I have a 1956 R60 that I inherited from my father-in-law. He bought it as a basket case in 1970 and put it together. I know that some of the parts currently on it are from later /2 models. For example, the headlight bucket has the third light to the right of the speedometer, indicating it is not correct for a 1956.
My immediate question concerns the taillight assembly. I understand that 1955 bikes had the teardrop shaped Eber taillights. At some point, BMW switched over to the larger Hella "coffee can" style light. Vech doesn't know whether my early 1956 production bike would have originally had the Eber or Hella. Does anyone here have any idea?
Interesting question! You have the first year of production R60, and it should have generally been equipped with the small, "teardrop" Eber tailight you mention, in general use until sometime in 1957, at least for the european market. Curiously, there is a very rarely seen version of the Hella "coffeecan" tailight that was available in the early-mid '50's to 1957 or so, that used the same lens as the later common coffecan light. This early and somewhat smaller version mounts with three round head machine screws in the fendertail, the same as the Eber tailight. Of course, the typical coffee can type mounts with four hex head bolts...anyway, you can tell which type your motorcycle initially came with by examining your fendertail: three mounting holes means Eber or early coffeecan, four holes at least in your case imply replaced rear fender/common version coffeecan type. I think your front fender, and front shock housings are original to your bike, but more detailed photos would be helpful....needless-to-say, this is real trivia?
Aesthetically, the Eber is the way to go. I love the detail in the small glass reflector. The coffee can really does look like a coffee can. Good luck with your bike and keep an eye out on eBay for your fender.
Beware the Eber repops that have a reflector instead of a lens for the red area. These have a very small hole, perhaps half an inch in diameter, at the 6 o'clock position to allow a tiny bit of light out. I have no idea why they were made this way, they are useless at night.
You may also find the same Eber unit as used on Zuendapp and other German brands. Some of these were chromed or painted other colors.
As Darryl says, the true Ebers with the tiny hole at the bottom for the taillight are useless. Moreover, the brake light is orange, which makes no sense to American drivers today. In short, I think the originals are dangerous.
Vech (Bench Mark Works) sees an Eber look-alike that is much better in terms of safety and visibility.
One of my /3s has the true Eber -- I am always watching the rear view mirror when riding it. The others have Vech's "whole-circle" lights, which cause me less concern.
Attached is a photo of the Eber with the tiny hole at the bottom. Not much light emerges from it.
I have actually changed the wiring in my Eber so that the taillight shines through the amber triangle at the top and the brake light shines through the red lens. I also removed the separator tab between them so that there's a red glow for the taillight, too.
Before I did this, I had two roadside conversations with police officers who didn't like the stock arrangement. (But neither gave me a ticket, thankfully.)
Jeff, do you think that the original Eber units had that tiny little hole? The photos in Slabon's How To Restore Your BMW Twin show that the original Eber had a full, open red lens. I just assumed that the useless one was a repop with, as is typical, some stupid engineering.
I seem to recall that Richard Sheckler wrote an article in the VMCA Newsletter describing a process to make the Eber light more useful. Might be able to find it on their website:
There were four different Eber tailights used on post war BMW: the R51/2, the 1951-2 version, both without brake light and using a single filament bulb, the 1953-54 with brake light and using two festoon bulbs/triangular yellow brake light lens, and the 1955-57 R50-R60-R69 version required on this 1956 R60. This last version used a dual filament bulb, red lens/no reflector, and had three little acorn nuts to maintain the lens in place that are visible externally. It's very nice unit, with lens almost as large as the coffee can lens. The repops are nice, but likely expensive as with all things BMW? The various repops of the earlier lamps are made with the tiny hole that Jeff refers to allow silvering of the red lens required for a reflector. None of those earlier types would be used after 1955 as with this fellas very early R60. As points of trivia, I was told that Eber went out of business in the mid-late 50's and so BMW was required to find another supplier. The Hella coffee can is used on several other german vehicles of that era (Isetta, Horex, maybe Janus?). The Eber lamps were made by the same company that made Eberspracher airfilters on the 1952 only BMW twin...I'd guess it's the "Eberspracher Auto Parts Company" or some such?
Do you know of a red lens being available to replace the triangular amber lens on the Eber tail-light you are talking about?
I am going to use one of these Eber lights on my Steib sidecar fender. I am concerned with safety at night.
BTW here is the article about how to modify the Eber tail-light to be brighter: