Triple Matching Numbers: 1954 BMW R51/3

When it comes to vintage bikes, BMWs have been more than keeping up price-wise. It’s clearly getting harder to buy into this space if you’re dead-set on buying a turnkey motorcycle, but projects are still accessible – for now. That said, with bids to $6,600, the reserve remains unmet on this 1954 BMW R51/3 which was apparently stripped down for restoration with the project never completed by its previous owner. Bought out of an estate sale, the seller has listed it here on eBay with most of the parts required for completion. It’s located in Weston, Connecticut.

While many of the motorcycles that BMW produced prior to 1970 look like the classic, cafe-style bike that the likes of Steve McQueen would ride, this R51/3 clearly harkens back to a different era. As it was only the second model BMW produced after World War II, it’s no accident that it looks more like an antique when fully assembled than the later models do. Featuring a boxer flat twin engine, it produced around 24 horsepower with a top speed in the upper 80 mile per hour range. The 1954 model came with improved front brakes and 19-inch light alloy wheels.

The seller reports that the extent of the supposed restoration work was mainly focused on disassembly. It doesn’t sound like any actual restoration work was attempted. The engine and transmission were removed from the frame, and as a triple numbers matching bike, it means the frame, engine, and VIN plate numbers all match. This alone makes the bike worthy of a proper restoration, as triple matching specimens found in pieces like this don’t always have all the pieces. Speaking of pieces, the seller says the bike has “90 percent” of the parts needed for completion, but doesn’t elaborate as to what’s missing.

Fortunately, what was removed and stored appears to be in good shape, and the listing indicates the bike was kept indoors. The four-speed transmission and improved structural rigidity made riding an R51/3 a pleasure and certainly helped set the stage for BMW earning a reputation for building some truly world-class road bikes. The seller’s bike in its current form is a bit of a question mark in terms of what a fair value is, but with nicely preserved and/or otherwise complete examples selling in the low 20s, one would hope the reserve isn’t set much higher than the current bid.


  1. Howard A Member

    I was waiting for a BMW post to rescind my comments about them, basing most of them on a R90S, that I did not care for, for a multitude of reasons. Well, that all changed the other day, I visited a yard sale, and the guy had a newer 1200 touring, I asked if I could sit on it( EEYYYY), man, what a beautiful bike. I could EASILY see riding THAT bike into the sunset, and told him so. He said it’s the nicest cruiser he ever drove, and as an old man, I took his word.
    This? Well, it’s a long ways from both I’ve seen, and a whole different category altogether, not sure what to do with it.

    Like 4
  2. Big C

    HD, Indian…or nothing. Not sorry…

    Like 2
  3. Ricky

    Just finished a two year restoration of a 1968 R60/2 US BMW that had just been disassembled for painting many years ago. All parts were included, they said. Don’t ever fall for that line! The unattainable parts were many and expensive. Most had to come from Germany with a hefty price tag and a wait time of months. I can only imagine the difficulty with this much older version. And most of the included parts needed a full refurbishment. Good luck on this gamble of a bike. Although the finished product, if it ever gets there, is quite rewarding. BMW made some damn fine bikes.

    Like 6
  4. Rick in Oregon Rick in Oregon

    There is so much missing from this machine image being upside down in its restoration quickly after just collecting the needed parts to make it complete! Cool bike nonetheless as these airhead bikes are fun to ride in a tractor like sense! Owned my share over the years, R-35, R-65 and R-74/5. Loved everyone.

    Like 3
  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    That’s quite a find. I’ve always had a high regard for Beemers although I never rode one until 3 years ago when I was at my cousin’s place in Hungry Horse. I rode his 900 (1979?) and it was OK. My cousin had BSAs, Harleys and a Triumph (which he still has). Now he’s got a collection of Beemers including a ’66 R-600 and a ’69 that he’s been piecing together for three years. I’m going to let him know about this one. Hell, if I had a little to spare I might look into this one myself…

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