BMW restore supercharged 1937 255 Kompressor race bike ahead of planned Peter Hickman TT parade lap

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BMW’s classic division in Germany have built a semi-replica version of their supercharged 255 Kompressor twin racer, which began competing at the Isle of Man in late 1930s and was ridden to victory in the 1939 Senior TT by Georg Meier.

The 492cc DOHC boxer twin racer competed in 500cc class competition from 1937 onwards. A version of the bike was used by Meier in the last TT before the Second World War, in which he became the first non-British rider to win at the event.

Jump forward to 2024, and a number of clever BMW Motorrad engineers have produced a new air-cooled R255/1 Kompressor racer in tribute to Meier’s success, taking eight years of hard work, and using a new replica engine housed inside an original 1930s hard tail chassis.

The 1939 Georg Meier 255 (front) along with the newly restored machine

Displayed in the FHO Racing awning at this year’s TT races alongside Meier’s original ‘39 machine, it’s planned to complete a lap of the 37.73-mile course should conditions allow, in the hands of current lap record holder and BMW rider, Peter Hickman.

“Because we are a little bit afraid to start this 87-year-old motor and destroy it, we have made a new one which can be used,” Sebastian Gutsch told MCN, having been restoring old BMWs for decades. “Even if we destroy it and it’s just a new part, it’s replaceable.

“It’s an original frame, that’s completely newly built up. There’s new paint, and we replaced a lot of parts. The forks are old and original, the frame is old and original, but most of the other stuff is just brand new,” he continued.

A side view of the recently restored BMW R255/1 Kompressor race bike

“It’s all magnesium, the complete engine, rear drive, and brakes. It was a very lightweight bike for the time,” he said. “This is the earlier version without suspension, it’s a rigid rear end.”

To be precise, the chassis comes from an earlier 1936 BMW R5, which has been adapted to house the engine. Although an original, restored motor is also available, a modern copy is used for duties such as this for preservation purposes.

“We found the frame still at the BMW Museum, and forks, but all the other parts are completely new like the brakes, the rear drive,” Gutsch continued. “They had to be made, but there are still blueprints available in the BMW archive, so we could make the parts as they were in the old days.”

The 1939 Georg Meier 255 in the Isle of Man TT pitlane

At the time of writing, Hickman is yet to set a lap on the bike. He was due to go on Wednesday, May 29, but was unable to due to an accident in the earlier sidecar practice session.

BMW 255 Kompressor quick facts:

  • Big wheels: Unlike modern race bikes that use a 17in front rim, the 255 uses a 21in front, as was the style at the time for stability.
  • Success story: The original supercharged 255 Kompressors took many victories, and continued to compete in four German championships up until 1950.
  • German victory: Georg Meier was a Sergeant-Instructor with the Military Police, when he became the first foreign winner of the Senior TT.
  • Ahead of its time: The 255 was the first bike to use hydraulically damped telescopic forks, with many of the TT bikes in 1937 still using girders.