The Carver twins of Texas are quickly becoming two of our favorite builders. Brothers Eli and Tyson began riding motorcycles together about 6.5 years ago after the loss of their parents. As it has been for so many — yours truly included — riding and building become a form of therapy, community, and passion in the wake of loss.
We were fortunate to see each of their bikes at this year’s Handbuilt Show. Since then, we’ve featured Tyson’s Yamaha XS650 tracker, as well as Eli’s Honda CB550 brat cafe — which he built in his front yard!
Since that first CB build, Eli has had his eye on a BMW airhead custom build. After remodeling a new house — this time with a garage! — he got to tackle build number two: the 1975 BMW R75/6 you see here, nicknamed “Dumbo.”
It’s always a thrill to watch a builder’s evolution, and this build shows so many innovations, learnings, and details. Not only did Eli learn to weld during this build, he completely rewired the bike on his own…not bad for someone who’s color-blind! We love the seat and luggage rack, which can be configured for two-up riding, and the concho plug — a tribute to Eli’s mother, who did custom leatherwork.
Without further ado, we get the full story on the build from Eli himself.
BMW R75/6 Café / Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Eli Carver and I’m from Wimberley, Texas. I began riding bikes, along with my twin brother Tyson, after the loss of our parents about 6 ½ years ago. We lost our folks two months apart and just as something to do together and keep us close, I bought a bike at the urging of my brother, who had wanted a bike for a while. It didn’t take much convincing for me to get into it, but that is where the fire was started for me.
I rode a Vulcan 900 bobber for a few years then decided to build my first bike, a CB550. I then sold my Vulcan and bought a Suzuki V-Strom, which is now my “practical” bike. I took that bike on a trip to Alaska and back, but that’s a whole other story.
Anyway, I’ve had my eye and brain on an airhead build for the past few years. I was looking for an old BMW on Craigslist and when I didn’t have any luck, I switched over to housing. I ended up finding a house that needed a full remodel less than a mile from where I lived. This house had more bedrooms (good when your first kid was on the way), more yard (good for when your first kid is in the way), and a 2 car garage (good when your last build was done in the front yard). I went ahead and bought and remodeled the house over the course of about a year while dreaming of finishing it up and having a garage to do a Beemer in.
I got the house done about a year ago and as soon as we moved in, I was building out the garage as a shop and I was back on the search for a BMW. I am a carpenter by trade originally so with this build, I acquired more metal working tools such as a welder. I now have a pretty good work space for whatever it is I want to tackle.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is a 1975 BMW r75/6. It is titled at a ’76 but the production date is 8/75 therefore the engine was manufactured to the 1975 specs so I’m calling it a ’75. Its name is Dumbo.
• Why was this bike built?
I built the bike because an airhead was just something I wanted to learn about and ride. I chose a BMW because the folks who like BMW’s are mostly diehard fans and I was interested to know what all of the hoop-la was all about.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The design that was in my head was a custom built, vintage bike that was reliable and could be taken on a weekend camping trip. I always liked the high front fender look so that was at the top of the list. I also wanted to have some sort of rear rack and small soft luggage, but the option to have a 2-up seat as well. As I had done with my CB550 build, I created a folder of pictures that I had seen of other bikes with certain details that I liked. I used this compilation of other builds to pick, choose, and expand on their ideas.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
I started with an almost stock bike that I acquired on EBay and after riding one tank of gas through it, I tore it down to the frame. A custom sub-frame was fitted to the frame and new fenders were installed using handmade stainless brackets. I also rebuilt components such as the forks, brakes, and bearings. Then I laced new stainless spokes into the original aluminum rims.
I replaced the /6 headlight bucket with an earlier /5 model and fitted it with an LED H4 headlight bulb, Motogadget turn signals, Bumm mirrors, and a GPS speedometer/tachometer unit. New handlebars were outfitted with Motogadget mini buttons, Domino throttle and controls, and Oury grips.
I made some brackets for the PIAA lights on the crash bars and also modified a Suzuki V-Strom skid plate for the BMW to keep the engine safe. I also used this build as a way to learn to weld. I bought a little MIG welder and with this, I modified a fork brace, built an electronics tray, rear turn signal brackets, a license plate bracket, modified the passenger peg area of the frame, and a few other things.
One of the biggest tricks that I wanted to accomplish was to have the option between a 2-up seat or some sort of luggage. I purchased a small aluminum luggage rack and designed the seat so that the rack bolted into the frame and seat pan through grommets that were installed into the custom seat. I then figured out a way to attach small, waterproof soft bags to the rack itself. I also used the original foot peg hardware but designed a way to attach Biltwell off-road style pegs.
The concho (coin) that is pictured is a custom plug I made for the original speedometer cable that was no longer needed. The concho was used as a nod to my late Mother who used these conchos as her trademark in her custom leatherwork years ago.
I also fully wired the bike myself, which is a trick when you’re colorblind, with the help of an M-unit. I even designed the original /5 key to work in the electrical system and wired it to run the PIAA lights when the key is rotated.
The paint was done by a local Wimberley guy and the upholstery (seat, knee pads, and battery cover) was done by Ballin’ Customz in San Antonio. The original headers were ceramic coated and small Cone Engineering mufflers were paired up to give it a pretty good tone. There was also a LOT of cleaning and polishing of parts so they didn’t look so old and crappy.
I started riding the bike again a couple weeks ago and though it’s running pretty well, it does have a pretty good oil leak that I was not aware of before I tore the bike down. I have now pulled the engine to address the oil leak and I’ve decided that while I’m messing with the engine, I might as well install new jugs and pistons, thus making it a 1000cc. I’m really looking forward to getting this project totally completed because I have a funny feeling that this thing might be a little rowdy when it is complete.
• How would you classify this bike?
Hmm. I would say that it is a café/scrambler style. I’ve been told that is looks like an old BMW GS that was designed before they were released.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am proud to just have another bike build under my belt. This build was much more in depth than my first one so it was a lot of fun to take things to the next level. I would say that with this project, learning to weld is what I am most proud of however. I am by no means a great welder but it is really nice, and almost essential as a bike builder, to have the ability to fab custom metal parts using a welder.
Photos by Karly Kothmann and myself