Dirk Oehlerking of Kingston Custom creates an art deco R 18

BMW Motorrad’s R 18 is Germany’s attempt to grab a piece of the pie from the American motorcycle makers, particularly Harley-Davidson.

To do this, BMW has designed the R 18 to be highly-customizable. To show that, BMW Motorrad has tapped the expertise of the finest custom bike builders, such as American Roland Sands with his R 18 Dragster;  and Austrian Bernhard Naumann, who created the Blechmann R 18. 

The latest deisgner to take on the challenge is German custom bike builder, Dirk Oehlerking, of Kingston Custom. His vision is an art deco-inspired "Spirit of Passion" R 18.

BMW presents this R 18 in classic Art Deco style image

“The BMW R 18 is so perfect that I left the technology as it is. The frame is 100% original and so sophisticated that nothing should be changed here,” says Oehlerking.

BMW presents this R 18 in classic Art Deco style image

Perhaps, the biggest eye-catcher is the “Kingston fairing,” the fenders that practically cover the entire wheels.

These are inspired by the Streamline Moderne branch of art deco style characterized by its functional approach.

In the case of the R 18, the function is to go as fast as possible. As such, the streamliner style fairing is reminiscent of high speed automobiles and steam locomotives of the era.

All bodywork is handmade, as well as the handlebar and fenders. The stock exhaust was modified by Oehlerking to fit his envisioned Kingston Roadster style, while the saddle was hand-picked from the R 18’s wide range of accessories.

BMW presents this R 18 in classic Art Deco style image

The turn indicators have been replaced with Kellermann indicators and the LED front headlight is now integrated in the fairing. The original paintwork and lines have been adopted for the fairing and wing, with the addition of some details to fit the artist's trademark style. The wheel suspension and fuel tank are all R 18 stock parts.

BMW presents this R 18 in classic Art Deco style image

BMW Motorrad maintains that the R 18 is a custom-friendly motorcycle, with its parts easy to modify or customize.

“Thanks to its extremely conversion-friendly architecture, the BMW R 18 is predestined for customizing. The R 18 features a pronounced historical reference, technically and visually echoing famous models such as the BMW R 5 and re-focusing on motorbike essentials: purist, no-frills technology – and of course the big boxer.”

Dirk Oehlerking of Kingston Custom

BMW presents this R 18 in classic Art Deco style image

Motorbike racer, designer, and craftsman Dirk Oehlerking demonstrates once again in his “Spirit of Passion” that he not only understands his craft but has embraced it in his work for over 35 years.

For him, the design process begins long before the first screws are applied or sketches are made: “I put a lot of thought into it beforehand. 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!”

BMW presents this R 18 in classic Art Deco style image

A native of Hanover, Oehlerking has extensive experience customizing BMW machines. Around 17 of the brand’s own creations are his, including the “Black Phantom” and its sibling bike, the “White Phantom”. The two models defined completely new standards in the industry at the time. Yet redesigning the R 18 was a novel undertaking for Oehlerking.

“This project is probably the most impressive of my entire career. 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.”