BMW R11 Motorcycle from The Grand Budapest Hotel

Motorcycle from Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a lovely Wes Anderson film that features many early vehicles. The most prominent may be the motorcycle that Willem Dafoe’s character rides, a 1929 BMW R11. The bike is a relative unknown outside of classic motorcycle circles.

BMW R11 Motorcycle

BMW Motorcycle History

No explanation would be complete without a bit of back story, so let’s delve shallowly into BMW’s history. Prior to WWI, BMW did not exist. Bayerische Motoren Werke rose from the ruins of the WWI-era aircraft manufacturer Rapp Motorenwerke. As part of the Versailles Armistice Treaty ending WWI, BMW was prevented from building aircraft, so turned to motorcycle production. The idea was to provide an economical means of transportation to a nation devastated by war.

The BMW R11

BMW R11 Motorbike

One of the first bikes that BMW produced was the R11. This model was produced between 1929 and 1935. The unit was used in the movie for historical accuracy because it would have been one of the few bikes available in the area, era, and setting of the film. The R11 featured:

  • Engine: air cooled, 745cc, two-cylinder four-stroke Boxer, side valve that was capable of 17.95 hp at 3,400 rpm. It bike was shaft driven and had a top speed of 62 mph. The wet-sump, longitudinally mounted engine had a compression of 5.5:1.
  • Gearbox: a manual three-speed gearbox was changed by a dry, single plate, cable operated clutch.
  • Dimensions: the bike was 83 inches long, stood 35 inches high, and had a 54 inch wheelbase. It had a curb weight of 357 lbs.
  • Other notables: the R11 was built on a double cradle steel frame. The brakes were single drum and the bike rode on tires that measured 3.5 inches by 26 inches.

The R11 in The Grand Budapest Hotel is outfitted with ski outriggers for riding in snowy conditions. If that sounds far-fetched, it actually isn’t, as tested by this image and others uncovered by Clem at the BMW R1200R forum.

Motorcycle Ski Outriggers

The BMW R12

The BMW R11 was replaced by the BMW R12. The R12 was introduced at the German Automobile Exhibition in February 1935. Both the R12 and the R17,introduced at the same time, were the first motorcycles in the world to feature hydraulically dampened telescopic forks.

BMW R12 Motorcycle

  • Engine: could have either of two designations: M 56 S 6 or 212. Both were air-cooled 750cc twin-cylinder, four-stroke boxer with a flathead. The engine produced 18 hp and had a top speed of 62 mph. Two-carb variations of the R12 used a battery ignition, but the single-carb iterations had a magneto ignition that was independent of the battery.
  • Drivetrain: these were shaft driven units that sported a four-speed manual gearbox.
  • Other notables: the front suspension featured a telescopic fork that was hydraulically dampened. These were all hardtail units, with a springed seat for rider comfort (as little as it offered). There were drum brakes front and rear. Additionally, most R12s came with an attached sidecar.



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