Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chang Jiang 750

BMW bought out the R71 motorcycle in 1938. Although originally a civilian motorcycle, it went on to become the standard motorcycle of the German army (at the beginning of the War the Nazi's commandeered all civilian motorcycles - and often their owners - for military use). The motorcycle was used as a dispatch rider, for scouting or transport for mobile infantry. In this guise the R71 was fitted with a sidecar and carried three men (rider, pillion and gunner in the sidecar). Although it had a 750cc twin cylinder engine that put out 18 horsepower, it proved to be a little underpowered in action as there was no drive to the sidecar wheel, so in 1941 the Wermacht began replacing the R71 with the new, heavier R75 and the R71 was slowly phased out of front-line service.

Sometime in 1940 while Germany and the Soviet Union were still at peace, the Soviets began producing their own version of the R71 as the Ural M-72. There are two stories to explain the Ural's origin. The first involved the Soviets surrepitiously purchasing 5 examples of the R71 through a Swedish front company and then reverse engineering them. The other story has the Germans handing over the designs and some of the tooling for the R71 to their Soviet allies after it was phased out by the Wermacht. The first story, coming after the German invasion of Russia, does smack a little of Soviet propaganda. At any rate, the Ural M-72 was manufactured in Russia for the Soviet Army until the 1950s when they began manufacturing their version of the BMW R75, whose designs and tooling they had seized from the Germans after the war.
In 1950s China, the Peoples Liberation Army were using a reverse engineered Zundapp KS500 as the template for their standard military motorcycle. The Soviets however now offered to sell the Chinese the designs and tooling for the now obsolete Ural M72 (BMW R71). As it was an advancement on the KS500, which was originally a 1934 design, the Chinese snapped up the deal. Renamed the Chang Jiang 750, it became the standard Chinese military motorcycle. The Chinese made various modifications and enhancements to the design over the decades but the CJ750 which is still manufactured today is, on the whole, little changed from the 1938 motorcycle it once was.

The CJ750 and the Ural M72 have both tapped into market for retro motorcycles, just like the Royal Enfield Bullet (manufactured in India). All these motorcycles have their problems and detractors. Ural has spent some effort tidying up its image, but the quality of the Chang Jiang product is often poor. The electrics are especially noted as being of poor quality. Buying a Chang Jiang is a little like buying a Asian restored Vespa. You need to spend some time and money to 'restore it.' Fortunately they are robust machines and their problems can be overcome.

We didn't see any domestic CJs actually on the road in China as the domestic market is dominated by 125cc Chinese-built Hondas and their derivatives. We did see a CJ showroom out near the Summer Palace in Beijing. In Shangai and Beijing, there are tour companies that drive you around the cities. It's a great way to get around and see the city.

Here is a link:

Here are a few links to some CJ and Ural sites:

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