When we first saw the BMW R18 in the flesh and took it for a short spin at the local launch, we were awestruck by its superb engineering and classic styling. BMW Motorrad clearly meant for the bike to be an excellent base for customization with a full suite of accessories and partnerships with aftermarket suppliers. The latest collaboration is with Kingston Customs of Germany. Headed by motorbike racer, craftsman and designer Dirk Oehlerking, the project has christened the bike “Spirit of Passion,” and its art deco styling looks like it would feel right at home on the set of The Batman.
The biggest and most obvious change from stock is the Kingston fairing, enclosing the entire front wheel and up to half of the chassis, while providing cutouts to showcase the enormous 1,802cc horizontally opposed engine. A short flyscreen provides the barest of wind protection (if any), while a hole allows the LED headlight to shine through. The custom rear mudguard wraps around the wheel. BMW’s signature kidney grille takes up the lower half of the fairing. With the exception of the exhaust, the R18 has not been mechanically altered to ensure that it goes, stops and handles as well as a stock unit. Other cosmetic changes include Kellerman turn indicators, a saddle lifted from the range of BMW accessories, and the distinctive paintwork and pinstripe.
Oehlerking had been working on BMW bikes for many years—with at least 17 creations in the bag—before he was tasked to work his magic on the R18. His “Black Phantom” and “White Phantom” made waves in the custom scene several years ago, but the R18 was a novel undertaking for him. “This project is probably the most impressive of my entire career,” he says. “It means a lot to me—if not everything—at this moment. The trust that BMW Motorrad has placed in me once again is hugely important to me. I’m very grateful for that.”
For him, the design process begins long before sketches are made. “I put a lot of thought into it beforehand,” he explains. “My motorbikes always convey soul, charm and character. They’re outstanding specimens, so they require great care and attention. I have a constant stream of images running past my mind’s eye when it comes to deciding what style I want to focus on. Once I’ve made that choice, I start with a sketch in pencil and Tipp-Ex. Then I keep going until I know in my heart of hearts: That’s precisely it!”
The Spirit of Passion may be too precious to ever see more than a few miles of actual road use, but it’s a testament to the R18’s potential for unleashing an artisan’s full creativity.