Not That Sturgis, The One In Mississippi – BMW Restoration Specialist

If your pre-1970 BMW motorcycle suddenly takes a crap and you’re desperate to get it back on the road, you don’t go to Germany.

You go to Sturgis…

No, not that one, the one in Mississippi.

The Sturgis thing? It can be a problem for Ultimate BMW Motorcycle restoration specialist Craig Vechorik, but not one he can’t solve with a quick geography primer.

“A lot of times, I have to explain we’re not in Sturgis, S.D., where they have the big bike rally every year,” he said. “But I just take that as an opportunity to tell them about Sturgis and Mississippi and how beautiful it is here. I invite them to ride their bikes down.”

How did he find his was into the restoration business?

“I’d always been one of those kids who would take things apart, then try to put them back together. Lawn mowers … anything I could get my hands on,” said Vechorik.  “Somehow I was able to put that clutch in the Rambler. After that I guess I knew where my path was headed.”

Vechorik has followed the long and winding road from Cape Girardeau, Mo. to Sturgis, a town of 189 people located 15 miles southwest of Starkville, Mississippi on his way to becoming a world-renowned specialist who is the acknowledged master or restoring and repairing BMW motorcycles built before 1970.

“Vech has created a real niche for himself,” says Charles Clark of Kickstand, a motorcycle parts shop owner and friend of Vechorik.  “You’ve got to be good and knowledgeable,and you’ve got to have a passion for it.

Vechorik is also a collector. His latest prize possession is a 1942 BMW R75 motorcycle – complete with sidecar and machine gun – that was used by the Germans in World War II.

“It was in a lot of pieces and rattling around in boxes when I bought it. Took me four- and-a-half years to fix it up, but it was well worth it. It’s the first all-terrain vehicle ever made,” Vechorik says. “It’s interesting when I take it to a show and a World War II veteran spots it. The reaction is usually the same. ‘Last time I saw one of those, I was a young man.'”

Vechorik created Bench Mark Works about while also working as a repair technician at Mississippi State. His father-in-law found an 8,000 sq. ft. building on the cheap which once served as a clothing factory, and Bench Mark Works was on the way.

“For years I had restored bikes on weekends and evenings, and I became the technical advisor to the national vintage BMW motorcycle club,” he said. “Thanks to UPS and the Internet it’s not a big deal being in Sturgis and supplying customers wherever.”

How does a guy with  a degree in anthropology end up being the ultimate specialist in niche, classic German motorcycles? By taking the long way around, that’s how. According to Vechorik, his first job out of high school was toiling as an engine room mechanic on a tugboat for three years.

“We went up and down the Mississippi River,” Vechorik said. “We’d pick up loads of coal in Ohio and bring them back to a little town just below New Orleans. That job taught me how to work for a living, how to take a job seriously. And it was tough.”

Vechorik piled up enough money to buy  his first BMW at 24, and he was hooked.

“I didn’t even test drive it,” he said. “I knew I wanted it as soon as I saw it. It was the prettiest silver and black thing you’ve ever seen. And I still have it.”

It’s surely not the only one he has, Vechorik displays lots of them in a museum at his shop, and the collection includes a 1928 BMW R52, a 1936 BMW R12 with a sidecar and a 1952 BMW 25/2. And if you’re thinking that he only shows the bikes, you’re thinking wrong.

He has an encyclopedic knowledge of parts, and he knows where to find them.

“I don’t have to go look in a book to know what it is and what it goes on,” he says. “I’ve studied all this through the years, and I think that’s why people keep coming back to us.”

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