1954 BMW RS54 Oskar Liebmann Special
In post-war Germany, BMW’s engineers worked hard in an attempt to re-establish the manufacturer in international road racing competition. After years of development and design evolution, the first post war iteration of the new Koenigswelle boxer race bike emerged, followed by the long-stroke factory race bikes, which were seen in action by 1953.
Following moderate success, BMW decided to produce a small run of these racers to sell to privateer teams. Of the 25 RS54s produced, 19 were solo and six were sidecar units.
One of these solo motorcycles found its way to America, where German expat, founder of BMW’s first US dealer and race bike builder Oscar Liebmann raced it before shipping it back to Munich in preparation for the 1959 Isle of Man TT.
While visiting, Liebman struck up a strong relationship with Munich, and in particular engineer and racer Max Klankermeier, who headed up BMW’s motorcycle racing division. After explaining the untapped potential he saw in the overhead cam Rennsport engine, it was agreed that Liebmann would receive factory support from Klankermeier in developing a greater horsepower engine. In the early 1960s, he was shipped five Rennsport engine castings, and set to work on re-engineering the layout of the cylinders and heads, canting each cylinder up by two degrees and creating a V-twin.
Following further refinement, the OL Special (part of the BMW agreement was that Liebmann could not campaign the model under the BMW badge), ridden by Liebmann’s son Kurt, went on to win the Canadian Road Racing Championship in 1968, as well as Daytona in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1995 and 1996. Kurt also raced it at the one and only Canadian Gran Prix, Mosport, 1967 against the likes of Agostini and Hailwood.
In this weekend’s Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy, the bike will be raced by Maria Costello and Sebastien Gutsch.