW introduced the R25 model, with plunger rear suspension, in 1950. The last of the plunger models, the R25/3 (see photo), was introduced in 1953.


In 1956 BMW introduced a completely revamped thumper, the R26 (engine numbers 340 001 – 370 236), with improvements paralleling those introduced at the same time in the boxer twins. The R26 came with an enclosed drive shaft, rear swingarm, and front Earles forks. A new headlight nacelle came with a sliding black plastic over the ignition key, and the “bell-bottom” front fender was dropped along with the mechanics' hand shifter. The engine of the R26 was bolted directly to the frame, and the engine produced 15 hp (11 kW).


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Dover white BMW R27

Based largely on the R26, in 1960 the R27 added rubber mounts for the engine and boosted power to 18 hp (13 kW).

The R27 was the last shaft drive single-cylinder motorcycle that BMW made. The 247 cc R39 was the first in 1925. The R27's 250 cc OHV vertical single was the only rubber-mounted thumper engine BMW ever produced. The engine pumped out 18 hp (13 kW), the highest ever for a shaft-drive BMW single. BMW manufactured 15,364 R27s (engine numbers 372 001 – 387 566 ) over the production years of 1960 through 1966. Some of the 1966 R27s were sold as 1967 models because dealers in those years often would assign dates to BMW motorcycles when they sold them, and not necessarily when they were manufactured.

The vast majority of R27 motorcycles exported to the United States by BMW were black with white pinstriping. A few, however, were brought in by importer Butler & Smith in a color called Dover white, with black pinstriping. Why "Dover white?" Butler & Smith head honcho, Michael Bondy, had a 1942 Packard automobile in an off-white color called dover white. Bondy sent a sample of this color to BMW AG in Munich and asked that it be duplicated. BMW did copy the color, and Bondy ordered fifty motorcycles in that color. Today, BMW motorcycles in original dover white are a sought-after rarity.

BMW did things differently to other manufacturers. This is evident in the R27. Its enclosed shaft final drive is rare for a single cylinder motorcycle. But it also had a triangulated Earles (named after English designer Ernest Earles) front fork; so the motorcycle had a front swingarm as well as a rear swingarm. When you squeezed the front brake lever hard not only did the front end not dive, it actually rose slightly. Thus, braking was a very steady activity, though the brakes were weak by today's standards. The R27 engine's crankshaft was laid out fore-to-aft, not side- to-side; also a rare feature. This way, the crank and the final shaft were in line, and drive forces did not have to be run through a set of 90-degree gears. Also, the kick starter swung out sideways instead of parallel to the frame, so kick starting an R27 is a rather easy and danger-free affair.

Technical data

  Engine Numbers   372 001 – 387 566  
  Design   Single cylinder with driveshaft  
  Engine 4-stroke, 2 OHV
  Transmission Four-speed, left foot
  Model years 1960 — 1966
  Number manufactured 15,364
  Bore 68 mm
  Stroke 68 mm
  Capacity 247 cc
  Power 18 hp (13 kW) @ 7,400 rpm
  Compression ratio 8.2:1
  Fuel efficiency 60.3 mpg(US) DIN 70030
  Maximum speed   81 mph (130 km/h) / with side car 56 mph (90 km/h)
  Wheelbase 54.3 in
  Curb weight 357 lb (162 kg.)
  GVWR 716 lb / with side car 1,058 lb
  Tires front & rear 3.25 x 18
  Battery 6 volts, 9 Ah.
  Tank capacity 3.96 US gal
  Engine oil capacity 2.6 US pint
  Transmission capacity   650 cc
  Rear drive capacity 125 cc

See also