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macfly's picture
VBMWMO #8056
Joined: 07/19/2009
Posts: 57

This historic bike is now residing in BMW's Mobile Tradition Collection in Munich, where I photographed it in Nov 2009.


This story on #83 with Mush Emmons famous photo appeared in MotorCyclist

Steve McLaughlin's #83 BMW R90S earned a place in the history books by winning the inaugural AMA Superbike National at Daytona on March 5, 1976, but it's best remembered as the upside down R90S in this particularly painful 1/250th of a second at Laguna Seca five months later. McLaughlin was running second behind teammate and eventual three-time AMA Superbike Champion Reg Pridmore on the #163 Butler & Smith BMW.

Mush Emmons was waiting near the exit of what was then Turn 9 with a 200mm lens on his Nikon F and three shots left on a roll of bulk-loaded Kodak Plus-X, "Of all the race weekends I covered, Laguna was where I got the most interesting photos," recalls Emmons, who now lives in Brazil. "It's always been a favorite racetrack of mine, especially in the morning and early afternoon when this photo was shot. With black-and-white film, the overcast let you bump up the contrast and keep all the details. You could get really close to the track then, and come up with all sorts of nutty angles."

Speaking of nuts, it was clear to Emmons that #83 wasn't content to settle for the runner-up slot. "McLaughlin was in second, and he wanted to stuff it in under Reg in the final corner. I figure he just locked up the front end and threw it down," he says. "You see the front axle is the pivot-point. The front brake is the only thing that's really sharp because everything else was pivoting around it."


Here is a selection of images of #83 in action...


This story is from the Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame

You never forget a first time, but this one was particularly memorable. That’s because the first time this bike crossed a finish line, it took first place in the first AMA Superbike race.

How did BMW, a company known for its refined touring machines, win that first race in 1976, then go on to take the championship that season? With a lot of engine work and innovation by tuner Udo Gietl, combined with the riding skill of teammates Steve McLaughlin and Reg Pridmore.

When the new Superbike road-racing series was announced, Butler & Smith, BMW’s U.S. importers, saw an opportunity to make an impact on the racetrack. So Gietl, chosen to be the team’s mechanic, set to work converting the company’s distinctive R90S sport-touring machine into a racebike.

Gietl shortened the flat-twin’s cylinders to allow greater lean angles in the corners. Titanium connecting rods and pushrods were fitted, allowing a 9,200 rpm redline. The stock rear suspension was replaced by a custom-built Koni monoshock adapted from a Formula 1 race car.

The BMW team arrived at Daytona, not for the 200-mile race, but for a 50-mile race earlier during Bike Week. The team had three riders—McLaughlin, Pridmore and Gary Fisher—and three bikes, including the one pictured here, previosly on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA Headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.

“The bike broke down every time I rode it,” McLaughlin remembers of practice. “I wasn’t very confident that it would last, so when the race started, I made sure I got a good start to look good while it was running.”

He wasn’t the only one. All three BMWs got away early. “My bike wasn’t as fast, but I could stay with them in the draft,” he recalls. “Fisher was over-riding his, and it blew up within five or six laps.”

Pridmore and McLaughlin stayed tight throughout the race. But McLaughlin had been practicing his drafting techniques—always key at Daytona—and that’s how he got Pridmore by inches at the line.

The bike then slipped off the radar, being used as a club racer by Johnny's in Bakersfield for a couple of seasons, then being stuck in the back of the workshop where Bruce Armstrong, a former district sales manager for Butler & Smith, discovered it, and decided to buy and restore it to it's AMA winning specs.

"I knew if someone didn’t save that bike, it would be raced. I had to make sure one of the three from Daytona survived.” he said, and so Armstrong’s wife and two daughters bought it for him as a Christmas present in 1980, and he immediately went to work restoring it to its former glory.

Here it as as it was raced and discovered at Johnny's.



macfly's picture
VBMWMO #8056
Joined: 07/19/2009
Posts: 57
Bruce Armstrong's story...part 1

This story originally appeared on Adventure Rider.

The World's First Superbike

In '79 I was working for Butler & Smith, the then BMW importer. I was sales manager for S.Cal. and a hardcore BMW fan--been a dealer and had seen the R90S Superbikes dominate the first year's AMA Superbike Championship ('76).
In '77 Butler & Smith sold the three team bikes, one of which ended up in Bakersfield at Johnny's BMW. He'd repainted the bike red (to look like the '77 R100S) and won the bike's second AMA National at Laconia -- the bike's first win was the very first AMA Superbike race, the '76 Daytona event. Anyway, by the time I discovered the now-tired old bike in the back of Johnny's shop, it didn't look much like it had when last I'd seen it at Riverside in '76. By '79 the Japanese fours had taken over American Superbike racing, the euro-twins handling advantage no longer able to stave off the Japanese horsepower advantage. I knew that if this piece of BMW racing history was broken out for another couple seasons of Battle of the Twins racing that nothing would remain for future enthusiasts to look at. Luckily, my wife understood my enthusiasm and she and my daughters bought it for me for Christmas '79 for the then-princely sum of $5000. This is what it looked like when I fetched it from Bakersfield. Johnny had sold off various pieces like the Koni monoshock, all of which I had to track down and reaquire before starting the restoration.

As purchased from Johnny's in Bakerfield.

The restoration took over a year.

Getting close, almost a year in.

Finished and took the bike to a local motorcycle show in Ojai, California. Without the numbers on the bike, most viewers thought the 90S was a normal street bike. Luckily, the judges knew what they were looking at and my family, who supported the entire project, were rewarded with a cheezie silver plate!

Family support!

A year's work and the battle was now to begin.....all my BMW buddies now started harping on me to go vintage racing, people at BMW meets told me I was a weenie for not riding the bike to the shows, etc.....little did they know that all I was doing was acting as care-taker until the bike could go home.....back to BMW.....this possibility was first mentioned by a BMW employee the day the K75 was intro'd in the US at a dealer show in San Diego....he told me to contact BMW if/when I ever sold the bike....I didn't want to let it go then, but filed the notion mentally.....as for riding the old dear, it had to be bumped, would not idle and got toasty hot when sitting still...shifted better than anything BMW ever built and was so noisy you couldn't hear......I rode it to Santa Paula from Ojai a few times but was never a good enough rider to push it....the team riders were never too enthusiastic about the handling so who was I to weigh in on the arguement?

First showing.

The two previous show pictures were 1981.....we moved to Santa Barbara from Ojai in '87 and by then was deeply into things BMW although I never broke down and made the jump to water cooling or OHC's...

The other family.

One of the attractions at our new home in SB was/is a 20'x50' garage (thus the name Funhouse) This pix is of #83 up on the table undergoing it's annual service......Udo Gietl, the bike's mastermind and head of BMW's racing efforts in the 70's (and Honda's in the 80's) came by one day and berated me severly for not rotating the engine 180 every month ....worse still, Phil Schilling, the guy behind the California Hot Rod (Ducati Superbike that won Daytona in '77) came by one afternoon when I was trying to bump start the bike....to no good effect. He casually asked what I thought I was doing? I explained what appeared to be obvious: "trying to start the old load-what's it look like?" He said it wouldn't start....damn, I hated that....He said it wasn't even stuttering and something was obviously amiss....."show me the wiring" I took the bubble fairing off to reveal the rat's nest of wiring inside the nacelle. Phil: "Jesus, this piece of shit beat my Ducati!!" (Phil's rider and fellow Cycle-editor Cook Neilson had, if fact, been beated for the championship and at Daytona in '76) Obviously Johnny had redone some of Udo's fine work when he campaigned the bike in '77....anyway, knowing nothing about electrics, I'd carefully removed and replaced the rat's nest during my restoration and up until Schilling showed up, it had worked. To my horror, Phil reached up and grabbed a handful of wiring and just as I blurted out "what ARE your going to do?", Phil yanked the entire mess out of the headlight shell! I was horrified. Phil: "Have you got any wire and a stripper?" In 30 minutes the bike was running...

Early days in the SB Funhouse.

This is what the bike looked like for the 25 years I owned it......and it sat quietly in the corner of my shop....it did a year's stint at the AMA Museum and was the subject of several magazine stories. As the AMA & World Superbike series prospered, so I knew the value and interest in the old queen would grow. Collectors sniffed about but there was only one home that interested me for the bike: BMW. Selling an old bike is fraught with problems, not the least of which is price and future value. After two decades of being told I was a sissy for not racing the bike, I wasn't keen to also be told I'd sold the bike too cheap....the problem of seeing your bike double in value when re-sold a couple years after you sell it.....also, I didn't want this bike to follow it's two sister-team bikes into the dumpster at the hands of some twat who thinks a vintage bike win is important......it's not! Racing bikes have a short shelf life and are near-worthless after their time on stage ends....if you own a truly historic machine, adding your name to it's 'winning-rider' rooster twenty years after the fact is self flagellation....get over yourself. By seeing that the bike went back to BMW, I never have to worry about it's re-sale or seeing it crashed at Willow Springs or some other dump...

Hanger Queen.



macfly's picture
VBMWMO #8056
Joined: 07/19/2009
Posts: 57
Bruce Armstrong's story...part 2

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the bike's Daytona win, BMW wanted the bike at the event that year. This is a pix of Reg Pridmore sitting on the bike with Udo Gietl and Todd Schuster (head fabricator/B&S Team) standing by. The bike Reg sits on is #83, Steve McLaughlin's bike, that beat Reg to the line by inches at Daytona.......it was good to see him on the bike as his, like the other, are gone, crashed and modified out of existence...

Reg Pridmore, Udo Gietl and Todd Schuster.

This is the last outing for #83 under my ownership: Del Mar Concours. A close friend wanted to show a beautiful Ducati at DelMar and I decided to accompany him with the old BMW.....I was swamped by people who knew more about the bike than did I, asked me questions I couldn't answer and were generally much more excited about the fact that the bike still existed than was I......fortunately, a couple of the judges remembered the bike and were also amazed it still existed.....it had not been in the sunshine for a decade at this point and I knew it was time to shift the bike out of my shop and onto a wider stage: BMW/AG and I made a deal...they sent a huge moving van to Santa Barbara a few months later and collected the bike and everything "BMW" from my garage...

My last outing with 83.

I gathered up a 25 year collection of posters, parts and other rubbish and shipped it, with the bike, back east.....the first stop for the bike was the MidOhio Vintage Days -- all alone in a huge moving van across the country...

83's history.

After the bike was safely on its way to Mid Ohio, the only cargo in a giant moving van, BMW called and asked if my wife Diane and I would be their guests at the MidOhio weekend......and I mean FIRST CLASS weekend...resort, driver, car, passes, meals.......you don't know what first class is until you've experienced First Class as provided by BMW Mobile Tradition and BMW US......Arturo Pineiro, head of BMW US and Fred Jakobs, head of MT, went out of their way to make this the weekend every vintage bike owner dreams of......The deal was publically sealed on stage in the auction tent where Fred and I shook hands and I gave a litte talk about telling Steve McLaughlin years ago (when he asked if he could ride the bike one last time at a vintage event) that he could sit on the bike once more but could not ride it.......(he also thinks I'm a pussy.)

At Mid-Ohio

It runs! Mobile Tradition bought the bike without ever hearing it run.....I'd told them that it had not run in three years and needed a Honda Trail 90 battery installed in order to fire......MT had a guy dig through the entire 'jumble' section of the MidOhio vintage event to come up with the battery...late in the day (and in the rain) we installed the battery and a splash of gas. I asked Fred Jakobs if he wanted to do the honors but he declined....with my wife Diane holding her breath, I flooded both carbs, gave the trottle two twists, selected second and the old darling fired on the first bump.....the look on the MT crew's face was one of delight and relief......a moment to remember...

It runs!

A last good-bye. Pleased as I was to know the old racing bike was going to the best possible retirement home, I have to admit to taking a last look back as she sat in front of the BMW display at the '04 MidOhio Vintage event...

The last goodbye.

Home again......a picture of the bike at the Mobile Tradition Museum in Munich with Arturo Pineiro and Fred Jakobs in attendence.....no vintage racer ever landed in a more secure resting place.....My wife and I were, and remain, thrilled.

Home at last.

New Life! Last year BMW took #83 to England to attend the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed -- one of the most prestigous vintage motorsports events in the world.......with a member of the museum staff up, the bike thrilled the crowds with it's booming exhaust note -- and was then returned to the museum's new halls to await its next day in the sun......folks, it can't get any better than this!

Enjoying the Goodwood Festival of Speed.



rivera's picture
Joined: 09/22/2011
Posts: 1
#83, The AMA Championship bike in 1/8 scale

Hello all!
The story goes on in smaller scale!

My name is Ulrich Hoffmann from Ravensburg, Germany.
My hobby is model building of scale motorcycles.
Also I am riding a 1973 BMW R75/5 since 1982.

Bruce Armstrong provided me with lots of information about the bike.
I started to build a scale replica of this unique BMW.

By closely watching the above shown photos, you can see some differences in the original bike (b/w photo)
and the restored bike (colour photo).
I want to build the model like the the original Daytona winning machine.
(actually I do not like the "hump" on the seat..)

Since there are no 1/8 scale kits of a BMW R90S , I had to take the necessary parts
out of several kits:
Heller( a french model kit firm) BMW R75/5: wheels, engine
and a Heller BMW R 100/S: tank, seat front fairing, frame
And some scratchbuilding.

I used a built model of a R100/S and also some R 75/5 parts purchased via Ebay.
There is also a Revell version of the R75/5 but not so detailed as the Heller kits.

The air filter housing was removed and some engine structures had to be scratchbuilt.
I adjusted the R100S gearbox to the R75/5 engine housing.

The front engine cover was cut off at the top. So I had to scratchbuild several engine interior parts
like the dynamo and diode panel. They will be barely visible on the finished model but far better than a black hole...

The frame:

The reflectors at the front fork were removed. The resulting holes were filled with a piece
of styrene tube. These parts will go towards the inside later.

The next challenges will be the wheels and the upper fork bridge.

Some small but time consuming progress:
The left cover of the rear brake drum.
The Heller BMW R75/5 kit supplied chrome cover wouldn´t do.
So I had to scratchbuild the
cover. A Tamiya BMW R 90S part in 1/6 scale served as a sample.

(Why didn´t I use this model as a base... what the heck.. )

Various sheet circles and pieces were used.

here´s the complete thing before base coat and drilling the holes for the spokes.

The front disc brakes:
The R90S did not have slotted discs at Daytona.
So I made new discs with my circle cutter.
The original ones were sawed off and the new one glued to the hub.
The resulting gaps will be filled with modelling putty.

The rims and hubs:
I used two rear wheels from the R 75/5 kits. I drilled the holes for the new metal spokes and
cut off the plastic ones. Now they´re ready for paint:
aluminium for the hubs and a special paint called Alcad polished aluminium for the rims.

On with the wheels:

The front wheel is half done. Spokes are 0,35mm insect pins with spoke ends from brass tube,
0,4mm inside and 0.9mm outside diameter cut to lenght.
I need to repaint the rim edges, the Aluminium Metalizer paint easily rubs off during handling.

Now we´re getting somewhere!
First try fit:

On the tank you see "ghost lines" from the molded on pinstriping.
I carefully sanded the tank before covering it with Revell base cote
from a spray can but it reacts somehow with these things.
After the next sanding the lines will be gone.

The tires are from a Laverda SF for the front tire and a Honda 750F kit for the rear.
I have to find a way to make slick tires out of them.
Sanding down is no option because they will get too thin.

The carbs:
Leftover parts from a Ducati 750 project.
Several details have been added with Evergreen rods etc.
They are in 1/9 scale, but there are no Dell´Orto carbs in 1/8 scale.

Here the intakes made of so called cable ends, which are normally soldered to electric cables
to prevent them from splicing.
Shortened and stretched over a conus .

The front fork mudguard holders. Originally from a BMW R75/5 adapted to the R90S fork.
The front mudgard will be fixed "the wrong way" like on the prototype
so that the longer rear end points toward the front
preventing the wind to go under it and lifting the front wheel.

The monoshock damper. Scratchbuild from Evergreen rods and disks.
The spring is still to short and will be replaced.

The new upper forkbridge. It was constructed from aluminium on the orginal bike to
get some more ground clearance. The front wheel had to be changed from
19" to 18" rims because there were no 19" slick racing tires.
But also the shortened cylinders still scraped the ground in the turns at Daytona..

Colour will be put on later. Now I have to testfit and dismantle things too often.

And now in colour!
Daytona Orange!

Yet without polishing and clearcoat.
I simply sprayed good old Revell enamels through my airbrush.
First silver then orange.

Still missing are the red pinstripes. I tried to scale down a 1/6 Scale Tamiya
decal sheet from the BMW R90S and use the stripes.

Here you can see the colour change between silver and orange.
The upper part of the fairing will be painted matt black.

The pinstriping is now done with ultra-thin self adhesive foil
from our local script design shop
The stripes were cut out with two scalpel blades put parallel into a x-acto knife holder.
Unfortunatly I strechted them too much around the cornes so they shrunk a little and thus
were not parallel.

I still need some R90S badges for the engine, maybe someone can do some photoetching for me.

Pinstriping also on the seat, front fender and fairing.

After long hard work on the computer here are my first selfmade decals for the BMW
and another modelling project, a 1911 Flying Merkel Board track racer.

This is only a low-res jpeg of the artwork.
Converted from various sources and modified with a graphics program.
Then printed out on white decal film with my inkjet printer.
When dry they will be covered with clearcote.
I will use clear Tamiya Metal Primer from a spray can.
I bought the can some time ago not knowing the primer is clear.
But now it is of good use.

On with a part which caused me some headache.
After some search I stole a set of oil coolers from a 1/12 Tamiya Porsche 934 .

After some treatment with a saw and file the thing looked like this:

The detail pieces came from a insanly priced set from Detail Master that I bought some 10 years ago
to detail my 1/24 Nascar models with braided lines etc.
The big diameter parts were still in the box just right for this project.
The Air scoops are 0.3mm aluminium sheet.

The half finished oil cooler. The hose connections and holding brackets will be added later.

The finished bike:

Original and model:

I visited the BMW museum in Munich l and was allowed to take some pics.
Fortunatly the original bike was not behind glass!

And yes, the model is different in some details to the original. My model is built to look
like the 1976 Daytona winning machine. The restored bike has upgraded brakes and a
"hump" on the seat . Also the exhausts are black and not chromed.
The bike was crashed several times and the exhaust were always the first thing to go...

83 and 83/1

On the edge...

Outside the museum


macfly's picture
VBMWMO #8056
Joined: 07/19/2009
Posts: 57
Re: #83, The AMA Championship bike model...

Great story thanks for sharing!



macfly's picture
VBMWMO #8056
Joined: 07/19/2009
Posts: 57
Re: #83, The AMA Championship bike

This set of pictures is a nice round up to #83's story. This is the day that she got to be a supermodel for Cycle World.

Bruce Armstrong, her owner at the time, brought her down to the studio for her shoot, where she was beautifully prepared, lit and photographed by the team at Cycle World's studios. Sadly I wasn't able to find the names of anyone involved in the shoot, and of course as a photographer I do not mean to encroach on anyone's copyright, but this is a simply glorious moment in the history of a very special bike. Please take this post as our appreciation of your beautiful work.




macfly's picture
VBMWMO #8056
Joined: 07/19/2009
Posts: 57
A post script to this story...

Bruce Armstrong, who 'rescued' #83 and fully restored her to her famous Daytona winning specs, and supplied me with all this archive material for this story, sadly passed away a few weeks ago.

He will always be #83's true guardian, because without his vision, energy and enthusiasm she would almost certainly have been lost to the sands of time.

Adieu, Bruce.



c.d.iesel's picture
VBMWMO #5514
Darien, Connecticut.
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 363

this is my photograph as it looked June 1976 in the paddock of Loudon, NH.,
in line with it's 2 brothers - no big hump on the seat that day.
Sorry to say the Reno Leoni Guzzi LeMans with Mike Baldwin in the saddle
came in 1st that day.

Creighton Demarest photo


VBMWMO#5514- '64 R27 15K #383851 - '86 R65 22K #6128390 - '13 Fiat ABARTH #DT600282 - '11 FORD TRANSIT Connect #058971 - Retired m/c road racer (1971-2000) - Former M-Benz Star Tech 19 years, BMW Master Tech (cars) - Certified BMW (bike) Tech. Presently BMW Car Sales

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