Tim Stafford:
The Art of BMW Motorcycle Restoration

by Jeff Dean
Last updated: May 17, 2011

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My 1954 R68, immaculately restored by Tim Stafford, took second place at Pebble Beach in August 2012.

What is restoration? This decision confronts architects restoring Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. It confronts that Ferrari owner who wants the best. And it confronts owners of vintage motorcycles.

There is what I call the practical restoration, which intends to put an old motorcycle back on the road looking good and working well. This covers most restoration projects. But then, at a higher level, there is the concours restoration. It intends to replace or refurbish accurately in the original way every single element of the motorcycle, down to the last screw, bolt, and tie. It produces a motorcycle that, in fact, looks better than when it came of the assembly line but is faithful in every least detail to the original. This kind of restoration transcends the mechanical and rises to the level of an art form. The end results are radiant in their luster and their perfection.

There are few artisans doing concours restorations on vintage BMW motorcycles. One of them is a Tim Stafford, of San Diego. Darryl Richman a well known BMW motorcycle restorer, in September 2007 wrote on the Vintage BMW Motorcycle Owners forum of Tim Stafford, “Tim's bikes are, of course, pretty much the gold standard.”

Click here for an article about Tim published in the October 2006 issue of BMW Owners News.

Below, Tim Stafford with our 1954 R68 on display Quail Motorcycle Gathering in California on May 14, 2011. It took the second place award. It should have taken Best in Show!

In 2010, Tim entered his China blue BMW 1961 R50/2 in the Quail Motorcycle Gathering, Carmel, California, where he won the “Best of Show” award. Regarding this event, Cycle World magazine, in its August 2010 issue, wrote:

“Last year's Elegance in Action trophy winner, Tim Stafford, returned again with a BMW, this time a 1961 R50 in light blue. Stafford's restoration work is off-the-charts amazing and he loves to ride the stuff. Which is why his bike was awarded this year's Best in Show.”

The photo below shows Tim riding the motorcycle, nose in the wind, before the Quail Gathering.

The 1954 (note the full-width brakes) BMW R51/3 below, posed before Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, was restored by Tim Stafford in 2008. (Click on the photo to learn more about the R51/3.)

Below: 1954 BMW R68 currently being restored by Tim Stafford; to be finished in 2011.

Below is pictured a Dover white 1967 R69S that Tim restored in 2008. (Click on the photo below to learn more about the R69S.)

In January 2006 I attended my first antique motorcycles auction. It was held by MidAmerica Auctions, and is the largest auction for historic motorcycles held in the U.S., and perhaps even the world. Over 500 vintage motorcycles were auctioned off over three days.

Below: Tim Stafford outside his shop in San Diego with a 1953 (note the half-width brakes) R51/3 he restored in 2006.

I was surprised and delighted that there were 18 classic BMWs up for auction in Vegas in 2006, ranging in vintage from a 1928 R57 to a 1973 R75/5. As I rode my R1200RT up to Las Vegas from Tucson, I had dreams of owning a pre-war BMW twin — a dream that eventually went unfulfilled. There were a few up for auction, but the one I did bid on went for more than I could consider bidding (that 1928 R57 went for $36,500, which was then an auction record for a BMW). Moreover I now understand that I do not have the expertise and knowledge intelligently to evaluate, and therefore seek to purchase, any pre-war BMW motorcycles.

1963 R50/2 at 2006 Las Vegas Auction

My idea of going for a pre-war twin was quickly dampened, however, when I saw the white R50/2 in the photo above. It was, without a doubt, the most beautful restoration of a BMW I had ever seen. To me, it transcended mere mechanical restoration and rose into the realm of artistry. Every tiny detail was done perfectly. Indeed, the result was a motorcycle far more beautiful and perfect than it was when it rolled off the assembly line in 1963.

To some, that would be a criticism, because they would believe that restoration should restore and not, through perfection, become better than the original. The stunning beauty of the motorcycle before me, however, threw such concerns aside. To me, it was perfection. I wanted it, though when it brought $20,000 in bidding it was beyond my capacity as well.

The equally beautiful black 1967 R50/2 in the photo, right, was also at the auction. This bike took Best of Show at the 30th Annual El Camino Motorcycle Show in 2005.

Who was the artisan who produced such wondrous machines?

It was a name I had never heard: Tim Stafford, of San Diego, California. It turned out that Tim had been laboring for some 15 years restoring Vespas, such as the 150cc GL to the left, and other motor scooters. His company, formerly known as “TJ Scoots” ( 619-281-9614) referred to his scooter heritage.

Left photo: an R69S Tim restored and sold at the Las Vegas 2006 auction.

By 2006, Tim has done a number of other high-end restorations of BMW motorcycles, though fewer than scooters. Tim has decided now to focus his prodigious efforts on restoring BMW motorcycles, not scooters.

The 2006 Las Vegas motorcycles auction clearly set new highs for the value of fine old BMW motorcycles. The $20,000 brought by Tim's white R50/2 was probably a record for a slash-2 without a sidecar. But I believe as well that the three BMWs Tim brought to Vegas has shown vintage BMW motorcycle cognoscenti a level of restoration perfection previously unseen.

Left: Tim rolling an R50/2 on the stage at the Las Vegas Auction in 2007.     Right: the R69S.

Tim brought several beautiful BMWs to the Las Vegas auction in 2007, including a Dover white R50/2 (above, left) and a Granada red R69S (above, right). Of course, they all sold.

Above: a rare blue 1969 R60US Tim restored in 2009.


Autumn 2006 — Below: Tim has restored this once derelict 1969 R60/2 in original Granada red with white pinstriping. Above: The R60/2 is off the workbench and ready to ride, with San Diego in the background.

2007 — Six hundred miles later, below, the same motorcycle in Madison, Wisconsin. I have added Craven Golden Arrow saddlebags color matched in Granada red. (Click on the photo below to learn more about the R60/2.)

Below: Tim also can do the restoration of old BMW motorcycles to a lesser standard than concours. This is a 1967 R60/2, which I named "Iowa" because that is where I bought it in 1986, that Tim restored as a "rider" bike. That explains why the chromed air cleaner housing and stainless exhaust system that were on the bike were kept and why modern tires were installed.

Below: Tim Stafford, in red cap, in Tubac, Arizona, during a group ride in 2009 on slash-2 BMWs. The two middle bikes, a Dover white R69S and the Granada red R60/2, both were restored by Tim. In the black jacket by the blue R50/2, left, is Jim Strang of Iron Horse Motorcycles, Tucson. I am in the blue and gray jacket, and Craig Littlefield is on the right in a tan cap with a Dover white 1968 R60US.