BMW Motorcycles: The Name equals Change. Part III

BMW took the new instructions as the signal to introduce a new internal naming system.As the numbers 100 to 199 had already been assigned to aero engines, motorcycles were given the range from 200 to 299 and cars the 300-to-399 band. The existing motorcycle models were integrated into the new system according to their conventional designation. For example, in development documents the ‘R 32’ became the ‘232’. The sales designations traditionally used for motorcycles were retained, although modifications were made to the existing system. From the mid-1930s the nomenclature for the models reflected, as a rule, the engine displacement. For example, the 500cc boxer unit was named the BMW ‘R 5’ and its successor the BMW ‘R 51’.

BMW got back into its stride after the end of the Second World War with further developments of its pre-war models. The first post-war motorcycle was an only slightly modified version of the pre-war single-cylinder BMW R 23. As well as breathing new life into 1930s engineering, BMW also rekindled the familiar old designation system, and the first post-war model – presented in 1948 – bore the name BMW ‘R 24’.

When it came to motorcycles powered by boxer engines, BMW retained the familiar designation ‘R’ (followed by a number denoting the engine displacement) over the course of the decades that followed. Offshoots of the basic model were identified by added-on abbreviations: for example, ‘G/S’ standing for Gelande/Straße (offroad/on-road); ‘GS’ for Gelandesport (off-road sport); and ‘RT’ for Reisetourer (tourer).

To be continued....