If you ask to a person enough expert about motorcycles, what is the Jawa, that person will answer that the Jawa is a smoky Czech motorcycle with two stroke engine, very poor and outdated. It's a pity, because Jawa was the biggest Eastern motorcycle factory, with a capacity of production of 100.000 motorcycles per year (to make a comparison, today the Ducati produces approximately 40.000 motorcycles per year!), and also well-reputed in the field of the GP and Enduro competitions. Unfortunately, this Czech factory is still in a phase of crisis, since the fall of the Communist block, and, differently from the automotive brand Skoda (now part of the VW group), it never found a buyer to replace the old models and improve the production. Anyway, the history of this brand is very long, and features several beautiful bikes, the best in the Eastern production.
The beginnings and the racing bikes
The Jawa's history began in the 1929, when Frantisek Janecek, engineer and owner of a weapon factory, launched the first bike (three images, above), a 500 cc. with a German single-cylinder Wanderer engine produced under license. The bike, although interesting features (shaft transmission, OHV, etc.), unfortunately was a failure.
But, with the cheaper and smaller "175" (above, first pic), the success was better, and the Jawa became, during these years, one of the greatest Czech factories. The bike, produced until the 1946, was equipped with a English Villiers engine. Also the engineer was British, George-William Patchett, previously employed in the Brough Superior, important brand of luxury-bikes. Also a beautiful 350 SOHC (second pic) was launched: the head-camshaft timing was, during these years, still a feature of a very little number of bikes, and the Jawa shows that the Czechoslovakia was one of the places where the technology was very advanced, before the Communism (differently from the other Eastern countries). Another model that obtained a great success in Czechoslovakia, was the "Robot" of the 1937 (third pic; "robota" stands for "work" in Czech), very advanced with the gearbox in block with the engine (no primary chain). During that period, also the first speedway bike was realized (1935), with 500 SOHC engine (fourth pic above).
In the 1946, after the war, a new model was launched by Jawa (in the meanwhile, the factory was nationalized): the 250 "Pérak" single-cylinder (first and second pics above). The "Pérak" was a very rational and modern bike for its period: it had, for example, the gearbox in block with the crankcase, when the most part of the motorcycles, also of bigger displacement, had still the separate gearbox. This model was developed already during the war, but it was hidden by the Czech engineers team, that continued the project during the Nazist occupation without the approvation of the Germans! In the third pic, an evolution of this bike, the "Kyvacka 250" of the 1954 ("kyvacka" stands for "springer" in Czech, referred to the new rear swingarm suspension), with a new frame and a power increased to 12 hp. In the 1952, the Jawa launched also the beautiful 500 twin four-stroke, with single over-head camshaft, driven by shaft and conic gears (26 hp, 135 km/h), very modern and elegant for that period. It was derived from the Jawa racing models of that period: therefore, a sort of "racing-replica"!
After the "Pérak", in the 1948, it was launched also the ancestress of the 350 cc. twin-cylinder two-strokes produced today: the "Type 12" 350 (first pic above), derived from an analogous model of another Czechoslovakian factory, the Ogar, nationalized and joined with Jawa. In the second and third pic, a following version, the "Kyvacka 350" (same name of the 250 single-cylinder model), also shown in a very interesting version with automatic gearbox (third pic). In the fourth pic, instead, the version with the beautiful Velorex sidecar (the exemplar is of the 1968, although the years-'50s look): paradoxically, it is more beautiful and refined in comparison with the Jawa sidecar of the following years!
About the beautiful GP bikes, here you can see some model realized by Jawa for the competitions. After the debut in the years '30s (with a 500 cc. equipped with compressor), the Czechoslovakian factory realized several configurations of engine (two or four strokes, liquid or air cooled, etc.). In the first pic, the 500 single-head camshaft of the 1959, that originated the serial 500 OHC: it had 40 hp for 190 km/h. In the second, third and fourth pics, instead, a version of the early '50s, with DOHC timing, always driven by shaft and conic gears, 45 hp, 200 km/h, and the typical 16-inches wheels, with a very big front drum brake.
In the first and second pics above, the following Z-15 500 of the 1955; equipped with two Amal carburettors and 4-speeds gearbox, it had 55 hp for 230 km/h (with the total fairing in the second pic). In the third pic, a 250 cc. version of the 1959, 35 hp, 190 km/h. In the 1961, with the 350 cc. version, Frantisek Stastny e Gustav Havel took the second and third places in the World GP Championship: outstanding results, considering that the first place was taken by the MV Agusta of Gary Hocking! During the years '60s, it was adopted a new engine, always double over-head camshafts driven by shaft and conic gears, but with the shaft placed between the cylinders, not more on the right side. These bikes conquered other placements during the years, but the concurrence, in the meanwhile, became strenghtened. The series of the racing twin-cylinders four-strokes bikes continued till the end of the years '60s: in the fourth and fifth pics, the last 350 of the 1968, with 6-speeds gearbox, 49 hp, 210 km/h.
Subsequently, the Jawa developed, for the competitions, new and more powerful two-strokes engines, with one, two and four cylinders. In the first, second and third pics, the 350 GP single-cylinder of the late '60s: the engine, derived from the Jawa enduro bikes, but modified with the liquid-cooling system, had a very strong torque...and a sad attitude of "killer": two Czech drivers, Boceck e Malina, were dead because of the seizing of the piston in full speed. This model was an "official" bike, but it was usually given to "minor" pilots, anyway it was quite competitive (although the dangerous tendence to the seizing), because it had 50 hp on a total weight of only 89 kg! In the 1966, it was realized also a little and refined 125 GP bike, the "Typ 670" (fourth pic), with horizontal V2 engine, with a power of 27 hp/14.000 rpm: the weight was 83 kg.
Unfortunately, also the powerful and beautiful "Typ-673" four cylinders (four pics above) -always two strokes, 80 hp, 270 km/h in the last version of the 1971!- was a "killer bike": the great English rider Bill Ivy lost his life because of the same cause (the seizing of a piston, that caused the blocking of the bike). Unfortunately, the quality of the steel used for the engine was very poor, and caused these tragic events. This was a shame, because the "Typ-673" was the highest Jawa's expression for the GP competitions, with an advanced liquid-cooled V4 engine equipped with rotating valves (technology used also by the MZ). After these accidents, the Western drivers left the Czechoslovakian team, although the bikes were competitive and fast.
Above (first and second pics), the little "250 Junior", for the private racers, used especially in the Czeckoslovakia and other Eastern countries. It was equipped with an engine directly derived from the enduro models (monocylinder, two-stroke, air cooled), and it had a strange frame in stamped steel sheet (also several Jawa enduro bikes were equipped with frames with a similar shape). In the third pic, instead, the last Jawa's GP bike: the 250 cc. of the 1976, 60 hp, 240 km/h. After the realization of this bike, the Jawa left the GP competitions, dominated by the Japanese factories.
The enduro, speedway and trial motorcycles
Since the '60s, the Jawa motorcycles runs also in the Enduro competitions, dominating the international scene especially in the '70s. Above, some example: a 250 cc of the later '50s, derived from the "Kyvacka 250"; also a four-strokes version with single overhead camshaft was realized, but it remained as prototype. In the fourth pic, instead, the little "Typ 655/01" 125 cc of the 1967, with a power of 13 hp.
But the most famous Jawa enduro bikes, were the models of the years '70s, very essential and strong bikes, not very light, but equipped with simple and powerful engines. With Czech champions as Masita, Mzarek e Cespiva, these bikes won a great number of ISDT/ISDE Enduro championship (14 in total). Handmade in a very limited number of exemplars, they were reserved to the national teams; however, the official models of the previous year were usually produced in a small series for the private racers, and sold also in other countries (also in the USA). The production of off-road Jawa models was limited to approximately 2.000 exemplars in "limited series" for the privates, and 500 exemplars for the official teams, in 35 years of activity. In the first and second pics above, one 400 and one 250 of the early '70s, with a power of 35 hp for the 250 and almost 40 hp for the 400. The Czech factory realized also some version with a strange "banana" frame, already seen on the road-racing models (third and fourth pics). In the fifth pic, a 500 cc. version of the 1978.
During the '80s, instead, the Jawa's off-road machines began to be less competitive, because of the strong concurrence from the Western Europe and from the Japan. In the first pic above, the "Typ 657/02" 125 of the 1984, equipped with a liquid-cooled engine with rotating-disk induction (power: 27 hp), Marzocchi fork and Bilstein shock-absorber. Same features for the "Typ 652/5" (second pic), still equipped with the old air-cooled engine. During the late '80s, a new 250 cc. liquid-cooled engine was introduced, with reed valve induction and power valve on the exhaust; in the third pic, the "Typ 681" del 1987, equipped with that engine. In the fourth pic, one of the last versions, with the same engine, but increased to 360 cc (46 hp) and upside-down fork: it was one of the last official bikes of the Czech factory.
In the first, second and third pics above, some exemplars of 250 cc. realized during the end of the '80s in small series for the private racers: it's easy to note that they were absolutely outdated, with the old air-cooled engine of the years '70s and/or the front drum brake! In the fourth pic, instead, the Jawa 560 with Rotax four-stroke engine (SOHC, four valves); this bike was realized in only 6 exemplars, and it was the last Jawa that won an Enduro Championship, in the 1986, with the driver J. Chovancik. In the 1990, the year of the fall of the Communism, the Jawa efforts in the off-road competitions were definitely stopped, together with the great tradition of the Czech factory in this field.
Another traditional sport-activity of the Jawa was the speedway, a speciality usually dominated by the Eastern drivers (especially Russians), and where the only rivals of the Czech factory were the bikes with engines produced by GM (Italy) and Weslake (United Kingdom). In the first pic above, the Jawa "DT 500" of the 1966, with a single-cylinder 500 cc, with camshaft in the crankcase, two valves, 51 hp, of ESO derivation (the ESO was another Czechoslovakian factory). In the second pic, instead, the "Typ 894" of the 1976, equipped with a new and advanced DOHC four-valves engine, always 500 cc, with almost 60 hp. This engine equipped also the bike in the third pic, produced in the 1982, and the exemplar for the ice speedway in the fourth pic, produced in the 1984. Since the end of the '80s, this engine was replaced by a lighter single-overhead camshaft unit. It's interesting to note that these bikes (like all the bikes of the same category), were capable, thank to the extremely low weight, of accelerations from 0-100 km/h in less than 3 seconds!
The Jawa partecipated also to the Trial Championships, although with modest results: in the two pics above, an exemplar of the 1984 and another of the 1987, respectively with 240 and 260 cc. engines, derived from the old enduro versions (with a lowered power) and equipped with reed valve induction and compensation box on the exhaust duct.
The years '70s, '80s and '90s
Reprising the history of the serial production, in the 1968 the "350 Californian" (first pic above) was launched. The bike, with the classic two-stroke, twin cylinders configuration, obtained a good success also on the Western markets, as rugged, well builted and cheap bike. From this model, several following evolutions were obtained, sometime also quite original, as the strange "Bizon" (third and fourth pics), with a strange design of the tank/headlight. In the fourth and fifth pics, the "Typ 634", always 350 cc, shown also in the opening pic.
In the 1984, a very interesting bike was launched: the Jawa 500 "Typ 824" flat-twin (first, second and third pics above). The engine, born as 350 and subsequently increased to 500 cc, was newer than the BMW boxer of that period, because it was equipped with overhead camshafts; versions with four or eight valves were realized. Other interesting features, the clutch rotating in direction opposite to the crankshaft to balance the vibrations, and the carburettors placed above the cylinders (not behind them), to gain more space for the legs of the driver. Moreover, the gearbox was placed under the crankshaft, in order to reduce the longitudinal dimensions, to create a smaller frame, improving the agility of the machine. Unfortunately, this bike never entered in production, like the Jawa 250 "Typ 822" in the fourth pic, single cylinder four-strokes with a modern layout, realized in the 1985. In the fifth pic, instead, the Jawa "500 R", substantially a Jawa 350 equipped with the 500 cc. Rotax single cylinder engine (SOHC, 4 valves). It entered in production, although produced not directly by Jawa, but by the English Skoda importer, in the 1986. But the 500 R was produced also directly by the Jawa, although only for special purposes (for example, to equip the escort of the Czechoslovakian President).
In the meantime, the Jawa slightly developed the old and outdated 350 twin (Jawa 350 "Twin Sport" 1986, first pic above), with a new look, but with the same technical features of the previous versions: two-stroke air-cooled, one Jikov's carburettor, 4-speed gearbox with semi-automatic clutch (driven by the pedal of the gearshift, second pic). An improved version, 420 cc, with 5-speed gearbox and two carburettors, capable of better performances, remained to the prototype stage. The sales of the 350 continued in all the world (especially in the Soviet Union), and many bikes have the sidecar, available in two versions: open (third pic) or closed, always produced by Velorex. Also the front disk brake was added. The last version of the 350 is the "Style" of the 1991 (fourth and fifth pics; the fifth pic shows the version with the Velorex "closed" sidecar, with plexiglass roof).
These, instead, are images of Jawa mopeds, not very known, especially on the Western markets. In the first pic above, the Jawa "Mocick", 50 cc., air cooled, bicycle's pedals, one-speed or 2-automatic speeds gearbox. It was imported in Italy by Cagiva in the early '90s, but it was a "flop" (obviously...). After the Jawa's crisis, it was sold with the "Babetta" brand (in the second pic, the Babetta "Sportline", with a ridicolous fuel tank and a...dangerous fuel tube). In the third pic, instead, the Babetta "Star", a foldable moped.
In the 1991, the Soviet empire was close to the definitive end. The Jawa factory was ready for the usual delivery of 100.000 motorcycles destined to the USSR market. But the new situation caused the fall of value of the Russian money; therefore, the Jawa wanted to be paid in dollars. The refusal of the Russian importer caused the crisis of the Czech brand, with thousands of bikes unsold, stored in the factory, exposed to the weather and the rust. Moreover, it was impossible to search another market to sell these bikes, obviously too outdated for the Western markets, but also uncompetitive, unfortunately, in countries as the India, because the Jawa previously sold the rights for the production, and the market was already occuped by the Jawa's Indian and Chinese production under license!
The Czech factory searched an exit from the crisis, and left the "Soviet" system of the only-and-one model, producing the old 350 model in an incredible variety of versionS: above, the "Classic" naked, the "Chopper", the "Tramp" enduro, the "Sport" (even equipped with racing exhausts and fairing: it seems almost like a Yamaha RD 350, another model with a 350 cc. two-strokes twin-cylinders, but with very different performances...), and even a trike version!
In the meantime, the Jawa tried to launch new bikes, with a new two-stroke engine (250 cc, liquid cooled, single-cylinder, anti-vibration shaft) derived from the Enduro competition bikes of the late '80s. In order to produce these bikes, an agreement with Cagiva was signed (see also the CZ page). Unfortunately, the failure of the agreement caused the end of the project. Above, some model based on the 250 cc. engine: in the first and second pics, the early road prototypes of the 1991; in the third pic, the "300 Enduro" (with a 277 cc. engine); in the fourth pic, the "Tempo" with half fairing, and, in the fifth pic, the naked "Super Master". Only the "Super Master" and the "Tempo" were effectively produced, in a very little number of exemplars.
With the 250 cc. liquid cooled engine (slightly increased to 277 cc.), it was realized also the interesting prototype in the four pics above, called Jawa "Athena". It was characterized by some interesting feature, as the air-intake system and the catalytic converter for the engine, the digital dashboard and the aerodynamic integral fairing.
Also a new four-stroke monocylinder engine (SOHC 4V, air or liquid cooled, in the three pics above) was planned, but it remained as prototype. In the mid-90s, the great and old Jawa plant, only full of debts, was sold to a company specialized in hydraulic installations, for a ridicolous price, nearly 35.000 dollars (the price of a BMW car!!!!!!). An humiliating end for the ex-pride of the Communist regime.
The Chinese and Indian versions - Recent models
It's very strange, but the Indian and Chinese production of Jawas (differently from the Czech production) is still today in activity. In India, the Jawa are produced with the "Yezdi" brand; especially the 350-twin ('70s version) was very diffused; now, only the old 250 single-cylinder is still produced (second pic). In the third and fourth pics, instead, two Chinese versions: the "Xing-fu 250 A" and the "Type 353" (the "Type 353" is exactly like the Czech '50s models); both are based on the Jawa 250 single-cylinder (the "Kyvacka" and the following versions).
And the Czech production? Like the Czechoslovakian nation, also the Jawa was divided in two parts! The two companies, "Jawa Divisov" and "Jawa Moto", are totally indipendent, although the origin is the same. The "Jawa Moto" produces the outdated 350 twin (without changes!), and some new (but very poor) model. A "new" version of the 350 has even still the front drum brake! After the closing of the old factory, the production was placed in the plants of the "Moto Union", another little Czech motorcycle company. In the second pic, a recent "scrambler" evolution of the 350 (1998), called "Scot Sabater". In the third and fourth pics, instead, the "Basic" and "Californian" models (2001). The "Californian" is inspired to the model of the late '60s with the same name...but it's too late, especially with this outdated technical layout!
Above, other models of the "Jawa Moto", not very actrattive...Above, the "Chopper 125" and "Travel 125" (first and second pics) with Honda 4T engine (13 hp), fitted in the 350's frame. In the third and fourth pics, the "Dandy" and its simpler version, the "Sport", equipped with the same Honda 125 engine (but also with a Minarelli 50 cc). In the fifth pic, instead, the "Robby", powered by an Honda 50 cc. four-strokes engine (and also with a two-strokes engine, always 50 cc, produced by the slovenian Tomos): cheap and poor until the extreme limit... Perhaps, the only decent model is the "Dandy" (although not very wonderful...): the others are not at the past level of Jawa (especially the "Robby" is simply threatening)!
However, the "Jawa Moto" is trying to propose something of new: in the first, second, third and fourth pics above, the new Jawa 650 Cruiser, launched at the Prague Motorcycle Show 2003, and equipped with a Rotax single-cylinder DOHC engine (the same of the BMW "F650"). Many components (the brakes and the forks, for example) are taken from the old Jawa models, but the bike it's quite pleasant, especially the red version. Anyway, it's still a prototype; the production is planned for the 2004. In the fifth and sixth pics, instead, a little GP bike for the Czech Junior championship, realized in collaboration with the Sieber Racing team; equipped with a Minarelli engine, 50 or 70 cc. (respectively with 9,5 and 13,5 hp), it has an aluminium frame with a weight of only 4,9 kg! The total weight of the bike is 60 kg.
The "Jawa Divisov", instead, borns from the ex-racing departement, placed in the city of Divisov, and it produces the speedway bikes, obtaining still today several success in the competitions, although the production is limited. Above, two models with different layouts (the bike in the third pic is for the speedway on ice), availables with different engines: DOHC with four valves (fourth pic) or SOHC with two valves (fifth pic).
The "Jawa Divisov" has realized (in collaboration with the Italian "Ber Racing" company) also the advanced Enduro/Cross engine in the first pic above: a single-cylinder 650 cc, double head camshaft, four valves, liquid cooled, with a very good power (64 hp) and a low weight, only 28 kg. This engine is still a prototype, but it was mounted also on a bike for the "Supermono" competitions, the category for the four-strokes single-cylinder racing motorcycles, installed in a frame derived from the Cagiva "Mito". This bike (second, third and fourth pics above) has a very good power, 75 hp: it could be very good also for a serial road bike!
Therefore, there is some hope to see again the Jawa among the greatest brands of the motorcycle scene, after the crisis of the years '90s. The new engines and the speedway motorcycles are a little but good basis to renew its image, surely better than the Honda-powered motorcycles, based on very cheap and old frames and components. I hope that the Jawa will not remain as the "Cinderella of the bikes", reprising a great historical tradition!
Some pic taken from Danish Jawa Club , Jawamania, www.pierre-gabriele.com , Mario_Classic_Bikes , Motociclismo, http://home.wanadoo.nl/g.knol/Plaatjes.html