51 BMW 1973 R75/5 Refinish the Header Pipes

The header pipes are original on this bike. There are some dull areas on the leading surface from dirt and gravel, but they are otherwise in very good condition with no rust or missing chrome. However, they have become dulled with bluing and brown discoloration after 40 years and 97,000 miles of use, so I want to restore them as best I can.

The cross-over pipe and mufflers, however, are going to be replaced. The original mufflers didn’t come with the bike when I bought it for my wife as a wedding present. They were JC Whitney junk and I replaced them with used mufflers from my R75/6 when I replaced those with a Luftmeister 2-into1 black chrome pipe back in the 80’s. So, I’m still looking at options for replacement /5 cigar mufflers. But for now, it’s time to see how well I can restore the headers.

I’ve tried Semi-chrome and a powdered bluing remover from Blue-Job that you dab onto a cheese cloth, add water to moisten, and then polish the pipe.  I never had much success removing the discoloration. However, I used AutoSol products when I rebuilt my 1975 R75/6 and am using their products again to restore the finish on aluminum and metal parts of this bike with good results so far. It turns out, they make a bluing remover for chrome, so I ordered some.

AutoSol Bluing Remover

AutoSol Bluing Remover

Here are some pictures of the condition of the headers before I started.

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

Header with 40 Years of Bluing

I used nitrile gloves as I applied the liquid using disposable blue paper shop towels. This bluing remover is corrosive and you don’t want it on your skin.  I found applying it with the towel and letting it sit for 15 – 20 seconds, then scrubbing it with the towel until it was completely absorbed removes a layer of disoloration. In the really heavily blued areas, it took three or four applications before I can see any reduction in the bluing and tanning. But, once it starts to lighten, then it comes off quickly.

It took about two hours of work with the Jazz station, KUVO, in the background to get my polishing groove on.  These headers came back to life with a nice brilliant shine.

Header Cleaned & Polished

Restored Header Clean & Polished

Header Cleaned & Polished

Restored Header Clean & Polished

Header Cleaned & Polished

Restored Header Clean & Polished

Header Cleaned & Polished

Restored Header Clean & Polished

I finished them up with a couple applications of Semi-chrome. The cloth I used had a slight amount of discoloration on the first application, but after the second application of semi-chrome, the cloth was clean.

There is satisfaction when you see the luster and gleam come back to old chrome pipes, while you crack open a brew and soak in the gleam from the headers as your foot taps to the beat of Dizzy Gillespie playing at the Newport Jazz Festival back in the 50’s.

3 thoughts on “51 BMW 1973 R75/5 Refinish the Header Pipes

  1. Pingback: 1973 BMW R75/5 Rebuild: Refinishing Headers, Headlight and Steering Damper | Motorcycles & Other Musings

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