1938 BMW R71 Classic Motorcycle Mecca vintage motorbikes motorbike museum Invercargill

Meet the Definitive BMW R71

  • 8 August 2017

Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s 1938 BMW R71 is one of a kind. It was originally part of the famous Willy Neutkens BMW Motorbike collection. Willy Neutkens held the Guinness Book of World Records achievement for owning the most motorbikes from a single brand. At his death in 2008, he owned 91 BMW motorbikes. One of which was Classic Motorcycle Mecca's BMW R71 motorbike. The 1938 BMW R71 is the only motorbike from the Willy Neutkens collection that Classic Motorcycle Mecca owns.  

Willy Neutkins 1938 BMW R71 Classic Motorcycle Mecca vintage motorbikes motorbike museum InvercargillWilly Neutkins

Willy Neutkens was born in Germany in 1925, two years after the first BMW motorcycle was made.
Willy Neutkens bought his first BMW motorcycle, a BMW R66, in the 1960s. Between then and his death in 2008 he had collected nearly every BMW motorbike model ever made.

The only model Willy Neutkens didn’t get was the BMW R37. But he had this BMW R71, which it is thought he restored himself. Willy Neutkens did all his own restoration work except for the welding and painting. Willy said he worked on his bikes from 8.30am to 8.30pm – they were his life.

Willy Neutkins collection 1938 BMW R71 Classic Motorcycle Mecca vintage motorbikes motorbike museum Invercargill2Willy Neutkins' BMW motorcycle collection

When Willy Neutkens died his entire collection was sold at a Bonhams Auction in Germany. The auction made headlines in the motorcycle world. Motorcycle-usa.com mentioned that buyers as far as New Zealand came – one of the New Zealand buyers was Tom Sturgess of NZ Classic Motorcycles in Nelson. Tom bought this BMW R71 motorbike and brought it to New Zealand. Six years later it was purchased by Classic Motorcycle Mecca and brought down to Invercargill, where it is proudly displayed amongst fourteen other classic BMW motorcycles. 

Bonhams 1938 BMW R71 Classic Motorcycle Mecca vintage motorbikes motorbike museum InvercargillBonhams auction picture of Classic Motorcycle Mecca's 1938 BMW R71

BMW is a brand that inspires fierce loyalty. This German bike epitomises the efficient and reliable reputation of Germany. Nearly all of them have an air-cooled, flat-twin engine, a single-plate clutch, a car-type gearbox and shaft-drive – the BMW R71 included.

1938 BMW R71 Classic Motorcycle Mecca vintage motorbikes motorbike museum InvercargillClassic Motorcycle Mecca's 1938 BMW R71 motorbike

The BMW R71 was introduced in 1938 with a new, larger, 746cc flat-twin engine. Classic Motorcycle Mecca’s BMW R71 was manufactured in the first year of production. The BMW R71 was the last of BMW’s development of the big side-valve motorcycles as they never made a side-valve engine again. Its soft state of tune and high torque (rather than high horsepower) was perfect for pulling sidecars. Its peak power output was just 22hp at 4,600rpm. Nevertheless, the R71 was not slow – it could travel at 124kph, which in 1938 was fast. Only around 2,200 examples were manufactured during the first year.

Most of these BMW R71s, including possibly ours, were manufactured for the German Wehrmacht, because the Second World War was in full force. We wonder what this reliable, efficient and beautiful bike saw in its first years of life.

Military BMW R71 military bikes Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill

Whatever its history this 1938 BMW R71 went from being part of the largest BMW collection in the world to New Zealand’s premiere motorcycle collection: Classic Motorcycle Mecca in Invercargill. 

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