Today, at the Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in Italy, BMW has just revealed the modern-day Hommage—designed in–house, and built with the help of Swedish master craftsmen Ronny and Benny Norén of Unique Custom Cycles.
“In today’s world, it is very simple to keep it complicated, but very complicated to keep it simple,” says Ola Stenegard, BMW’s Head of Vehicle Design (centre, below).
“The BMW R 5 captured the very essence of a motorcycle. Our aim was to transport that clarity and elegant aesthetic appeal to the modern era—creating a respectful combination of old-school and high-tech with a dash of high performance.”
At the core of the build is an original 500 cc R 5 boxer engine provided by enthusiast Sebastian Gutsch—an engine that was damaged in a race and is now restored to better than new.
The rest of the R 5 has been elaborately handcrafted from scratch. Working off specifications provided by the BMW Motorrad design team, the Norén brothers used their thirty years of bike-building experience to produce the parts needed to bring the Hommage to life.
That includes the valve covers and the breastplate of the boxer engine, which were machined from billet aluminum based on sketches, plus engine and gearbox internals.
Put the original and the Hommage side by side, and you can see subtle differences. The frame and fuel tank of the Hommage echo the elegant drop shapes of the originals, but with more modern, streamlined shapes.
But the oval shaped frame tubing remains, configured to draw a continuous line from the steering head to the rear wheel hub. The hand-made steel rear fender is classic bobber-style minimalism.
The Hommage uses modern custom-made forks, with a slight crease on the covers to echo the ribs on the engine breastplate and valve covers.
Eighty years ago, the R 5 had a power output of 26 hp. Impressive for the time, but obviously not going to cut it today. So a one-off supercharger has been plumbed into the restored motor.
The rear suspension has been built from scratch, and there’s a modern piston brake system to help keep the rubber side down, hooked up to minimalist front and rear wheel hubs.
But it’s been interpreted in contemporary style: the layers of paint give an opaque effect, with a ‘smoke’ finish on the fuel tank and rear fender that allows a glimpse of the steel underneath to show through.
Look even closer, and you’ll see a hint of metallic shine and a slight flake effect.
The aluminum engine and gearbox cases have been glass-bead blasted. The matt finish contrasts beautifully with the highly polished engine breastplate and valve covers, reminiscent of the R 5 originals.
The R 5 Hommage is a tour-de-force of re-engineering and custom design. We never thought we’d see an ‘official’ custom to rival the Concept 90 R NineT, revealed at the Villa d’Este exactly three years ago. But BMW have once again pulled a rabbit out of their hats.