New R 18 custom: Spirit of Passion

Unmistakable design distinct from all others, as represented by the new “Spirit of Passion” by Kingston Custom. After Roland Sands, Dirk Oehlerking lends the BMW R 18 his inimitable signature with the second R 18 gem in the “SoulFuel” series, a collaboration between BMW Motorrad and selected customizers.

Oehlerking’s Kingston Custom is well-known for its extreme customizing. Anyone expecting a complete rebuild of the R 18 will be in for a surprise, however. “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. The bike is still unmistakably a Kingston Custom conversion.

The biggest eye-catcher–and also the greatest challenge–is the striking art-deco inspired Kingston fairing. The bodywork is finished in handmade Kingston design, as are the handlebars and mudguard. The BMW R 18 exhaust has been modified by Oehlerking in Kingston Roadster style, while his saddle is drawn from the available range of universal accessories. The turn indicators have been replaced with Kellermann indicators and the LED front headlight is now integrated into the fairing. The original paint and lines have been adopted for the fairing and wing, with the addition of some details in Kingston style. The suspension and fuel tank are original.

Thanks to its conversion-friendly architecture, the BMW R 18 seems destined for customization. The R 18 features a pronounced historical reference, technically and visually echoing famous models such as the BMW R 5 and refocussing on motorbike essentials: purist, no-frills technology and of course the big boxer, that astounding 1802cc boxer engine.

Motorbike racer, designer and craftsman Dirk Oehlerking demonstrates again with Spirit of Passion how 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!”

A native of Hanover, Germany, Oehlerking already has his own tradition of customizing BMW machines. Around 17 of the brand’s own creations are his, including the Black Phantom and its sibling, the White Phantom. The two models defined completely new standards in the industry at the time. 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.”

Photos by Ben Ott.