Historic Motorcycle Brands



JAWA is a motorcycle and moped manufacturer founded in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1929, by František Janeček, who bought the motorcycle division of German bike and car maker, Wanderer. The name JAWA (pronunciation: [java]) was established by combining the first letters of Janeček and Wanderer.


1932 JAWA 175


František Janeček started the company after working in the armament industry. At the onset of the Great Depression he was looking for a motorcycle company to buy.

Germany was suffering the double-whammy of the Depression, plus the after- effect of the Versailles Treaty that sent inflation skyrocketing. Initially, he was interested in buying an engine design and Janeček investigated the Austrian double-piston, two-stroke Puch motor, the Schliha Berlin two-stroke and the new Wanderer 500cc engine. 

Janeček chose the Wanderer, because, by 1929,  Wanderer had stopped motorcycle production and had begun discussions with three other German car makers – DKW, Horch and Audi – that culminated in the formation of Auto Union in 1932. 

The first JAWA model was introduced on October 23, 1929. This was a 500cc four-stroke machine that put out 18bhp, with fuel consumption of 6L/100 km. Having been predicated on the Wanderer design it was expensive, but was successful and reliable, after some teething issues. 

As the Great Depression hit harder, a cheaper and simpler motorcycle was needed, so in 1932 came the JAWA 175, with a 5bhp engine. This 70kg lightweight machine could achieve 80km/h, with a modest fuel consumption of 3.5L/100 km. 



JAWA sold more than 3000 175s, almost three times the numbers of 500cc models sold in the previous three years of production. JAWA 175 production continued until 1946 and 27,535 units were built.

The Jawa 350 was released in 1934, powered by a two-stroke, air-cooled 343cc engine that gave it a top speed of 132km/h. It was exported to more than 120 countries around the world, before and after Word War II. However, the company founder, František Janeček, died in June 1941. 

After the War, production of JAWA 250/350 motorcycles restarted and production of the JAWA 350 Ogar motorcycle began.

In the 1950s, JAWA was one of the top motorcycle manufacturers and exported its 350 model into over 120 countries.The best known model was the 350 Pérák and in the 1970s the 350 Californian. It appeared in typical black and red coloring from California to New Zealand.


JAWA 500 OHV – Marek


Motorcycles produced in the 1950s included the 250; 350/353-Kývačka and 350/354-Kývačka; 500 OHV and the 50 Pionýr and Jawetta mopeds. 

In the early 1960s, JAWA invented the first automatic clutch for motorcycles and was fitted to the 250/559 and 350/360 models.  Honda copied the device for its 50 Cub motorcycle, but was found in breach of JAWA’s patent, paid a fine and then a license fee for each motorcycle sold. 


1957 JAWA 353 250cc – Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles


Historically, JAWA had been active in racing and was by far the most active Eastern European manufacturer in motor sports. The company’s best effort was in 1961, when Franta Stastny finished second in the 350cc World Championship to MV Agusta’s Gary Hocking.

By 1964, JAWA had produced on million motorcycles and in 1966, began production of the 350 Californian (Type 363) model. In 1967 came the 90 cross, trail and roadster models, and the 50 Mustang (Type 23).


JAWA 353 – Lufka


 As the 1960s unfolded, JAWA designer Zdenek Tichy recognised that the future direction of road racing development was in two-strokes and he worked on a replacement for the 350cc JAWA double-overhead-camshaft, four-stroke, parallel-twin. 

JAWA initially built 250cc and 350cc singles aimed at Eastern Bloc privateer racers but Tichy and his men were working on air-cooled, rotary-valve 125/250/350cc V-twins. The Type 673 V4 made its debut in the 1967 Dutch TT at Assen, in the hands of Gustav Havel. This 345cc, water-cooled two-stroke, 35-degree V4 had a16:1 compression ratio and was good for a tested 162mph top speed, thanks to its output of 68bhp at 13,200rpm.


JAWA 350 V4 GP – Klaus Knahr


Eastern Bloc metallurgy wasn’t at the level of JAWA’s Western competitors’ engineering, so engine seizure was a constant issue with the two-stroke engines, but the excellent JAWA design wasn’t ignored. The rotary-valve layout was remarkably similar to that of V4 Yamahas that dominated 125cc/250cc World Championships in 1967-1968. 

The JAWA V4’s 35-degree design made it more compact than Yamaha’s, giving less frontal area. Each cylinder had its own crankshaft that was splined to its neighbour and the fore and aft pairs were coupled to a central pinion and intermediate shaft. This shaft and gearing drove the clutch, ignition system, water pump and oil pump.

In track racing, JAWA sustained a presence in the world championship until the mid-1960s, with respectable performances, considering its limited budget. In motocross, the firm built an impressive record before its four-stroke engines became superseded by two-stroke engines. 

In speedway, dirt-track and ice racing, where four-stroke engines were still at an advantage, the firm remained a dominant force. Speedway World Champions who rode successfully on JAWA bikes include Ivan Mauger, Barry Briggs, Ove Fundin, Ole Olsen, Michael Lee, Tony Rickardsson and Kelvin Tatum.


 JAWA 350 – Stahlkocher


JAWA market progress through the 1970s was good, with 250/350 ÚŘ motorcycles, 350 Bizon and Type 634 motorcycles, and by 1976, JAWA had sold its two-millionth motorcycle. 

In 1984, production of JAWA 350 (Type 638) motorcycles began and three years later, the three-millionth JAWA was sold.

Following the dismantling of the communist bloc, JAWA consumer motorcycles and its speedway competition bikes were divided into separate companies.


1988 JAWA 350 Twin Sport – Artur Pielach


After 1990 a significant loss of production occurred. A successor company was formed in 1997, continuing the name as JAWA Moto. In the 1990s came updates for the 250, 350 and 50 ranges, and the new JAWA 125 Travel and 125 Dandy motorcycles.

In the 1990s, JAWA Speedway bikes were successful, while the JAWA company struggled. As of 2006, the JAWA mostly produced bikes similar to Honda 250cc, 125cc, and 50cc motorcycles and a large bike with a 650cc Rotax engine.

Most popular was the iconic 350cc, two-stroke twin that was mechanically little changed since the 1970s, but reliable. 


JAWA Style 350


The 650cc Rotax-powered bikes were the 650 Classic retro model; 650 Style and the 650 Dakar that was similar to the Honda XL Transalp. 

The JAWA 660 was the successor to the 650 and was sold between 2011 and 2018. The 2020 JAWA models were 350/640, two-stroke Style/Military/Retro versions and the four-stroke, 350 OHC.


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