Paul Yaffe’s Custom BMW R 18 One Eight “C”

Paul Yaffe custom BMW R 18

Paul Yaffe has become a legend of the US customizing scene since he first started customizing motorcycles back in 1991, and recently unveiled his latest creation, a unique one-of-a-kind customisation of the BMW R 18 Transcontinental: the R 18 One Eight “C”, which made its debut at this month’s MBE Show in Verona, Italy.

This unique motorcycle mixes classic hot rod aesthetics with the distinctive BMW essence and is a testament to Yaffe’s excellence as a designer, more so than he is a builder or fabricator.

Starting out with the establishment of American Legend Motorcycle Company, which later evolved into Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation, Paul has earned accolades that include three “World’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle” awards from the Oakland Roadster Show, two “Builder of Year” and three “Trendsetter of the Year” awards from Easyriders Magazine. He was also inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame in 2015.

Paul’s custom bikes have been featured in over 300 magazine articles worldwide, not to mention on the Discovery channel, the History channel, as well as other television shows. As for his products, they are distributed through a network of partners in six countries and continue to inspire a generation of customizers.

Before Paul embarked on transforming the BMW R 18 Transcontinental, he wanted to get to know it, so he rode 3,800 miles across America, as well as an additional 2,600 miles to Sturgis and back!

Paul knew he wanted to create a big wheel bagger like nothing seen before. But it was crucial to the project that he retained as many original BMW components as possible, wanting his custom creation to remain authentically BMW and that it should not be made from or look anything like parts from his existing product line.

Close up of Paul Yaffe’s custom BMW R 18

A large 26” x 5.5” front wheel was commissioned that was cut from a 400lb block of solid aluminium, which holds a handmade 180mm wide front tyre. As a result, the frame had to be stretched and raked to accommodate the new front wheel, and special triple trees were engineered to correct the trail measurement and optimise the bike’s handling.

Inspired by the look of an iconic 50’s Mercury Lead Sled, Paul and his team crafted several
one-of-a-kind components and modified existing R 18 elements. For example, the steel front fender was made from scratch, whilst the original R 18 fairing was cut into several pieces and restructured to correct headlight position and flow into the new front wheel. A unique chin spoiler was developed to address the gap between the fairing and the fuel tank, and an exclusive set of Yaffe Monkey Bars was crafted to go with the new design.

Paul comments:

“The team wanted to retain the saddlebag lids, latches and speakers so a new set of ‘skins’ was created to give the bags a completely new and unique stretched profile while retaining the excellent engineering and functionality that BMW had created for them.”

And so they extended the original rear fender by crafting a second R 18 rear fender to ensure it seamlessly matched the profile of the new saddlebags.

The original R 18 taillights were rearranged into the handmade filler panels and a special area was created into the fender for the license plate in classic hot rod style. In addition, the original R 18 side covers were stretched to retain their original shape and cover more area, so they flow into the bags.

So as to stay true to the classic Lead Sled aesthetic, the air suspension and side pipes were prioritised. This was done by designing a sophisticated air tank and distribution system as well as a dedicated frame beneath each side of the saddlebags to accommodate the components along with the necessary air storage tanks, a sizable air compressor and all the controls, valving and solenoids needed for the effective support and operation of the system.

Leather interior of the BMW R 18 One Eight “C”

Paul wanted to preserve the distinctive “BMW feel” that sets this build apart when it came to the design of the side pipe. The catalytic converters were removed from the head pipes making way for a bespoke perforated high-flow baffle system and replacing the restrictive emissions system. But at the same time, he wanted to retain essential back pressure for optimal performance.

To enhance the auditory experience of the bike’s exhaust, a precision-crafted 3-step muffler system was created, along with a wide-open megaphone to give the bike that quintessential classic hot rod sound.

When it came to the bike’s aesthetics, Paul was keen to emphasise its simplicity and allure with a classic hot rod feel but without any distracting graphics, highlighting the bike’s elegant new stance and profile.

“We went to work perfecting all the fabricated body panels and smoothing everything to a glass-like finish.”

He has certainly achieved that with that deep gloss black finish contrasted with a classic oxblood red interior. Adding:

“The trick is not to overdo it! We think it came out spectacular!”

Author Bio:

Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.

Photographs courtesy of BMW by Micheal Licht

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