Judd Blunk builds a Marin County thrasher…
Introduced in the early 1980s, the BMW R80RT was the touring version of the middleweight airhead, featuring a 797cc flat-twin boxer engine that produced around 50 horsepower and 42 ft-lbs of torque. Says one long-time member of the BMW MOA (Motorcycle Owners of America) forum:
“I have always considered the R80RT to be the definitive early 80’s airhead for BMW. It was the combination of sport bike and touring bike, the first real sport touring bike! Just the right size for one up touring. But, quite capable of handling those twisty roads most riders love.”
Enter our friend Judd Blunk of California’s Blunk’s Garage, who named his well-outfitted home workshop after the garage his grandfather and great-uncles owned in 1930s Kansas! Judd has ridden all over North America, from the northern reaches of Alaska to the hellish heat of Death Valley to the aspen-clad backcountry of Colorado.
When he retired from an unnamed Germany car company a few years ago, Judd was able to devote even more time to his 1980s BMW motorcycle obsession. Given his wide and adventurous riding history, he prefers builds that can take a lick and keep on ticking:
“Pretty enough to gather a crowd anywhere you park it, ugly enough to ride the crap out of…”
That said, Judd has knocked the ugly right out of this ’83 BMW R80RT — a full-dress specimen bought from a judge in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The build started with a rotted GS tank in such bad shape that Judd had to split it open to clean it:
“I then thought it would look very “R ninetyish” if I cut 2” out of the belt line (I never would have done this to a good tank, but…). It turned out so well, I had to build something around it.”
He also found himself in possession of a set of black powder-coated snowflake wheels with Heidenau tires, just screaming for a scrambler build:
“Voila… The judge’s twin-shock was a perfect match.”
This was Judd’s first build where he made the fenders himself, and also the first time he used a paint gun with two-part paint in his “hillbilly paint booth”:
“Under the redwood trees with a plastic sheet over my head to keep the big chunks from falling in my paint.”
Judd fabricated the subframe in 6061 aluminum, did a Moto Gadget M unit Blue rewire, and mounted an LED headlight. The exhaust is one of the signature elements of the build, and also the source of the bike’s nickname:
“I was looking in my clamp drawer for the right size clamp to mount the pipe. Apparently Norma is a brand of clamp made in Germany.”
Below, we get the full story on “Norma” from the builders himself, as well as more photos from Matt McCourtney Photography and Judd himself.
BMW R80RT Scrambler: In the Builder’s Words
This bike was an ‘83 full dress R 80 RT that I bought on the way back from a trip to Olympia, WA — I was surfing the Craig’s list driving down I-5 — the owner was a judge in Klamath Falls, OR… I can’t wait to send him the pics. Ha!
The main motivations for this build are twofold:
1.) The gas tank: A rotted-out GS tank that I had to split open to get it clean — I then thought it would look very “R ninetyish” if I cut 2” out of the belt line (I never would have done this to a good tank, but…). It turned out so well, I had to build something around it.
2.) The wheels: I bought these by mistake a couple of years ago and didn’t notice they were five-bolt wheels — I even remember checking the true of the wheels with my balancing kit — but somehow didn’t notice they were an old style bolt pattern. Duh — but they are a perfect set of black powder-coated snowflake wheels with a new set of Heidenaus screaming for a Scrambler build. Voila… The judge’s twin-shock was a perfect match.
Items of note:
This was the first build where I made the fenders. I tried to channel Even Wilcox to no avail — I know they are sort of crude, but you know my philosophy — “Pretty enough to gather a crowd any where you park it, ugly enough to ride the crap out of” is my mantra.
It’s also the first build I painted with a paint gun using two-part paint. I did the base and clear coat in my “hillbilly paint booth” (under the redwood trees with a plastic sheet over my head to keep the big chunks from falling in my paint), then striped it in the “Martini” colors using One Shot. As I was roughing it up to put the clear over the stripes, some of the color came off — so I call it “distressed”… One of these days my paint skills will allow me to do it perfectly.
This is a full Moto Gadget M unit Blue rewire using their “M Button” system that really simplifies the wire hiding process. (It takes the five handle bar functions and puts them into one small wire — awesome). I also used the Moto Gadget Switches, Blaze signals and even used their grips this time. I love the quality and ease of install.
I built the sub frame — a mini version of my GS builds I have done in the past — I like the weight savings and the look of that 6061 aluminum tubing (and I’m getting better at it with each build). Another risk I took was I built the battery box — mostly out of my looking at the $300 alternatives and in the interest of developing my new sheet metal skills. There’s a Shorai LI battery in there. Normally I would upgrade the charging system, but the pandemic has dried up all the Euro-sourced product, so I went with the stock BMW unit — and it’s less important on a Scrambler, as this isn’t going to be thrashing out in Death Valley like my GS’s have.
I got the LED headlight from Speed Moto, the speedo is my “go-to” Acewell all-in-one, and the seat cover (I did the foam and pan) was done by a local shop (I haven’t figured out how to sew yet).
I have thrashed this bike around Marin county — and it is a blast to ride! I may do a little jetting and some final adjustments yet, but what a hoot!
Other Blunk’s Garage originals:
The pipe was made with Cone Engineering stainless tubing.
The dash was formed out of 1100 series aluminum.
The brake lines are Spiegler custom designed.
The brake master cylinder is a Nissen
The bars are stock GS bars
The rear shocks are Hagon custom builds.
The rear shock mounts I constructed (as somehow I lost a set I had purchased)