Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 1973 BMW R75/5 SWB Airhead

Style, solidity, and simplicity are just some of the reasons why classic BMW motorcycles have surged in popularity in recent years. And, as often happens, that means many of these vintage BMW bikes get priced out of riders’ hands. However, there are still some classic Beemer bargains out there. And one of them, a 1973 BMW R75/5 SWB, is currently available on Bring a Trailer.

BMW gave its Airheads a welcome update with the R75/5

An unfinished black 1972 BMW R75/5 sits among other unfinished motorcycles at the BMW factory
1972 BMW R75/5 front 3/4 view | BMW
Spec1969-1973 BMW R75/5
Engine745cc air-cooled carbureted boxer-twin
Power50 hp
Torque44 lb-ft
TransmissionFour-speed transmission
Front suspension and travelTelescopic forks; 8.19″
Rear suspension and travelTwin shocks; 4.92″
Seat height33″
Curb weightPre-1971: 463 lbs
1971-1973: 452 lbs

The most powerful of the /5 Series, the BMW R75/5 is a direct descendant of the original BMW motorcycle, the R32. As such, like its predecessors, the R75/5 has a boxer engine linked to the rear wheel via shaft drive. However, while it uses the same basic recipe, the R75/5, along with the R60/5 and R50/5, threw some important updates into the mix.

For one, the BMW R75/5 isn’t a kickstart-only motorcycle. Although it has a kickstarter, it’s paired with an electric starter motor, Motorcycle Classics notes. BMW also swapped the original magneto ignition system for a breaker-points-based one. And while its air-cooled boxer engine still uses Bing carburetors, they’re constant-velocity carbs rather than slide-type ones. That means they compensate automatically (somewhat) for elevation changes, simplifying the adjustment process, RideApart explains.

In addition, although the BMW R75/5 has drum brakes, it has several modern-style features. It has a standard steering damper, for example, and telescopic forks rather than the older Earles forks. The turn signal, horn, and high-beam controls are all on the handlebars, as they are on modern bikes.

A vintage Airhead like the BMW R75/5 can still tour like a modern machine

While it doesn’t have the most powerful engine, the BMW R75/5’s boxer is torquey and smooth, Hagerty says. So, while it’s not sportbike-fast, the R75/5 “can actually keep up with its modern counterparts,” RideApart reports. Plus, it can easily crest 100 mph.

Technically, the BMW R75/5 pre-dates the R90S, the first ‘true’ sport-touring motorcycle. However, while the R90S has a bigger engine, more powerful transmission, and disc brakes, it’s mechanically based on the R75/5. So, the earlier bike is arguably a proto-sport-touring machine. And it handles like one—in a good way.

The riding position, as well as the ride quality, is comfortable enough for all-day touring. And while the boxer can be “a bit lumpy around town,” it smooths out wonderfully at highway speeds, Ultimate Motorcycling says. It’s also fairly quiet, even over 60 mph.

The boxer engine also gives the BMW R75/5 a low center of gravity. This, combined with the low curb weight and neutral riding position, means it’s fairly nimble in the corners. And with 6.5” of ground clearance, you won’t be scraping the cylinder heads that easily, RideApart says. Plus, for those who preferred long-distancing touring stability over canyon-carving agility, BMW offered a long-wheelbase (LWB) version. But even the short-wheelbase (SWB) R75/5 can be a solid vintage touring bike with some luggage and wind protection.

You can bid on a 1973 R75/5 SWB on Bring a Trailer

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Speaking of wind protection, the 1973 BMW R75/5 SWB currently listed on Bring a Trailer has an uninstalled fairing for wannabe touring riders. It also has a crash bar and, like all R75/5s, a center and a side stand. Plus, a chrome headlight guard, pannier bag mounts, highway pegs, and a spare oil pan.

Mechanically, this 1973 BMW R75/5 is mostly stock. However, this BMW Airhead bike does have upgraded cylinder heads, a Dyna ignition booster, and a replacement MotoMeter speedometer/tachometer. It also rides on new Avon Roadrider MkII tires.

And it received an extensive service in September 2020. The seller replaced the valve cover gaskets, spark plugs, and fuel lines. They also synchronized the carburetors, adjusted the valves, and rebuilt the fork internals. And they replaced the engine oil, transmission fluid, and final drive fluid.

An R75/5 is one of the best—and cheapest—ways to get on a classic BMW motorcycle

The side view of a black-and-chrome 1970 BMW R75/5 on its center stand in an office building
1970 BMW R75/5 side view | Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

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As of this writing, this 1975 BMW R75/5 is listed at $5100 with three days left in the auction. The /5 Series is one of the most affordable classic BMW motorcycles out there, and this SWB model is no exception. It’s also a bargain even compared to other R75/5s; an excellent-condition bike like this often costs twice as much, Hagerty says.

Being an old BMW Airhead, this bike does need more frequent maintenance than a modern motorcycle. However, Airheads are incredibly durable machines if properly maintained. While many vintage Beemers have stiff-shifting transmissions, the R75/5’s only notable issue is a tendency for its speedometer and tachometer to self-destruct, MC says. Thankfully, replacement and upgrade parts are plentiful.

So, if you’ve been eying vintage BMW motorcycles on Instagram and Twitter, this R75/5 could be an affordable way to experience them IRL.

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