Oooooh. Spoooooooky.

I’ve never been one for scary movies, or for ghost stories around the campfire.

It just doesn’t do anything for me.

But every once in a while, reality will do something that makes one sit up and take notice, and makes all those fictional spooky stories seem lame.

Besides, its Halloween, and if not now, when?

Having more than one old BMW motorcycle means you need to know someone who can repair the Motometer speedometers and tachometers that BMW used on their bikes.

The older the bike, the more pressing this need becomes.

The combined speedo/tach cluster units that sit inside the headlamp shell, as used in the /5 and /2 motorcycles are, compared to modern instruments, particularly fragile, with a need for lubrication and adjustment every decade or so, assuming they don’t blow up before then.

Which, if you’re riding the bike frequently, can be a fairly major assumption.

My /5, which had it’s instrument self destruct rather spectacularly on the way home from being purchased — breaking off both the tach and speedo needles and spinning the instrument hubs in a rather crazed random manner — made this pretty clear on Old BMW Bike Ownership Day One.

For folks that lived in the greater Baltimore-Washington Metro Area in the 1980s and 90s, that someone you needed to know was Irv Simon.
Irv operated an automotive and motorcycle instrument repair business out of his home in the suburbs of Baltimore. The downstairs front room of Irv’s unassuming blue and white suburban split level was essentially old-speedometer heaven, with a substantial workbench, several electric instrument drive motors with adjustable transmissions, and an inventory of special holding fixtures, tools, and repair parts that probably didn’t exist anywhere else in the known universe.

I first met Irv when the new Motometer combo instrument I’d installed in my /5 lasted about 6 years before going berserk.

I presented Irv with the patient in his shop, and he was extremely generous with me in talking about the special tool required to remove the bezel to service the instrument, and that he not only had it, but had a supply of new bezels and seals — to make sure the repair would last. He asked if I thought the instrument was reading slow or fast, because he could dial it in. He also asked if I wanted the odometer set to any particular value? Because the instrument was a replacement unit, I asked him to add the miles that had been on the original instrument so that post repair, it would read the actual total miles on the bike.

No problem.

When I got the instrument back, it looked and, more importantly, worked better than when I had bought it.

And although I had the pleasure of having Irving service that instrument at a later time, it was because his ‘calibration and service slip’, I had been advised, would provide a Virginia Traffic Court with grounds for reducing my ‘excessive speed’ moving violation to a non-points bearing equipment violation.

This had been good advice.

Point being, though, is that Irving’s work was far better than stock. That unit got serviced so I wouldn’t, but not because it needed it.

It still doesn’t, as that instrument is in that bike and working well to this day.



Total change of gears.

I’ve written a fair amount about my barn job R90S.

I got more than a couple of milk crates full of stuff when I bought that bike. A lot of it was funky trash, but there were a few bits of precious metal.

Among them was the bike’s original quartz Motometer clock. The voltimeter was there too, but my understanding was that these original clocks were not common, and running ones were still less common.

The tiny wiring harness that they required was not there, so off I went to visit a buddy of mine that worked as a BMW Parts Counterman.

I told him why I needed the harness.

“Man,” he said, “those clocks never run.”

“Irv can fix them though. Then they’re fine from then out.”

I called Irv. He confirmed what had been surmised.

Against hope, I went out to the garage and installed the harness, and then connected the leads to the clock.

It started right up and began keeping perfect time.


That clock then kept perfect time for the next several years, despite the apparent improbability of same.

Then, all of a sudden, it didn’t.

I remember going out to the garage one Wednesday morning, and noticed immediately that the clock’s solid, mechanical ‘tick’ was missing.

I removed it from its hole in the fairing, and poked at it impotently. I set the time, connected it directly to an available battery, and was able to confirm its complete and total demise.

I figured that — with regard to my Motometer clock — I’d been living on borrowed time, and then didn’t really think that much more about it.


Saturday morning, I found myself standing in front of my friend the BMW Parts Counterman again.

I told him about my precious clock, and how it had quit without warning Wednesday morning.

“Guess I’ll have to break down and take it to Irv, now.”

<Sound of ‘The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ’ up and under>

“Dude, Irv passed away Tuesday night.”


Now I’ve said that I’m not much on the spooky or paranormal, but this seemed like the clearest kind of clear sign from the great beyond I’d ever seen.

I’ll admit the basic setup of communication from the beyond is enough of a stretch all on its own. Adding to this the notion that the medium could be German motorcycle instruments pushed credulity well beyond my normal limits.

But there it was.

It hit me hard then, and I haven’t really ever gotten past it.

Wierder stuff has probably happened, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly when.


3 thoughts on “Oooooh. Spoooooooky.

  1. I really enjoyed this story about my grandfather! I loved his workshop, but was too young to fully appreciate it. It’s too bad too, I don’t doubt that he had “repair parts that probably didn’t exist anywhere else in the known universe.” My favorite was when he let me help turn his bevels on his hand crank machine.

    I’d be interested in talking to you about Motometers if you would email me. Thank you.

    • Cullen —

      I’m glad I could provide at least a little additional insight into your Grandfather. I will reach out next week when my schedule opens up a little.



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