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Remembering The 1939 BMW Kompressor

1939 BMW Kompressor

Are you a street racing fan? If so, you might have noticed how popular it is in Europe and the US. It started with a motorbike called the BMW Kompressor, launched in 1939. It’s been over 80 years since the legendary Georg Meier, a non-Briton, rode it to win the Senior Tourist Trophy. His remarkable riding skills on his BMW compressor machine marked the long development of supercharged engines that oozed the best in terms of performance and power. That said, you might be wondering what riding on this machine feels like. You want to get a mental picture of your riding experience should you have the chance to own or hire one. This write-up reveals the details of its features and its description, so you know what to expect.

The history of the 1939 BMW Kompressor

According to the BMW group press report, BMW’s entered the limelight in 1929. At the time, the company didn’t find this technology fit for the road because they relied on naturally-aspirated engines in special races. The first riders who marked the company’s success were 500-cc’s Hans Soenius and 750-cc’s Josef Selzer. Together, they won the championships, spearheading BMW to success. In 1935, BMW launched the second generation of super-powerful motorcycles by welding their tubular frames and launched them a year later. Like the foot-shift four-speed transmission, these beasts had two overhead camshafts. In 1937, BMW upgraded the second-generation machines by equipping them with rear-wheel suspension. During this time, English-born riders Karl Gall and Ludwig Kraus were able to test these machines, spanning BMW to success. BMW’s biggest breakthrough was in 1938 when a German rider, Georg Meier, began his first season on the road. He won the German, Belgian, and Italian Grand Prix. Also, he participated in Hockenheim, Nuremberg, and Eilenriede races, where he won. Don’t forget that he won the Dutch Tourist Trophy in a record of two hours, 57 minutes, and 19 seconds with an average speed of 89.38mph, according to Motorcycle Classics. His victory in the race marked the prominence of German and European championships.

Product description

According to FICHASMOTOR, the 1939 BMW Kompressor belongs to the BMW Kompressor family. Known for its sporty look and a Kompressor generation, this motorbike has stood the test of time. It unapologetically boasts over 80 years in the motorcycle world. If you’re wondering how an old bike hasn’t lost track of time all these years, its specifications will tell you why.


  • Engine displacement and type: 492 cc, 2-cylinder and 4-stroke boxer engine
  • Year of release: 11939
  • Category: sport
  • Manufacturer: BMW
  • Intake: Dell’Orto carburettor
  • Fuel control: Twin cam (DOHC) and twin overhead camshaft
  • Final drive: Cardan
  • Gearbox: manual
  • Engine mounting: longitudinal
  • Clutch: cable operated
  • Carrying capacity: 2 persons
  • Dry and full weight: 304.2 lbs (137kg)

1. Engine power and transmission

The 1939 BMW Kompressor has an engine type of 492 cc, 2-cylinder and 4-stroke boxer. So, that means with an average speed of 89.38mph; a rider can complete the race in two hours, 57 minutes, and 19 seconds. That is the fastest record in the history of motorcycle racing. However, it can go with speeds higher than that, thanks to welded tubular frames it was upgraded to.

2. Fuel control

The bike has an overhead camshaft (DHOC). It differs from an Overhead Valve (OHC) in terms of the camshaft placement. The camshafts rely on lobes that push against the valves to open them as the camshaft rotates. The springs on the valves eventually return the valves to their closed position. These components greatly impact the engine’s performance at different speeds.

3. Carrying capacity

The BMW Kompressor weighs 304.2 pounds, allowing it to carry at least two people. However, riding it solo, whether you’re a biking rookie or seasoned rider, oozes an exhilarating experience.

4. Gearbox

This motorcycle’s gearbox operates manually. You should be familiar with the gear shifter, throttle, and clutch to shift gears. The resting should be in the neutral position, marked with the “N” light. Make sure you’re sitting on the saddle of the bike. From there, you can shift the first gear by closing the throttle, then pull the clutch in all the way. At the same time, shift the gear into the first gear by pushing it downwards on the shifter. Don’t be in a hurry to release the clutch lever until the bike starts moving.

5. Cable-operated clutch

While electronic ones have disrupted many mechanical motorcycle components, the clutch cable remains. It’s a technology that the 1939 BMW Kompressor has used to date. The clutch assists the rider to change fears. The only difference between old and new versions is the clutch level instead of pedals. The basic operating principle remains the same whether you have a bike with a clutch lever or pedal. It starts with pulling on the lever to disengage the clutch’s function discs via the pressure plate. Once you’ve established the gear you want, gently open the throttle and release the clutch lever. The bike keeps going as long the friction discs re-engage.

A polite reminder

International racing banned supercharged engines after 1945, preventing German-born nationals from participating in international levels until 1950. The ban happened just before World War II. However, the Germans kept the races to a local level after the war. This prompted BMW and other automakers to modify supercharged race machines to naturally-aspirated configurations to meet the pre-war specifications.


Overall, the 1939 BMW Kompressor is a timeless masterpiece spearheading BMW to success. It’s a masterpiece of its own, but it’s also easy to underestimate its performance because the power characteristics are very misleading. However, with the gearbox, engine, and brakes in place, it’s safe to conclude that every component works well. Also, it’s influenced the evolution of manually-operated bikes to date. While you might be a fan of electronic-operated bikes, it makes sense that you would appreciate the bubble that this antique beast has generated in the motorcycle racing world.

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Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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