Custom BMW R 18 ‘Iron Annie’ Built by BMW Partner in Switzerland

BMW partner VTR Motorrad AG & VTR Customs in Switzerland recently built a customized BMW R 18 First Edition commissioned by one of its customers to pay homage to the Ju 52 three-engine commercial and transport aircraft from the 1930s christened “Iron Annie.” Everything from the dial on the speedometer and replica cooling fins to the custom color scheme and corrugated aluminum planking reflect the appearance of the well-known aircraft. For more information, read the press release below from BMW Motorrad.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

Munich/Schmerikon — The old “Aunt Ju” Junkers Ju 52, the legendary three-engine commercial and transport aircraft from the 1930s, is still familiar to many people. The Ju 52 with the aircraft registration D-AQUI in the Lufthansa color scheme grey-black from 1936 became particularly well-known worldwide. During its time in the U.S. from 1970 to 1984 under the American aircraft registration N52JU, it was christened “Iron Annie” for short by its then-owner Martin Caidin.

It was precisely this aircraft that inspired a customer of BMW partner VTR Motorrad AG & VTR Customs in Schmerikon, Switzerland, to commission a very special customized version of the BMW R 18: the R 18 “Iron Annie.”

Years before, the customer, who is an architect, had an R nineT built at VTR Customs that was also inspired by aviation style elements from aircraft construction.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

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With the R 18 “Iron Annie,” the dial of the speedometer integrated into the tank is intended to be reminiscent of old cockpit instruments or access panels with quick-release fasteners, as found on many aircraft. And of course, it was imperative to borrow from the Ju 52’s characteristic corrugated aluminum planking. The seat was designed to be reminiscent of a riding saddle, and only the “Iron Annie” color scheme in grey and black was used for the paintwork.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

A BMW R 18 First Edition served as the starting point for the customizing project. First the engine was removed and painted black. All chrome parts were painted black, and the fork stanchions also received a black coating in the form of a DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coat.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

The cockpit trim was pulled back as narrow and flat as possible to emphasize the streamlined shape. The 7-cm shorter fork and a height-adjustable Wilbers shock absorber emphasize the crouched stance of the motorcycle.

“To make the bike look smaller and give it a more filigree appearance between the wheels, we had large 18- and 21-inch wheels made by Kineo,” said Daniel Weidmann, owner and managing director of VTR Motorrad & VTR Customs.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

Related: 2023 BMW R nineT and R 18 100 Years Heritage Editions

As a further technical treat, racing-style HC3 pumps from Magura were fitted in place of the standard R 18 brake and clutch fittings. The dial of the customized speedometer has a hand that was specially made by watchmaker Zeitzone Zurich.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

“One of the big challenges with the R 18 Iron Annie was the replica cooling fins in the area of the rear silencers,” Weidmann said. “Shaping these parts into parallel and beautiful radii and at the same time still fastening them harmoniously took a number of attempts.” This consumed countless hours of work, as the fuel tank, the tail with the suggested tail fin of an airplane, the side panels, and the cockpit were artfully hand-formed from aluminum sheet. Reminiscences of traditional metal aircraft construction are also provided by the numerous lens-head rivets.

BMW R 18 Iron Annie

“What almost pained us a little when we saw all the handmade, bright aluminum sheets shimmering and shining was that they would have to be painted,” Weidmann said. “However, we are extremely satisfied with the result because the R 18 Iron Annie differs even more clearly from our well-known Spitfire, which is also designed in aviation style.” The R 18 Iron Annie will receive road approval and is sure to turn quite a few heads in its new home on Lake Geneva. It will remain a unique model, as was promised to the customer.

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BMW R 18 Iron Annie by VTR Customs specifications:

  • Base: BMW R 18 First Edition
  • Sheet metal parts: Fuel tank, rear, side panels, cockpit, mudguard, aluminum handmade by VTR Customs
  • Fork: shortened and DLC-coated stanchions
  • Suspension strut: Wilbers, height adjustable
  • Wheels: Kineo front 3.5 x 21″, rear 6 x18″
  • Tires: Avon Cobra, 120/70-21 and 200/55-18
  • Handlebar: ABM Vario Clip
  • Speedometer: Customized by Zeitzone Zürich
  • Brake / clutch pump: Magura HC3
  • Saddle: VTR Customs & Yves Knobel Saddlery
  • Exhaust system: Walzwerk
  • Number plate holder: Berham Customs
  • Side indicator and rear lights: Kellermann Atto
  • Headlight: HIGHSIDER
  • Paintwork: VTR Customs & Freuler AG, Benken


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