Sunday, 2 January 2011


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.

Can this really be James Dean on a CZ?
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.

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.
Sporting success has always been important to the Czech manufacturers and the ISDT (International Six Days Trial) models and motorcrossers produced throughout the 1960s and 70s were pure "form and function" in their design and very successful they were too. CZ had taken the Silver Vase in the 1947 ISDT and during the next 15 years they had added 7 Gold Medals to their trophy cabinet. JAWA-CZ machines also came 1st in the 500cc World MX championships in 1966, 1967 and 1968 and the legendary Joel Robert won his first World title on a Czech machine too. JAWA-CZ machines were also at the forefront of road racing in the 60s, the most famous example being the highly advanced 350cc R67 ridden by Bill Ivy.

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
 The modern day JAWA speedway engine has recently had another name change and is now  known as JRM (Jawa Racing Motorcycles) to differentiate it from the JAWA roadsters.


  1. Interesting! Hope you had a good Xmas & New Year. I used to love it up in the Lakes/West Cumbria at Xmas years ago. Some decent Hartleys, a few seasonal lock-ins and late tasting. Nice! I've just about survived the annual test of endurance it has become here.

    Re: the above: I've got a workshop manual for the 500 DT-890 (with Guy Allott and Taffy Owen's phone nos. inscribed on the first page.

    It is written in Czech/Polish (I'm not sure and I've never bothered finding out which) with translations in Russian, English and German. It's fascinating and for such an apparently simple machine (to a mechanical dunce like me at any rate) seems incredibly complex:
    eg "Cover a prat (sic) of speedway at full throttle openin (sic). Then close throttle rapidly and stop engine. (No idling run is allowed for this purpose)Check suitability of jet assembled ..." and so it goes on. In fact, it goes along way to explaining the frequent looks of incomprehension on the faces of riders of the DT 890 during the '70s as they tried to figure out why their big ends had gone, or motors siezed - workhop manual in one hand, phone in the other (on a long cable as it was the '70s!) as they call Allott or Owen for help ...


    (PS am in the process of fighting a battle with some unruly Wordpress frames, but hope to have reciprocal links to yourself and KTL up and running soon)

    PPS: Links to some other stuff on 'Sitting...' which is motor, or West Cumbria-related that you may find interesting: forgive me if you have already seen them. Andy

    Heres a tall tale
    wiz and the doyly carte
    learning to drive
    pull the udder one three ghost stories
    a rough crossing without a guide

  2. Thanks for the comments Andy - I have read quite a few of your blogposts now and I must say I can recognise some of the charachters you describe. I live not far from Scilly Banks and one of my best friends lives in that very row of houses where the front room pub used to be. Like your father, I too love the fells and still meet folk who've never been to the Lakes or even had a walk up Dent!!

    I don't drink at all these days, but in the past I too have spent a few "merry" Xmas eve's in the 3 Tuns in Whitehaven in the company of a few pints of Hartleys. Happy Days.

  3. Hello,

    I have a jawa 250 from 1958, it's really commuter bike, but one of the best two stroke construction. The engine is really nice, and still 100% functionable.

    here is:

  4. That's a great looking bike and I'm glad to see that it's still being ridden after more than 50 years. Keep the wheels turning Baowah.

  5. I keep it, it's a heritage from my grandpa. as fourth bike, is ideal.

  6. i have a 1947 CZ just like the one in the james dean picture. do you know where i can find a manual or parts for this? im trying to rebuild it now...

    thanks for any help!


  7. What is a 1949 cz 125 unrestored not running bike worth?


About Me

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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.