Eastern Beamer? 1964 Marusho Magnum 500

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Jim S found this listing and thought you guys would enjoy it. Doesn’t it look a lot like the remains of a 1960s BMW? Even the head design is a similar pattern as a BMW R50. A number of Japanese manufactures built clones of the BMW motorcycles in the 1960s, but Marusho’s Magnum 500 used an entirely different ignition and electrical systems and even had its own design of clutch and transmission, so it wasn’t truly a clone. Marusho was founded in 1951 and had been building shaft drive motorcycles for years. Their first motorcycle, sold under the name Lilac, was a 150 cc shaft drive copied from a prewar Zundapp. It’s listed on eBay with an opening bid of $1000 and no bids yet.

1965 BMW R50
Photo courtesy of ClassicDriver.com

It’s hard to imagine what this bike would look like restored, so here’s a picture along with a picture of a 1965 BMW R50 for comparison.

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This is a really rare motorcycle and might be worth $10,000 restored, but could it even be restored for that amount of money? Most of us would be happy with a nice BMW R50, but somewhere there might be someone enamored of this Magnum. If they are able to source the parts and restore the parts it might be worthwhile at least to them.

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Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    I used to see these advertised in magazines like Cycle back in the 60s. I thought they copied BMW pretty well back then. I never gave them much thought as they just looked like BMW wannabes although I’ll agree that they’re plenty rare. But that doesn’t necessarily equal high in demand. This one obviously had a severe ‘heating’ problem so about all it would be good for is a few parts. Truthfully, if I was going to opt for a real interesting Japanese motorcycle, I’d rather search out a Rikou.

    • Henry

      Parts are almost impossible to find and I doubt that a restored bike would command $10,000 though SHOULD. Very unique and rare motorcycle!

  2. Tirefriar

    Did you mean to say Beemer, perhaps…?

  3. Barry T

    A bit rough to say the least. It looks like the poor thing was stored under water for the past 50 years.

  4. Howard A Member

    Wow, looks like this bike was ridden through Hell. The picture of a restored one didn’t load, unless I missed it, but the BMW has altogether different styling and features. Only the drivetrain appears to be copied. Truth be known, I never cared for BMW’s and I like the Marusho’s styling better. http://www.bike-urious.com/wp-content/uploads/Marusho-Magnum-500-Left-Side.jpg
    I know bikes are easier to restore, but I think a trip to Japan would be in order to get this going again. Cool find, great history lesson, but I’d pass on this.

    • Ed Willaims

      Hello Howard!

      They say, “Ask the man who owns (or owned one) and that’s me!

      Perhaps a bit of U.S. Marusho history is needed here for those of you “Barnfinder’s” who are unfamiliar with the facts so here goes!

      The Lilac company in Japan had already had a successful racing program with the Lilac Dragon which had won many races on Japanese racetracks so then they decided to sell the newly developed Marusho ST500 in America. It is my understanding that the name “Marusho” means Prefect Circle in Japanese.

      An arrangement was made with a Japanese American restaurant owner in Los Angeles to be the importer of Marushos and to head up the new U.S. Marusho Corporation which was headquartered in Culver City. At this point I don’t know this man’s name or weather he bought into the deal or was just appointed.
      Anyway Bikes began arriving at the headquarters and some L.A. motorcycle dealers were signed up. I recall the BMW motorcycle dealership on Santa Monica Blvd. had them and they were selling at a fraction of the BMW’s prices. I think they were around $500.00. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      There were some problems that began to show up after a while with the bikes that were sold and on the road. The story goes that the generators and electrical systems were made through a contract with a Japanese subsidiary of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, believe it or not! Some Marusho’s began to have mass electrical system failures and some owners had to run their bikes on a “total loss” setup which meant they could only ride just so far and then recharge the battery. this meant that there were a lot of unhappy Marusho owners who eventually gave up the cause and sold their bikes probably at a loss.

      The U.S. Marusho Corporation Folded up in the late 1960’s leaving a warehouse in Culver City full of parts and uncrated new ST500’s.
      At this time there were a couple of guys up in Tulare, California who managed to buy the entire remaining stock and haul it all back up to Tulare. I recall tat that they had told me that it was about “four large truckloads”.

      In about 1973 or ’74 I was poking around in a motorcycle salvage yard out in the San Fernando Valley looking for parts for a British Sunbeam 500cc shaft drive bike when I came across a large plywood box painted white and I immediately recognized this pile as the remains of a Marusho! There was a frame which held a really cherry transmission. A gas tank ( Black and chrome) , The forks and the fenders in nice condition and some other pieces.

      I hauled all of this “salvage Find” back to my home in West L.A. and subsequently began to re assemble it. At this time I first learned of the “Tulare Boys”, got their address and drove up there. As it turned out that about this time they had sold off most of the good stuff and were left with mostly wiring harnesses and other odds and ends which was really quite a lot. The offered to sell me the whole lot for $3,000.00! Now what could I do with all that ?
      But I was in luck! A local doctor had passed away and the boys were left with some parts the doctor had ordered. There was a crankcase, a crankshaft, and a set of NEW BMW PISTONS AND CYLINDERS which fit the Marusho crankcase! Also there were the Valve Covers and the camshaft. I neglected to mention that I also had obtained a set of valves for both sides.
      The tail light was missing its red lens and I found out that the Hondas had the same Stanley lens! So that was an easy one.

      Putting the crankshaft into the crankcase was an absolute nightmare! You hah to heat the crankcase and chill the crankshaft and snake it into place before the temps normalize and the whole thing got stuck! I failed in three attempts and got a machinist friend of mine to give it a try and by golly he got it! The crankshaft turned
      like a baby in his cradle.
      The bike was missing its exhaust headers and I found a guy who had a pair which I borrowed. I took them to several muffler shops and no one had a mandrel small enough to bend me up a set. I contacted the Magnum Company and the said, “Yeh! How many do you want” and when I said that I only wanted ONE PAIR they said, “Sorry, No can do just one pair’ and so I was out of luck!

      To end this story I really never did finish the bike and now much to my regrets I never did record the serial numbers of the frame and crankcase. My wife at that kept bitching about the bike and so I sold it to another guy who in turn sold it to still another guy. I never saw that Marusho again.

      • Henry

        Really interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. JW454

    I don’t see how a bike or, anything else for that matter, that has been totally burned in a fire could be restored. In 1979, when my garage burned to the ground, my tools were so soft you could bend them with just your hands. I still have a Craftsman ratchet that I bent into a “U” shape.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi JW, I agree, fire ruins all, but I don’t think this was in a fire. The engine would be scorched and no wiring or cables left, so I’d bet it was just left outside for 50 years. (Mike Wolf of “American Pickers” would know) ( or at least is portrayed as knowing everything about motorcycles) I think it looks a lot worse than it really is.

  6. gerry Member

    Based on the two pics when zoomed in there are absolutely nothing left of any cables, wires or tires except the steel and copper cores. and the discoloration on the front fender and tank point to a fire.
    Probably burnt before it spent 30 plus years in the outdoors.

    • JW454

      Gerry,

      That’s what I saw too. When you see the steel cords from the tires still wrapped around the wheels and not one piece of soft material remaining, it’s been in a fire.

  7. geomechs

    A rather cold fire though. Too hot and it would’ve melted the aluminum. I see the carbs have melted off but the crankcase and the cylinders seem (at least) to be intact. None of the sheet metal seems to be warped. Over the years I’ve fixed a lot of fire-damaged components and was often pleasantly surprised. I might add that bulldozers get burned all the time, and a lot of hopeless looking hulks get put back to new condition again. An enthusiast will still his hands full trying to bring this around to looking new.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi geomechs, I suppose a small fire, THEN it sat outside for 50 years. I had to look up a Rikou. Since when did the Asians start copying things?
      http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/asp/membersonly/museum/images/b81/1958RIRUO_600.jpg

      • geomechs

        Hi Howard. From the information I have, the Rikou (I believe means ‘Road King’)was built under license from H-D, starting in the early 30s. When war broke out the Japanese government took over and had Rikou build for the war machine. When our guys turned the tables and headed for Japan they found masses of these bikes which they hopped right on and came after the scurrying Japanese. The engines were based on the VL design which included the total-loss lube system. Until its later years it was only available in 750 cc.

  8. Sean Oster

    I had one around 1999 or so. If my memory is correct they were only imported for 1965 and there were about 350 total. They also made a V twin version (Guzzi style) called the Lilac .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marusho

    https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21136/lot/334/

  9. stp

    Rare or not, it doesn’t hold a candle to the BMW style it (inadequately) emulated. This project will be a labor of love, and I couldn’t love it… unless I picked it up for a fraction of the starting bid.

  10. Andy B

    It doesn’t look like the fire burned the old oil off the gearbox and the pushrod tube rubbers look intact. Maybe it’s internals aren’t rusted. I wonder if an owner set fire to it in frustration? They seem to have a poor reliability track record!
    I have the later Electra (Marusho or Lilac, same thing) and previous owner kept records of his repairs to it, which came with the bike. He must have hated it at times.
    There are no new parts out there for these, only used. Handlebar switchgear is same as found on some Yamahas. I read some BMW motor parts can fit. Mine has BMW pistons.
    I’m pretty fond of mine and it should last okay as it hardly gets used.
    I think where it all went wrong was they were not thoroughly developed before being released to the market. Pictured is sort of how one in better nick looks.
    Yeah, $1000 is a lot.

  11. Caveman

    I would guess that this came from the RYE AZ Motorcycle yard. The owner had Hundreds of really rare an interesting bikes. Sadly it all caught fire a few years back.

  12. Jay

    That’s exactly what I was going to say Caveman… I’d assume whoever it is picked it up thinking it was a bmw and was disappointed when they found it to not be true…

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