November 11, 2011 – As I write this, my nose is slightly taught like a bugger blow is in the works over this Chinese knockoff, of the Soviet copy, of the German BMW R71 motorcycle 50 years ago. I thought the Chinese only recently started to reverse stealgineer vehicles with their industrial boom. I guess they’ve had lots of practice.
The CJ story begins in prewar Germany where BMW was building the last of its sidevalve bikes, the R71. Prior to the German invasion, the Soviets were already building copies of the R71, initially called the M71 and later the M72. Following the invasion, production was shifted from Moscow to Irbit (IMZ) in the Ural mountains where thousands were produced during and after the war. A second plant opened in Kiev (KMZ).
With technical support from the USSR, CJ750 production commenced in Nanchang in the late fifties. (Various sources cite dates ranging from 1957 to 1961.)For more on CJ history, visit this page on LRM’s web site.
Today’s CJ750 M1 is a copy of the original M72 right down to the 6V electrical system and other quaint features. The M1M is a slightly modernized version with a proper distributor, 12V electrical system and electric starter while the M1S is an OHV machine. The latter two models are equipped with reverse gearboxes.
The CJ is NOT a replica of the R71. It’s a copy of the M72 which was a knock-off of the R71. The word replica isn’t applicable.
The Chineseness of the CJ is its most intriguing quality. The detailing on my bikes emphasizes it rather than trying to conceal it.
Stephen Wiggins at Ural Australia sent this additional information regarding the Soviet bikes:
The M in M72 stands for Mototsikl which equates to the German R for Rad as in Motorrad. There were two plants to build the M72, one in Moscow and one in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). The Moscow plant moved to Irbit and the Leningrad plant to Gorky (Nizhny Novogorod). Production commenced in 1941 but due to war chaos and difficulties in obtaining supplies no bikes were completed until 1942. All sidecar bodies and chassis were built in Gorky near the GAZ factory until 1956.
In 1957 military production was shifted to Kiev. At the same time the Gorky plant was closed and tooling was offered to the Chinese. It is probable that plans for the K750 had been finalised and transfer of the now obsolescent M72 line could go ahead. The Chinese have admitted that it took them until 1961 to build complete motorcycles.
It is often forgotten that the Chinese were building a small number of Zundapp KS600-inspired bikes prior to the transfer of the M72 technology.
Also, despite what many people assert, the R71 was never built in great numbers and was not an official Wehrmacht bike. In fact the M71 was an appalling military bike until the changes brought in for the M72 in 1942. That being higher mudguards, dual clutch plates, 4.62 final drive and frame reinforcements. In reality the M72 is an improved military version of the civilian R71.
Another point to note is that the R71 is not really related to the R75 other than being made by BMW. The R75 is more closely related to the Zundapp KS750 than to any earlier BMW. In competition to build the Wehrmacht’s bikes, BMW offered the R71 which they viewed as an improved R12, and Zundapp the KS750. So impressed were the Wehrmacht with the KS750, they wanted BMW to also build it. The R75 is the face-saving compromise that BMW developed.
As to what the M in M72 stands for – the myth that it stands for Molotov probably derives from the fact that the K in AK-47 stands for Kalashnikov, the designer. However, General Kalashnikov was a highly decorated officer, Hero of the Soviet Union, and a soldier NOT a politician. Stalin would never have allowed a model number to commemorate any potential political threat. If the M stood for Moscow then logic would dictate that the Leningrad plant would be building L71s and L72s, Irbit I72s, Gorky G72s and Kiev K72s. The K750 series may be the only example of this. The M in the MV series clearly stands for Motorcycle Army. Ural continued with the M designation all the way through to the M67 (and prototypes) until the adoption of the GOSTandart numerical identifying system used by ALL Soviet manufacturers.”