Around OZ by BMW, in 1963.
Horst Kopp relates the tale of an epic ride more than half a century ago.
I did the trip with my 1961 R 69 S. I purchased it for £1400 in the days before decimal currency came in and, in five years, I was beaten only once off the traffic lights by a Vincent Black Shadow. The BMW was a police demonstrator and far more powerful than my “new” 1966 BMW. On this trip, I travelled 9,500 miles (15,200 km) in five weeks and I know of only one other similar motorbike trip before my time. That one used a 1929 Indian with a sidecar and the roads were, then, in far worse condition than in 1963. I modified the exhausts, using cut-down Triumph pipes with eight internal half-inch copper pipes in each. They sounded like a very loud, musical trumpet. No pedestrians or kangaroos were ever seen in front of the bike. I fabricated by hand a front mudguard to allow greater clearance. Additions included a crash bar, headlight protector, rev counter, spotlight, klaxon horn, spare tyre, water container, luggage box and a tent. The bike was so heavy, that if it fell over while parked in the evening, I had to take the gear off to lift it up again. I did 750 miles on the first day (Melbourne to Port Augusta) and last day (Coonabarabran to Melbourne) with my worst day being 80 miles, only that was on a waterlogged, wet clay Nullarbor Highway One and all cars and trucks had to stop. My average cruising speed was 60 – 80 miles per hour (pre-decimal speed and speedo!). I was clocked at 87 mph by the police, but got no fine. I ignored a “Highway Closed” sign in WA near Minderoo cattle and sheep station in WA, a small station – only 400,000 acres. When I encountered my first deep water crossing, I walked it first, then, with a slow-running engine, I crossed the fastflowing water with the air filter only just above the water. At the other extreme, the bull dust on Highway One past Broome in WA was atrocious. I carried up to eleven gallons of petrol as it was up to 440 miles between petrol station refills. I was a petrol bomb on two wheels! I had one flat tyre on the bitumen and a magneto breakdown which saw me being towed from Katherine Gorge – 60 miles behind a VW – then a tray truck lift to Darwin and getting a rebuild in Darwin.
It still beats me how the electrical store had a new rotor in stock to fit my bike. Thanks to Hans Allmich of Darwin Electrics.
The funniest incident of the trip was that the bike then had a great improvement in performance for over 100 miles near Mount Isa so that I forgot to change into fourth gear! The silliest thing was that, after one routine tune-up, the bike would only accelerate up to 30 mph. I had the cone-shaped air filter fitted upside down! The biggest traffic problem I had was that it once took me four hours to pass a long semi-trailer on a very dusty main Highway One in WA! Due to the long days of constant rain, (Ceduna to Perth) wet boots and clothes, I slept with all my gear on in the tent. When the sunny days started, I noticed that my boots shrank and I had to cut them off. Not happy! The main problems were: In NT the engine cut-out wire insulation failed and I replaced it with an external wire. The magneto rotor insulation failed. In the last week of travelling the bike had to be push-started. The bike frame finished up with a 50mm downwards distortion. Both speedo and rev-counter stopped working in Queensland. The nice policeman asked me to follow him to show me how slow 60 mph was. Thank you. The last day I was that tired that I travelled at less than 40 mph. I sold the bike in 1966 for £400 in “as is” condition. Many years later, in 2007, I imported a 1966 R 69 S from the USA. Lots of paper work, but the owner was very helpful with his documentation. Funny thing, when I went to the police to renew my bike licence, they told me that my 50-plus years ago licence was still valid as my current one was still endorsed “R”.
Horst with his new BMW, wearing Army surplus jet pilot helmet.
The type of riding that builds strong arm muscles.
Mud? I’ll show you mud!