With a background in motocross racing, wrenching, metal working and retailing new motorcycles, Dirk Oehlerking draws from a deep well of experience when crafting his custom builds. At the age of six, Dirk built his first custom – a bicycle with a long, stretched out fork in the style of an Easy Rider machine. That ignited a passion for wheels and then engines, and ever since he’s been heavily involved in motorcycles and other machines. Although he spent several decades pursuing other aspects of the industry, he came full circle in 2010. “I was at the Custombike Show in Bad Salzuflen in Germany,” Dirk says. “Seeing all those custom bikes inspired me enormously. I decided to sell my business, a Yamaha motorcycle dealership, because I wanted to design and build motorcycles with my hands again.” That’s when he established Kingston Custom.

Something like a home for these gems: Dirk Oehlerking with this Black and White Phantoms as the BMW factory in Munich. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
Kingston Custom started out building Japanese motorcycles in the new wave, bobber, scrambler, cafe racer and brat styles. Since then, he’s been creatively crafting one-off bike builds, now mainly based on BMWs. In 2018, Dirk moved his bike-building studio into a converted 100-year-old blacksmith shop in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Located in the Ruhr region, Gelsenkirchen was once known as The City of a Thousand Fires for its large number of steel plants, coking furnaces and coal mines; a fitting center for an artist working in the medium of metal. “I turned the forge into an artistic studio space,” Dirk says, and continues, “It has a high ceiling and is decorated in a vintage style where I can work creatively for 8 to 16 hours at a time.” His forge shop is very well equipped and he’s self-sufficient. “I can do everything myself, turning, milling, drilling, welding, sheet metal processing, plastic processing and much more,” he says, and adds, “Simply everything your heart desires.”

The extraordinary White Phantom as seen at the Petersen Museum by over 300,000 people. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
Another pivotal point for Dirk occurred in 2018. That’s when The Vintagent’s very own Paul d’Orleans connected him with Robert ‘Bobby’ Haas at The Petersen Automotive Museum’s Custom Revolution. As guest curator of the Custom Revolution exhibit, Paul included Dirk’s ethereally named White Phantom. This 800cc turbocharged BMW’s airheads protrude from exquisitely crafted white body panels, and the stunning machine became famous around the world thanks to coverage on sites such as PipeBurn, CafeRacers and BikeShed. And, of course, physically at the Custom Revolution. So impressed with the White Phantom and Dirk was Bobby that he purchased both it and its follow-up, the Black Phantom. Then, Bobby commissioned Dirk to create the Good Ghost, and the trilogy of BMWs was displayed at his Dallas, Texas-based Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery. It led to a partnership, one where Haas was not only a patron, but a friend.

Dirk Oehlerking with his Black Phantom, before it was shipped to the Haas Museum. [Ben Ott/Kingsont Custom]
“Shortly before his death, Bobby ordered the fourth work of art from me,” Dirk says. “It was to be called Essenza.” Just two days before Bobby suddenly died on September 28, 2021, Dirk sent his renderings of Essenza to his friend. Dirk continues, “Three minutes later Bobby reacted to it; he was thrilled with the final design and was very happy that it would now be a quadrilogy. When Bobby died on the Tuesday, I couldn’t work for a few weeks, I was in shock and heartbroken. Weeks after, I wrote to (Haas’s partner) Stacey Mayfield that I couldn’t continue building the Essenza, it had to be a new name, and so I came up with Homage as it was now a tribute to Bobby Haas. As my most emotional project, the Homage is the longest BMW in the world at 3.74 meters, Art Deco style, like the others.” Dirk pauses, and adds, “I am immensely grateful to Bobby because he got me to where I am now. A short time after his funeral, I received a letter from his trust fund manager. Bobby left me the three motorcycles. That says everything about the friendship I had with Robert ‘Bobby’ Haas.”

Dirk Oehlerking on his first test ride after completing the Good Ghost, a commission by Bobby Haas. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
Dirk was born in Hanover, Germany in 1963 and grew up in the countryside, about 30 kilometres north of the city. After building his chopper bicycle, two years later Dirk’s father taught him to drive not only a car, but heavy equipment including a wheel loader, excavator and truck. “This was most wonderful to experience this with my father,” he says. At 10 years old, Dirk was given a 1963 NSU Quickly moped, which he rode everywhere. Where he really wanted to be riding, though, was on a motocross track. “My thoughts became more and more intense about becoming a motorcycle racer,” Dirk explains. “I dreamed every night of being on the podium as the winner and enjoying the applause and celebration from the others. I started saving up for a used motocross motorcycle. I worked in agriculture during the holidays and took any job where I could top up my pocket money and bought a Honda SS50 four-stroke motocross bike for $250. I was able to drive from my parents’ house straight across the fields and forests to a sand pit where up to 60 motocross riders and buggies were riding on the weekends.”

Kingston Custom’s Good Ghost after painting: the details are top rate, and reward scrutiny. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
But the Honda was unreliable and “always broken,” Dirk says. Taking pity on the young enthusiast, a successful motocross racer who trained at the sand pit took Dirk under his wing. “He had seen how bad the motorcycle was and offered to help. I rode on my bicycle 18 kilometres to him with the removed engine and we repaired it, without him taking a cent.” After that, Dirk visited the workshop daily, immersing himself in the theory of motorcycle repair – eventually getting a job there to save for a new motocross machine, one he could race competitively. Dirk’s aggressive spirit took a great leap forward when he was offered a unique opportunity to race. He tells the story, “On a Sunday everyone goes to a motocross race, I just rode along without a motorcycle — just as a spectator – and my parents didn’t know about it.

The Good Ghost’s tail section is worthy of an Art Deco luxury automobile, with all the lines blending seamlessly. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
At the races, someone from Clice quit during the race and the motorcycle was standing there on the trailer. Someone asked me if I wanted to ride it. Of course, I just didn’t have any motocross clothing! Very quickly I had a helmet, gloves and a kidney belt. I needed boots in my size but there weren’t any, so I drove my first motorcross race with my rubber boots, that proved how good I was; I raced for my life and won this race when I was 12 years old, on a borrowed machine in rubber boots. When I came home in the evening my parents asked me where I had been all day. I told them that I went to a motocross race and won. They were very proud of me, but wanted to know who I went there with, which is also a legitimate question. So, my motocross friend had to introduce himself to my parents.”

Details from the Black Phantom; a tool panel cleverly hidden behind the number plate. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
From that point on, Dirk was a motocross fiend and by the time he was 15, had saved enough money to buy a new Suzuki RM125 for $2,200. “At the time, all of my childhood friends had a girl and a moped, I just had the Suzuki,” he says. And for Dirk, there was no time for a girlfriend. He was busy, eventually winning over 230 trophies and in 1985 he took part in the Enduro World Championship in Spain. “I was two times national motocross and enduro champion,” he states. While racing motocross, he prepared his own machine, and says everything about the bike had to be perfect. With that attention to detail, he learned how to shape sheet metal and took a job in the mid-1980s building custom Mercedes Benzes at the Styling Garage (SGS) in Hamburg. SGS was noted for its gullwing door conversions of M-B 500SECs. Dirk went on to own and operate his Yamaha dealership in Bochum for 12 years. While running that business, he managed his own motocross team and enjoyed helping aspiring racers to take the podium, as had been done for him. By 2010, he’d attended the Custombike Show and, “It was clear to me that this was my new motorcycle world, and it was then that I founded the brand Kingston Custom, which is derived from my name Oehlerking.”

A feature of the Kingston Custom Phantoms and Ghost is access to the motor from a hinged top panel that houses the instruments. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
Dirk spent the first three years of Kingston Custom building Japanese machines. But, in 2013 he purchased a BMW R75/6 and proceeded to alter it with his signature style. When featured on BIKE EXIF in 2013, editor Chris Hunter said the BMW was “surprisingly radical,” and continued, “Inspiration started with the tank, which comes from a 50 cc Yamaha ‘Mokick’ and adds an unusually svelte touch for a vintage BMW. The original front fender has been swapped to the rear.” Forks were shortened, the rear of the frame sprung with Sachs Hydro Cross motocross shocks and the boxer engine bead blasted and completely rebuilt. It was spare, but stunningly detailed. Chris concluded, “It’s one of the more unusual customs we’ve seen lately, with an original style and high-quality fabrication.” Dirk adds, “The BMW Bobber in Kingston Style was the breakthrough at the time in 2013, it was so different from all other BMW bobbers and was the most posted BMW motorcycle in the world at the time – there was no newspaper or online portal that didn’t show it.” Following up the R75/6, Dirk customized an R100/7 as a café racer and this one, too, caught some attention, taking third place in the Café Racer Class in 2014 at the AMD Championship of Custom Bike Building. Although he has worked with Yamaha, building a café-bobber XVS950; Honda, and a CBR 600 street tracker and a project with Triumph, Dirk feels most aligned with BMW. He says, “BMW is my brand with which I have a good connection and in which I can see myself, the last German motorcycle manufacturer.”

The Black and White Phantoms in the studio, looking like production motorcycles from a very high end manufacturer. [Ben Ott/Kingston Custom]
As a result, Dirk has worked with BMW and constructed one-off models based on the R 18, including the Spirit of Passion. Fully customized with a rear wheel cover and sheet metal ‘fairing’ with design elements echoing the distinctive split radiator grille of a 1930s BMW roadster, the fork and frame of the machine have been relatively untouched. Other R 18-based machines are The Crown and Good Vibes, each machine completely different in style and execution. There’s no end in sight for his custom ideas, which he pursues passionately and devoutly, often getting up in the night waking from a dream to sketch his ideas. “I see lots of possibilities for my motorcycle works of art in the future, there will always be special people with some unique design wishes,” he says, and concludes, “I have a continuous stream of ideas that I am planning to implement.”

[Stay tuned for a special Gallery feature on each of the three Kingston Custom motorcycles shown here.  These unique pieces of rolling sculpture are for sale, with a percentage of the proceeds benefitting the Motor/Cycle Arts Foundation, a 501c3.  Contact Paul d’Orléans for details.]



Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on Instagram, and explore all his articles for The Vintagent here.


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