A Very Special 1958 BMW R50

Dad's BMW receives a very special restoration.

| May/June 2011

1958 BMW R50
Claimed power:
26hp @ 5,800rpm
Top speed: 87mph
Engine type: 494cc OHV horizontally-opposed twin
Weight (dry): 429lb (195kg)
Price then/now: $730 (est.)/$4,000-$7,500

Leaning against a wall in a crowded five car garage, surrounded by tools and tool chests, lawn mowers and bits of scrap wood, sat the prized possession of the late Richard Costello, a 1958 BMW R50. A pair of black rubber truck mud flaps placed under the crankcase revealed a dribble of fluid — likely oil slowly weeping past a shrunken seal.

The headlight-mounted odometer showed 60,561 miles, the numbers barely visible through the dusty, grimy glass. It had been 40 years since the old Beemer had been on the road, and more than 35 years since it had last run. Attached to the handlebar of the tired looking R50 was a note, jotted in pencil on a yellowed piece of paper torn from a coil-bound notebook.

“Note: Spare parts are tucked away inside Headlamp, tail lamp. Extra tools are in tool kit. I want the bike fixed as well as I know you can do it. R. Costello.”

To anyone else, the message would likely have been lost. But Richard’s son, Bill Costello, knew exactly what it meant. “I think he had me in mind when he wrote that,” Bill says.

In 1961, Richard Costello was a 23-year-old engineering student attending college in Madison, Wisc. He enjoyed the sport of riding, and had owned a couple of used motorcycles, including a little Harley-Davidson 165 Hummer. He was ready to move up, and after pondering his options decided the best machine he could buy for his money was a BMW. Richard purchased a 3-year-old 1958 BMW R50, joining the ranks of the then small but growing fraternity of American motorcyclists dedicated to the European brand. BMWs didn’t leak oil or vibrate incessantly like their British counterparts, and they weren’t heavy, lumbering machines like the ones produced in the U.S. They were unique, solid and well engineered. Perfect for a man like Richard.

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