Ask any two-wheeled enthusiast what he considers to be the pinnacle brand and the answer will most likely be BMW.
Long before its success as an automobile manufacturer, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Bavarian Motor Works) was busy building aircraft engines during World War I. Forced to cease production by the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty, the company shifted to motorcycle production in 1923, and to automobiles in 1928.
In the motorcycle arena, BMW Motorrad has always been known for its conservative style, advanced engineering, and smooth finish. These attributes have made BMW a prestige brand for motorcycles, whether old or new, and even among people who don't give two wheelers a second glance.
In Lemery, Batangas, a private motorcycle and sports car museum pays exceptional tribute to the brand. Casa Corazon Resort and Museum, Inc. houses more than 160 vintage and classic motorcycles that took more than 20 years to collect and faithfully restore. Among them is what is said to be the world's most extensive collection of BMW motorcycles. "Put together, the collection would easily amount to tens of millions of pesos," says Lester Dizon, public relations officer for the resort and himself a motorcycle enthusiast.
The massive collection rivals that of BMW AG's own, and was made possible by the contributions of several collectors. The museum features landmark models dating from the early days of BMW to recent classics.
The bikes, which have their own wing, are displayed in chronological order against a backdrop of era advertisements and reproductions of vintage posters. In some cases, the original aftermarket accessories of the era accompany the bike displays—giving viewers a glimpse of custom options.
Though the vehicles may seem walled-in, Dizon insists the bikes are far from being calcified. "The bikes are re-fitted with batteries, fluids, and fuel once a year and run for a few kilometers to ensure they still operate well," says Dizon. "Then they're drained, cleaned, and returned to their stands after."
This annual operation has attracted the attention of several motorcycle clubs that show up to ride alongside these rare classics. Ironically, some of the owners of the museum pieces don't even ride, Dizon admits. "They simply love the mechanics and technical complexity of the bikes."
Photographs by Jar Concengco
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 3 2011.