If you has already seen the page about the Ural, and casually you see a Russian sidecar with boxer engine, it's easy to think that it's, effectively, an Ural sidecar. You have the 50% of possibilities to choose the right answer, thinking that it's an Ural. But you has also the 50% of possibilities to make a mistake: in this case, the sidecar you have seen, is not an Ural, but a Dnepr. It's very easy to confuse Ural and Dnepr, but, although the technical scheme is the same, these are two bikes enough different.


The beginnings

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The history of the Dnepr ("official" name KMZ, Kiev Motorzykly Zavod) starts up in the 1946, but not with a "flat twin". The first bike produced was a little two-stroke 98 cc, the "K1-B", or "Kievlyanin" (two pics up). This bike was the Russian version of the Wanderer "98" (a German bike similar to a Sachs), but it was not a simple copy: the original drawings and tools of the Wanderer factory were taken by the Russians as compensation for war damages, therefore the "Kievlyanin" is not "like" the Wanderer, but is the German bike builted in Russia. Anyway, it was a very simple bike: 2 hp, 50 km/h, two-speed gearbox, bicycle pedals, no rear suspension. The "Kievlyanin" was produced until the 1951. 

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Since the 1951, the KMZ-Dnepr begins the production of the "M-72", totally similar (differently from the following models) to the Ural model that has the same name: flat-twin, 750 cc, side valves, 22 hp. The evolutions of this model were produced in Russia until the years '70's, but, still today, the Ural/Dnepr 750 with side valves are produced in China! Up, an old "M-72", and a "modern" Chinese clone (the "Yangtse 750 Luxe"), painted in military green. The Changjiang has still the coachwork realized with the hammer (due to the lack of machine-tools), and the spark-plug cables covered in cotton!! We are now in the third millennium...it seems incredible, but there is some factory that produces side-valves engines!  

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The Dnepr, during the time, produced only sidecar, not more "solo" bikes (the production of motorcycles without sidecar was resumed only since the early '90s). Above, in the first pic, we can see a K-750 (courtesy of Michael Weaver), always with side-valves engine. As the Ural, the dimensions of the factory, during the '60s and '70s, became outstanding (second pic), with 14 assembly lines for only 2 models produced! Also an own Museum (third pic) was realized, as typical feature of all the Soviet factories. In the 1971, the new generation with over-head valves (Dnepr "MT-9", fourth pic) was launched; it was the base of the models currently produced.


Unknown prototypes

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Between the '70s and '80s, several prototypes of Dnepr powered by Wankel engines were realized! These bikes, never entered in production, were enginereed by the Vniimotoprom (Technical Institute for the Motorcycle Industry Research), in the city of Serpuchov, 70 km from Moscow. In the three pics up, one of the early prototypes (1974): the "RD-501B", with a single-rotor engine, 495 cc, the air cooling system with fan, and a max power of 38 hp/6300 rpm. 

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Above, instead, three exemplars of the '80s: the "RD-515" (first pic), "RD-517" (second, third and fourth pics), and "Rotor V-500" (fifth pic), equipped with the same engine of the first prototype, but liquid cooled, with a power close to 50 hp, and a very strong torque at the mid-revolutions. The look is more modern, and there is some experimental solution for the massive production, as the alloy-cast wheels, never produced because this type of wheel was easy to break, because of the poor quality of the Russian aluminium and the conditions of the roads. The "Rotor" has a look similar to some Japanese realization of the period...but, like the previous prototypes, it has still the same frame and 4-speed gearbox of the old Dnepr, and even the drum front brake! This range of bikes shown the interest of the Soviet industry for the Wankel engine (realized also by the Lada - vedi pagina), although this work never improved the modernization of the normal production.

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In the five pics above, instead, a very special Dnepr: a racing sidecar for the speed records, with four-cylinders engine! It was realized in the 1971-73, in two evolutions, 750 and 1000 cc. (with 75 and 100 hp, very good power for that period), with Bing or Dell'Orto carburettors: max speed 200 km/h, weight near 220 kg. A power unit good also for a two-wheel motorcycle...anyway, only 6 exemplars of this sidecar were builted. 

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The motocross had an outstanding success in URSS (the bikes were mainly the Czech CZ), and the Dnepr, producing sidecars, obviously partecipated to the competitions of...sidecarcross! The sidecars in the two pics above were realized in the late '70s; they were equipped with an experimental 750 cc. long-stroke engine, racing carburettors and other modifies. Subsequently, one exemplar was imported in the United Kingdom and partially modified, partecipating to the local competitions and obtaining also several successes against the vehicles builted in Europe. Recently, it has been restored (although now it's quite different, with several modifications); the complete history is on the page http://www.dnepr.at/d/ga_billn.htm.

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Moreover, the Dnepr realized also a "maxi-enduro", in BMW R100 GS and Cagiva Elefant style! In the four pics above, the Dnepr "1000 Enduro Dinamit" (that stands for "dynamite", although the not very "explosive" look...), probably realized in the early '90s. The engine was a new 1000 cc., with 5-speed gearbox, Bing carburettors and electric starter, with a power of 70 hp, very good for the maxi-enduro class of that period. That engine was intended also to be mounted on a new range of Dnepr 1000 cc. models. On the "Dinamit", there were also a front disk brake (drum on the rear) and even a monoshock suspension! Also this bike remained a prototype: a shame for the power unit, but not for the coachwork...


Cars with Dnepr engine

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Moreover, on the base of the "M-72" engine, the Dnepr realized also some little truck/pickup, called "Kiev". In the four pics above, the "KMZ-1" (1959), "KMZ-3" (1960), "KMZ-4" (1961) and "KMZ-5" (1962). Anyway, all these models remained as prototypes, and the Dnepr continued to produce only motorcycles.

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Another example of car equipped with the side-valves engine of the "M-72" motorcycle, was the prototype in the three pics above, called "KADI-2". It was realized in the 1961, although not directly by the Dnepr factory; the manufacturer was the "KADI" Research Institute, in the city of Kharkov (Ukraine). It had an interesting feauture: it was the first Soviet car with plastic coachwork. In the first pic above, the car is shown in a quite excessive parade, typically Soviet; the styling was brutally copied from American cars as Cadillac and others, although an engine of 750 cc! The car, although the appearances, had quite small dimensions; today, not in original conditions (third pic), it seems almost a funny scale model!


The differences between Ural and Dnepr; current models

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  As already said, in the 1971, with the new overhead-valves engines, the production of the current generation of Dnepr was started. The model currently produced since the 1985 ("MT-11", in the second pic above; this bike is available also in a 2WD version, called "MT-16") is not very different from the "MT-9" of the 1971, except for an ugly windshield (ugly, but good for the threatening Russian weather...). Also the current Dnepr seems similar to the Ural, but the engine is totally different, with alloy heads and cylinders (in the Ural 650 engine, these parts are in pig-iron, although the new Ural 750 engine is realized now in aluminium); the oil pump is located in the front cover of the engine (in the Ural, it's located in the crankcase, driven by the camshaft). But the most important difference is the gearbox, semi-automatic in the Dnepr: the change of speed is possible without the clutch lever (driven automatically by the gearshift pedal). In the third pic above, the "Solo" version (1992), and, in the fourth and fifth pic, a recent exemplar for the Western markets, improved in the construction and in the look. 

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Theorically, the solutions of the Dnepr engine seems better than the Ural, but somebody says that the Ural engine has a better reliability (the Dnepr semiautomatic gearbox is not perfect). Anyway, the Kiev's factory is working to improve the production. Above (first, second and third pics), the other models currently produced by the Dnepr in addiction to the traditional sidecars: the "Kozak" (that has, from the "chopper" style, only the handlebar!), another version of the "Solo" (very ugly, the classic model was better...), and the mototrolley version. In the fourth pic, a recent image of the factory, with the new bikes carried on a lorry. 

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In the first and second pics above, instead, the "Kremlin Escort", currently produced under request, and intended for police purposes, with an engine increased to 768 cc, with 5-speed gearbox. Already during the 1978, some Dnepr 750 for the presidential Soviet escort was made, with German "Bing" carburettors, electric starter and special tyres (third pic, above); the power of the engine was of 50 hp. The last set of these bikes was released in the 1989, but in the 2001 these models are again available.  The Dnepr 750 are still in activity, used by the Vladimir Putin's escort! In the fourth and fifth pics, instead, the version of the GAI, the Russian traffic police, with the normal 650 cc. engine, 4-speed gearbox. 

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The Dnepr produces (still in limited series) even a trike version (first and second pics above), and the "Khmelv" ("hop" in Russian, third and fourth pics), a beautiful "chopper" enough extreme about the look (see the fork!), similar, about the concept, to the Ural "Volk". In the fifth pic, the "Tourist", with fairing and side bags. These three models have a slightly improved version of the old 650 engine, increased to 696 cc.(42 hp of max power, the 650 have 36 hp), and equipped with electric starter and 5-speeds gearbox; also a front-disk brake is present.  

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The bike in the two pics above, instead, called "Pointer", is a prototype realized by two young Russian designers, taken as example by the Kiev's factory for a possible production of new models.  The system of the "production under request" is very diffused in the Russian factories, for economic reasons (it's still too expensive for the Russians to realize a specific assembly line for new models...) and to experiment new solutions for the serial models.

 In short, also this brand is slowly renewing the old "popular" production, although these are still the first steps after an hard crisis: in the 2000, the motorcycle's production was stopped for the failure of the previous management, and now the factory produces only a few hundred of exemplars, very far away from the 140.000 bikes per year of the best period. I hope that the new management will be successful about this undertaking: also this old Russian "dinosaur" must be preserved from the extinction...

Some pic taken from  www.kmz.com.ua , www.dnepr.ru , www.cartinki.ru , www.autogallery.org.ru , http://www.cossackownersclub.co.uk/library.php , http://diecar.narod.ru/Ukraine/Kmz/KMZ.htm , http://perso.wanadoo.fr/rxsept/index.htm