In 1945 at the end of WWII Germany was in ruins, industry was decimated and millions of people were displaced. BMW was in a dire position, the factories in the western sector of the war-torn country were largely destroyed and the Eisenach plant (where motorcycle production was based during the war) was now in Soviet control and lost to the company.
The future looked grim and there was a very real chance that BMW would be broken up by the Allied Control Council and become a footnote in history. The American army however needed a facility in which its large fleet of vehicles could be serviced and BMW was selected to perform the task. With a skilled workforce and a central location in Munich, BMW had gained time. Not only was it important to keep the Allied vehicles on the move, it was vital to provide Germany with employment and a chance of a new beginning.
BMW Manager Kurt Donath kept the American military fleet moving and commenced producing pots and pans, bicycles and agricultural equipment. This was important in returning Germany to normality, as well as offering BMW an opportunity of a real future.
Naturally, Donath was not interested in this kind of production; for him, a return to motorcycle production was paramount and he was determined to see it happen, if at all possible.
In March 1946 the Americans, recognising the need for basic transport, gave the green light for motorcycle production to commence, but with a 125cc limit.
Sixty-five years ago, on June 3 1946, Kurt Donath made a decision that would have lasting importance; he instructed legendary BMW figure, Alfred Böning to commence development of the R 10 that would be powered by the M411 two-stroke Boxer motor.
The little 125cc Boxer was an interesting looking motorcycle, with the motor low in the frame and the cylinders behind the rider’s feet. This meant that the gearbox was mounted on top of the motor and the cardan shaft in a higher position than in other Boxers. It had the look of a traditional BMW motorcycle, but with a two-stroke motor it was designed to be cheaper to build than the usual four-stroke.
A full working prototype was produced, but when it became obvious that the Allies would raise the capacity restriction to 250cc the project was abandoned in favour of what would become the R 24.
Fast forward to the present day and BMW Motorrad is producing around 100,000 motorcycles every year, including technically innovative and dynamic models such as the class-leading S 1000 RR and the new six-cylinder K 1600 GT and GTL. Sixty-five years ago though, the company was in a very different position and the decision to develop the R 10 gave a new beginning and new hope to the management and employees of this war-torn company. Although it never went beyond prototype stage the tiny two-stroke R 10 has an important place in BMW Motorrad’s long history.