I have a real soft spot for most Eastern European motorcycles, even if they do have a reputation for being a bit like grey porridge; you know what I mean, stodgy, bland and even ugly in some peoples eyes. This may be the case when it comes to the simple commuter machines that have always been designed to be affordable and utilitarian, but when it comes to competition machines, the Czech machines have a record to be proud of.
The Ceska Zbrojovka factory in Strakonice began production of armaments in 1918 diversifying into bicycle production in 1930. It wasn't long before engines were added to these bicycles, progressing to complete motorcycle production within a couple of years. The CZ98 of 1934 was the first machine to go into mass production and continued to be produced for many years. Over the next 5 years 125cc, 250cc and 50cc machines were produced and 1938 saw the first appearance of CZ sidecars.
The German army took control of the factory during WW2 and no motorcycles were produced at all, but production did resume in 1946 with the CZ125 2-stroke twin. In 1949, CZ was brought under the control of the CSAZ (Czech Auto Industry) which brought the Czech motorcycle industry together under one banner.
|Can this really be James Dean on a CZ?|
Included in this new organisation was JAWA, a company formed by Frantisek Janecek in 1928 to produce a motorcycle based on the German Wanderer machine. The name JAWA is taken from the first two letters of JAnacek and WAnderer. The machine proved to be overly expensive though and Janecek had to re-evaluate his business and design a new, more cost effective machine. Ironically, it was Englishman George.W.Patchett who set him on the path to success, designing a 175cc machine that used a British Villiers engine and an Albion 3-speed gearbox. This was quickly followed by a 250cc version and the JAWA quickly became the most popular motorcycle on the Czecoslovakian roads.
|George Patchett on a JAWA at the 1932 Isle of Man TT|
Taking the Villiers engine as a model, JAWA began production of their own 175cc 2-stroke engine in 1932 and by the late 1940s, JAWA were producing their own 175cc and 250cc 2-strokes and also a range of 175cc, 250cc and 350cc 4-stroke models. In 1946, JAWA designed an advanced 250cc 2-stroke engine that was to become the basis of JAWA motorcycles for many years to come. When CZ and JAWA were joined together in 1949, both factories were able to utilise each others best design features, including this engine design and CZs proven forks, suspension and brakes. The iconic JAWA-CZ design was more or less set during this period and even today, many JAWA-CZ models retain some element of that classic 50s look.
|JAWA 4-cylinder 350cc racing machine|
The third manufacturer to become part of CSAZ in 1949 was the ESO factory from Divisov. ESO were well known in Czechoslovakia at the time for their 250cc, 350cc and 500cc 4-stroke motocross and speedway machines. The 500cc ESO DT5 speedway engine was quickly gaining a reputation outside of Czechoslovakia too, especially in the hands of riders like the legendary Barry Briggs. In spite of its sporting success, the ESO name was not internationally recognised, so in July 1966, CSAZ re-branded the ESO DT5 as the JAWA type 680 and a legend was born. The JAWA has become synonymous with success in speedway at all levels and has won numerous World Championships in speedway, longtrack and ice speedway.
|1972 JAWA Speedway Racer|
|1980 JAWA Ice Speedway racer|