Kingston Custom on Building Air-Cooled BMWs

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Motorcycle builder Dirk Oehlerking's most recent design is a heavily modified BMW R 18. Photo by Ben Ott


April 29, 2021

After a 230-plus trophy career racing motocross Dirk Oehlerking changed the format of his passion for motorcycles—he went from racing them to customizing them.

Since 1985, when he became the German champion and went to the World Cup in Spain, he’s built Harleys, Triumphs, Yamahas, and Hondas, but his recent obsession is with air-cooled BMWs.

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Dirk Oehlerking, Kingston Custom. Photo by Ben Ott

In order to give his prized bikes the space and machinery needed Dirk purchased a 1,900-square-foot warehouse in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

The custom motorcycle builder completely renovated the space, which for the last 100 years had been used as a steel forge. Dirk says he works in the space every day, alone, and lives just half a mile away.

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The Spirit of Passion began as a stock 1,800 CC BMW R 18, modified with a handcrafted Art Deco fairing and a customized exhaust. Photo by Ben Ott

His most recent design is a heavily modified BMW R 18, which he first painstakingly rendered by hand in pencil. Dirk left the tech and the frame in its original condition but covered it in a beautifully crafted Art Deco-inspired fairing. He calls the design “The Spirit of Passion.” It’s so widely coveted that he has agreed to build 18 of them, most of which are already spoken for.

When asked if he might translate his talents into other vehicles Dirk says “only motorbikes. That is my life and passion.”

A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 06 with the headline “Dirk Oehlerking: Motorcycle Builder, Germany.” Subscribe today.