Resurrecting Forty

November 27, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The Life and Times of Leiser Blitz, a 1977 BMW R100RS       (Part#1)

- The Early Years -

  • Born sometime Aug 1976 at the BMW Plant in Berlin, Germany, immigrated to the United States right away. 
  • Arrived in the US, finally adopted in 1977 while being in foster care at "Miller's Cycle Shop, Palmerton, PA"
  • Spring of 1979:  9 Gallon Heinrich Tank gets bolted on, miles accumulate
  • 1980:  Minor incident with a cat on the way to BMWMOA rally in Prineville, OR.  Got a few scuffs and bruises. Saw Canadian Rockies on the way home to East Coast.
  • Parked in late 1981 with 61052 miles on odometer, a few belongings went missing over the years, including the fairing that matches this bike (matching SN tag attached inside of fairing near right turn signal).  Side note: (R77 #208 & #260 have this "decal" affixed on the inside of the right "lower", not the fairing itself)


Pictures below are of Leiser Blitz, with it's original owner, Norm Strawser (aka UncaNorm or Shagnasty)

NormLB0NormLB0 NormLB1NormLB1


NormLB2NormLB2 NormLB3NormLB3

  • Picture below was taken at a rally after UncaNorm tried to avoid a cat around 2am on the way to the National Rally in Prineville, OR. He laid the bike down, scraped up the fairing, busted a pet cock while "getting off" the bike.  He still managed to make the rally, placed this sign on the fairing to let his friends know what happened. The photographer (seen in the rear view mirror) is David Good, with whom I still get to ride now!  Too cool.  UncaNorm rode home via the Canadian Rockies, and I suspect the fairing came off closely after that and was lost.


- Pre-Adoption -

  • Seeing quite a few airheads at the 40th Annual BMW Finger Lakes Rally, I casually mentioned to a friend:  "You know Gretchen, I think I'm getting close to wanting an airhead, and see what the fuss is all about".  This probably came as a bit of a shock - I'm a K-bike guy.


  • As usual, the group from Canada brought a nice contingent of various R100's, RS's and R90's to Finger Lakes, I looked them over and took a few cool shots one early morning. I have always loved the look of the R100RS.


  • Perhaps a month later Gretchen mentioned that she and her husband each received a bike from UncaNorm.  Chris got a K75S, while Gretchen got a R100RS.  She mentioned that the R100RS is not exactly what she would want to ride, that it needed some work and wanted to pass on to me that she would probably sell it. She knew I was playing around with the idea of owning an airhead, so I suppose I got first dibs.   
  • A dialogue begins, I ask questions and also ask Gretchen for some pictures.  Pictures roll in, this is clearly a project bike, something I was not quite ready for.


  • Gretchen mentioned that Norm also still has the Heinrich tank that used to be on this bike, wow, I would love to have that as well.  I know this would be separate "deal", but indicated to Gretchen that she please ask Norm if he would be willing to sell me the tank. She did, and I suppose that seed was planted!  Holy smokes, not only am I getting a pretty cool bike, I might also get my first Heinrich tank.


  • Yes, things are a little rough ....


  • Things somehow became detached over the years - lol

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  • Sadly no fairing - that is a bummer.  Could make this into a cool cafe racer?

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  • Yeah - this won't "buff out"!


  • Heck, it even has thirty year old sticker tires on it!!! LOL

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  • Still , I am intrigued.  There apparently are a few extra miscellaneous parts that come with this bike as well.
  • Oh what to do?  I've owned one airhead previously, a BMW R60/6, which I remembered as a dreadfully slow bike, it turned me off on BMW's for years (until I bought a 1997 K1100LT).  Am I ready to give the old twins another try?  I don't have the knowledge or the know-how to bring this bike back to life. And here is where this story begins ...


- Proposing The Idea -

  • Just to level set the reader: RJ and I have been friends since 1999, with a sizeable break in between due to geographically challenges. RJ (in my circle) is known to be an airhead guru, always tinkers with bikes, finds ways to improve BMW's design and essentially customizing any of his bikes to fit exactly his needs.  And I don't mean installing farkles .....  I'm talking about ripping the entire electronic fuel injection components out of his 2005 GS and retrofitting it with 40mm Bing Carbs, gaining fuel capacity in the process. This is just ONE of his many ideas, and these implementations make sense, reverting things back in simplicity, replacing them with components he is very familiar with.  


  • RJ and I were heading to the Great Pumpkin Fly-In and hopefully see the Fokker DR1 take flight at Grimes Airfield in Bethel, PA. Another friend Lew was going to meet RJ and I for breakfast at the Prospect Diner in Columbia, PA.
  • I've met Lew a few times prior, very nice guy. Little did I know that he was going to be an integral part of this story ...
  • So over breakfast, I pitched the idea of me buying an old airhead, and if they would be willing to help me build it. This is an ironic statement as it turns out, I would be helping them to build it.  Left to Right:  Andy, Lew, RJ

Where it all beganPitching The PlanAndy, Lew, RJ (left to right)

  • It seems like both, Lew AND RJ were very excited about the idea of putting a bike that has a bit of history in the BMW club I belong to (Dutch Country Riders) back on the road. Shagnasty is a bit of a legend in the club, to see his ride back on the road again after 3 decades will be pretty special. Lew and RJ  both were onboard if I were to decide to purchase the bike. - WOW - too cool.  RJ even said (after seeing pictures): "Heck it looks great, it's almost all there!"  
  • On our way to Grimes, I called Gretchen and verbally agreed to buy the bike.  I also agreed to the purchase of the 34 Liter Heinrich tank (9 gallons), in a separate transaction with UncaNorm.
  • At Grimes some interesting things happened (as they tend to - when you hang out with RJ), but in a nutshell I got back a set of jump wings (I had "lent" mine to a dear friend from Australia, after he and I hiked to the peak of Currahee in Toccoa, GA (he in WWII paratrooper uniform, me in my modern day paratrooper outfit).  In the mini-series "Band Of Brothers", a lot of the parachute units used to have to "run" Currahee as part of their physical conditioning. So the day I verbally agree to buy the bike and the Heinrich tank, I get back a pair of jump wings that were given to the re-enactor RJ and I met at Grimes, only these jump wings were given to him by Maj Dick Winters.  I can't believe this!


- The Research Begins -

  • Getting some more pictures of the bike, items that are sold with it, also asked and received the Serial Number 6180040
  • Began doing some research --- hmmm, this RS is actually "special", given the low number (#40), so it has the bigger 40mm exhaust ports, 40mm Bing carbs, 40mm pipes (actually 42mm I suppose) and a Serial Number tag in the fairing, which matches the frame/engine.  Of course, sadly I don't have the matching fairing.


- The Hunt For One Important Part -

  • Yet more research and after a couple of conversations between club members we gathered that the original fairing might still be around ... REALLY? Placed a few emails and made some phone calls ...  This was getting more and more interesting. 
  • Placed yet another phone call, and left a voicemail message for Joe. No response.  Shucks.  Finally, 3 days later the phone rings, Joe and I chat a bit, sure as heck he has the original fairing hanging in his garage!  Sadly I don't remember how I knew that there might be a decal on the inside of the fairing that matches the bikes' SN, I suppose I must have seen or read about it's existence on the Interwebs.  I asked Joe if he could please verify a number that should be on a decal on the inside of the fairing.  The phone crackles back to live and I hear:  Uh, looks like "6180040".  Holy crap, I couldn't believe it! I verbally committed to buy it, sight unseen, especially after Joe indicated a very reasonable price.  Holy smokes - I will have a matching, intact early R100RS!
  • So, this changed everything as far as the bike is concerned.  Initially, (since I already have a great touring bike (K1200LT)) I was going to make this into a fun Cafe Racer of some sort. Having "THE" matching fairing changed everything, a fairly "stock" build is what we would strive for.
  • In another very important development, Lew and RJ discussed that it would make most sense to build her in Lew's garage.  I was a little uneasy with that at first, didn't want to impose like that, thought now we had to align three person's schedules' to meet up on "build days". This proved to be totally moot, in fact building her at Lew's was the best thing that could have happened. I gained a brother!  His family was extremely accommodating, we shared many meals together - it couldn't have been better. A huge "THANK YOU" to Lew and Family!  How does one ever re-pay that?        


- The Adoption -

  • So the Adoption was set for 11/15/14, first I swung by Joe's in PA, retrieved the fairing, met RJ there and continued on to NY in his truck, to get the bike, misc parts and the Heinrich tank.  Oddly, and this only occurred to me later, the sum of 11/15/14 is Forty. I decided to seriously consider an airhead at the 40th Finger Lakes Rally, I took ownership of the fairing matching 40, we picked up #40 on a date which its' sum equals 40.  The "Forty" theme became an integral part of this build.


  • The coveted and now somewhat mysterious fairing decal matching the rest of the bike is there!

IMG_87186180040Coveted Fairing Decal

  • Joe with the original fairing - I was amazed as to the overall great condition it was in.

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  • The bike is now essentially complete with the acquisition of the original fairing


  • RJ and I stopped at Monica's Pies to get a treat or too since Gretchen and Chris have invited us to stay the night when we pick up the bike.  Sadly we heard that Monica's mom passed away the night prior.


  • When we arrived in NY, Chris had already taken the bike out of the garage, so cool to finally get a look at this thing in person.  I have to admit, I liked her right away.  RJ was sharing in my excitement. After seeing the bike, we also got to see the misc parts that came with the bike, the list was impressive and too extensive to be listed here.  It also did include the original spoked and pin-striped wheels, which are getting to be a rare find.

Picking her up2_smPicking her up2_sm

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  • RJ looking things over, I think both of us were very pleased!

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  • First picture of me with my new ride ... my entry into the world of airheads.  

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  • RJ and I had already been friends for many years, little did I know how much closer our friendship would become over the next year as we met up at Lew's for what seemed like almost weekly weekend builds. Same goes for Lew, we all consider each other as brothers now.  Besides building an incredible bike, this brotherhood is what I cherish the most.  Both RJ and Lew went WAY above and beyond, I can never re-pay this, and will not even attempt to try.   

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  • And then onto the "goodie" pile in the basement, included but not pictured here, are the original pin striped spoke wheels! I frankly didn't take a picture of them because I had no idea of their significance.  The early R77's came with spoked wheels that had blue pinstripes.  UncaNorm ordered and mounted Lester wheels and these spoked ones where "moth balled".   (These wheels are known to be "Almost Unobtainium").  I had no idea I was getting these as part of the "deal", and am very thankful that I have them, and that for the first year at least, we will run the bike with them mounted. 

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  • We loaded the bike and stowed all of the extra's for the ride home to PA the following day.

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  • Later, UncaNorm and Shari came over for a great Chili dinner, we chatted quite a bit about the bike and they also brought the Heinrich tank along. We were graced with perfect hospitality, the transfer of the R100RS and Heinrich tank, and also looked through some old rally photo albums Shari brought.  Too cool.  Later Gretchen, Chris, RJ and I went out for a few beers and to play some pool, where I managed to crush RJ in a few hotly contested rounds of nine and eight ball.

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  • The following morning, we all went to our favorite diner when we are at the rally at "Fingers", the Penn Yan Diner

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  • After breakfast RJ and I headed out for the trek south, swung by Joe's (where my car and newly acquired fairing were parked), and headed to Lew's to deliver and unload the bike.

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- Welcome "Home" -

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  • Lew was already busy prepping the garage to be able to accommodate yet another bike and a cleared out a work space. I love the look on Lew's face when he sees the 9 gallon Heinrich tank for the very first time.

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  • I landed on a bit of a gem here with this color matched tank.  I'm very sure our good friend Karl Duffner had his hands on this tank at some point during its travels from Maichingen to the US.  

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  • George Bressler temporarily donated this nice bike stand and scissor jack, which we used during the entire build!  Thank you so much George! (That is Lew's 1978 R100RS in the background).

P1130516 (2)P1130516 (2) It's new homeIt's new home

  • As soon as the bike came to rest on the stand, RJ and Lew were beginning to tear it apart. And so it begins.  I am absolutely ecstatic over what the future will bring.  Never thought this journey we would embark upon would be life-changing.  It was!

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- The Resurrection Begins -

  • Replaced rear main seal
  • Replaced oil pump cover seal
  • Replaced clutch spring
  • Balanced flywheel
  • Freshened up timing marks
  • Adjusted valves (only right exhaust was not in spec)
  • Re-torqued heads
  • Tested starter, cleaned  (should grease bushings, I don't believe we did this)
  • Installed transmission shift kit (and replaced trans. det. spring)
  • Inspected, cleaned & re-packed steering head bearings
  • Replaced wheel bearings
  • Cleaned and rebuilt carburetors
  • Installed new (improved) breather valve
  • Installed "special" lower steering head yoke (Kinda cool, this yoke has been on Alphabet's, Mark Thrift's and RJ's bike)
  • Replaced transmission gear bearings (found main bearing to be quite worn, some metal shavings in gearbox) - The first "surprise" with this bike
  • Modified battery box, to be able to fit larger tractor battery more readily available while traveling

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  • Good lord this bike is filthy!  Norm was (still is)  quite the rider back in the 70's, I'm sure some of this caked on mud is from Iowa, Colorado, the Canadian Rockies and various places in between.  Some of it never came off, leaving it, love the thought of having Norm's "patina" still preserved here and there.   



  • Home made tool to release the clutch disk spring tension. 

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  • RJ's special "touches" and detail are a common thumbprint all over this build for months to come.  These "fresh" timing marks are fantastic!


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  • First sign of a little "issue", bearing beginning to disintegrate leaving metal shavings behind

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Continue to the next page of this blog here:

The Crossroads



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