Tasmania. Home of the Tasmanian Devil, some damn spectacular scenery, and the butt of some pretty unsubtle jokes from the rest of Australia. Americans have quips about “Southerners,” the English make the funnies about the ”Northerners,” and down here we mostly make jokes about Tasmanians. There’s no need to go into detail – you probably get the jist already. But here’s a bike that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt just what these islanders can do. See, they’ve taken a machine that was just about the best the mighty Deutschland could muster and then pushed it a whole lot further than most of us could ever manage. And when I say “they” I really mean the rather talented Nicholas Damen and his rather amazing Bee Emm brat.
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As a hobby you’ve got admit that motorbikes are, all things considered, relatively cheap. It’s heartening that in this day and age you can still rock on up to your local Ducati store and buy an Italian two-wheeled Ferrari for a lot less than US$20,000. In fact the advertised price for Ducati‘s top-of-the-line 1198 SP racer in North America is only a smidge under US$22,000. In the scheme of things, that’s a silly small price. A 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia would cost you ten times that amount, and I doubt that any of us would be willing to choose a single car over 10 new bikes – let alone 40+ second hand or vintage bikes.
Which brings us rather neatly to this little gem, aka Mark Byfield’s cafe’d 1985 BMW R80. With nothing but a bunch of hard work and a cash outlay of less than five Aussie grand, he’s managed to create a bike that looks like a million bucks and which rocks our boat a lot more vigorously than any four-wheeled Italian poseur-mobile ever could.
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After two blown engines Englishman Chris Simpson decided to try and squeeze a R80 RT engine into his 1979 BMW R45 frame. “The powers that be said the engine wouldn’t fit, as you can see it obviously does” Chris explains. “The only engine mods were a lightweight flywheel and the air box was removed and replaced with a Bellmouths. It has custom stainless 2-1 exhausts with a stainless megaphone, fully custom sub frame with hidden battery under the seat pod, a large EARLS oil cooler from a Ford Cosworth.