The Airheads Beemer Club is a non-profit club reclaiming the 'Legendary Motorcycles of Germany'

Engine, frame, and other numbers/characters.
How to read and interpret them.
How does BMW identify the year of your motorcycle, etc.
Serial numbers. VIN (Vehicle Identification 'Numbers') & other identifications. How to identify your motorcycle and major assemblies.

© Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer


This article contains a large amount of information regarding vehicle numbers and identifications, most especially for BMW Airhead motorcycles, but much of this information also applies to other motorcycles, and even your automobile, truck, etc. Information may seem confusing at first. You are advised to slowly read this entire article, and then re-read; and then look at the numbers on your own bike(s), car, truck, etc.

You may be interested in the information in: and Those two articles have some further identification information.

There is a LOT of wordy reading here ...but, it can be important!

BMW may use different frame and motorcycle identification systems for non-U.S.A. motorcycles. There may be a letter or two letters, followed by a serial number. There may be a serial number followed by one extra number, and then the type of motorcycle.  Seven (7) digits are used for the serial number. I do not know what the letters nor the 8th digit means, it could be a check-digit. The VIN system of 17 characters may be absent, in favor of just the Serial Number, with possibly a very small BMW roundel stamping and a letter or two or other number or two. This has especially been seen in later Airheads for ECE shipments. In general, the 17 character VIN system was introduced in approximately 1980-1981.

North American shipments (and many other areas too):
Before the all-brands transition to the 17 character VIN code (by BMW in the 1980-1981 era), BMW used only a serial number. Simple, just find the number on the engine & find the frame number, which were usually the same number. For more information on the earlier old models, see Duane Ausherman's website: Duane has some information on how the early model numbers were assigned.   

This remainder of this article is only available for Airheads Beemer Club members. Please Log In..or..Click Here to join the Airheads Beemer Club, after which you will enjoy access this article and all members only content of the ABC web site. 

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