1937 R5 SS
Importer Fritz van Demmeltradt with son Huibert - Bandung, Java - 1937
The revolutionary R5, introduced in 1936, was a game changer for BMW. It was a complete paradigm shift from heavy, hand shift models which BMW had been producing for the previous 13 years. Designer Rudolph Schleicher would later call it his favorite. The electrically welded tubular steel cradle frame held a newly designed twin cam motor with over head valves. Hydraulically dampened forks provided better road handling, and an all new foot shift, four speed gearbox allowed the rider to keep two hands on the bars at all times.
In 1937, BMW produced a small batch of "Special" R5's known as R5 SS (Super Sport) Outwardly, the bikes were nearly identical to the standard R5, however closer inspection revealed a number of changes meant to boost horse power, and provide a platform for the gentleman racer who had no access to the works machines of the day.
Frits van Demmeltraadt was a motorcycle importer in Bandung, Java in the 1930’s. In addition to being a motorcycle importer, dealer and servicing agent, Fritz van Demmeltradt was an accomplished racer. His bike of choice was a self built Rudge powered by a JAP motor. (See picture below.)
With the production numbers of the R5 SS rather low (estimates by BMW Classic in Munich suggest the number is around 50) it is rather impressive that van Demmeltradt was able to secure two of them for export to Java. One of the bikes was sold to friend and fellow racer Joop van Rest, the other was kept in his private collection. At some point however van Rest ended up with both machines.
Unfortunately war broke out a short two years later, during which time all racing activities around the world came to an end. Java had long been under colonial rule of the Dutch, and with World War II came the fight for Indonesian independence. Subsequently, most of the Dutch inhabitants of Java fled or were expelled. Joop van Rest and his R5 SS hence relocated from Jakarta to the Hague.
Luckily the racing scene in Holland and neighboring Germany was quite robust after the war. Dutchman Piet Knijnenberg was a factory sponsered rider for BMW. He was well known for racing his R51RS pre-war, and post-war he went on to successfully campaign a factory RS54. It is likely that Knijnenberg helped van Rest convert the front hub of the R5 SS from simplex to doppel-simplex as the same exact configuration is seen on Knijnenbergs bikes of the time. It is also in Holland where the R5 SS received a new plunger frame.
In the mid to late 1950's, van Rest sold the bike to fellow enthusiast and Dutchman Hank “Sloppy” van Lingen. (No idea why his nickname was Sloppy).
Van Lingen would later emigrate to the US, bringing the bike with him. The R5SS was ridden and enjoyed as a civilian bike in the States in the 1960's and 1970's, though was eventually partially disassembled where it remained until Van Lingen's death in the early 1980's.
Responding to an ad in the paper, Paul Seibert purchased the project in 1983 and set about restoring the bike to "street trim". Paul heavily researched the bike and even traveled to Holland meeting with family members of the previous owner. Once completed, the bike was featured by BMW on a large calendar in the mid 1980's. Paul would go on to show and enjoy the bike for many years.