Check Out a Motorcycle Shop’s Homage to a Legendary 1970s Superbike

This tribute to racer Steve McLaughlin’s Daytona-winning motorcycle is built from the BMW R nineT

By Jeff Buchanan 02/10/2019

On March 5, 1976, at the legendary Daytona Speedway, motorcycle racing entered the modern era. The famous high-banked circuit was site of the first, officially sanctioned Superbike race. The term “Superbike” was coined to describe the rapid evolution of sport motorcycles (predominantly being from the Japanese powerhouses), which possessed shocking performance and eye-watering speeds. However, it was a BMW R90/S sport-touring machine, prepared by a private shop and piloted by racer Steve McLaughlin that won the prestigious 320-kilometre race that day, defying the odds-makers and establishing BMW—a company renowned for refined touring motorcycles—as a formidable racing threat.

Although heavily modified, McLaughlin’s race bike retained its stock production bikini fairing and striking two-tone orange and grey paint scheme (augmented by red pinstripes)—which, following the David vs. Goliath win at Daytona, became universally known as “Daytona Orange.”

San Jose BMW’s Tribute Bike.

The bike is built from a BMW R nineT racer. Photo: Courtesy of San Jose BMW.

San Jose BMW owner, Chris Hodgson, himself a master race tuner, pays homage to McLaughlin’s famous Daytona win with a custom in-house built—and aptly named—“Tribute Bike.” Using the new retro-styled BMW R nineT racer as a base, Hodgson and his team carefully transform the Racer into a modern replica of that famous Daytona machine.

“Rather than the usual build where the goal seems to be change as many parts as possible,” says Hodgson, “this bike is ‘change as few as possible.’” The result is a sophisticated, sharp-looking machine that aesthetically honours the past while proffering performance levels firmly planted in the present.

San Jose BMW’s Tribute Bike.

The San Jose shop will tailor the BMW R nineT to a client’s preferences. Photo: Courtesy of San Jose BMW.

First, the air-cooled Boxer Twin engine receives a Big Bore Kit with larger pistons and custom head and valve work, raising displacement from 1170cc to 1300cc. A titanium Akrapovic exhaust system helps the modified engine breath while providing a provocative exhaust note. All told, the engine modifications gift the Tribute Bike with 15 per cent more compression over stock while raising output from 69kW to 90kW. A handmade aluminium oil cooler shroud directs more airflow for better heat reduction. An electronic Speed Shifter is fitted, allowing clutch-less up-shifts. Aftermarket valve covers and racing oil lines round out the engine modifications.

San Jose BMW’s Tribute Bike.

A closer look at the modified R nineT. Photo: Courtesy of San Jose BMW.

For comfort and practicality, a custom triple clamp is fitted to allow for a taller handlebar, which provides a more relaxed riding position. Stylish spoke wheels with polished rims add a classic retro feel, while slim Euro-spec turn signals add a sleek nuance.

To capture the essence of the famous 1976 Daytona bike, the beautiful and dynamic sunburst orange and grey paint scheme is painstakingly replicated, right down to the thin red pinstripe. And for the final touch, the Tribute Bike is adorned with old school number plates sporting rider Steve McLaughlin’s signature number 83.


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