Blast from the past
Can we hope to see Jawa motorcycles back on Indian roads?
Iconic Czech marque poised for a comeback
BEFORE THE ADVENT OF JAPANESE MACHINERY A FEW decades ago, Indian motorcyclists had precious few choices when it came to motorcycles. The government ban on imported vehicles implemented in the late 1960s meant that you could no longer buy BSAs, Nortons, Triumphs or NSUs in India; the only manufacturers left were Royal Enfield, who have soldiered on to become one of our most successful marques in the 21st century, and the Czech brand Jawa, built in Mysore (now Mysuru) under the Ideal Jawa banner. With a range of single- and twin-cylinder two-stroke motorcycles, Jawa achieved cult status in India, with their bikes making an impact in urban as well as rural markets. The old Jawas are now considered collectors’ items and a well-maintained example can fetch quite a price today.
With two-strokes being strangled out of existence by tightening emission norms, Ideal Jawa were forced to shut shop and the last of the Czech motorcycles was sold in India in 1996. Fast forward to October 2016, when Mahindra inked a deal to buy the licensing rights from the East European marque to build and sell Jawa motorcycles in India. Based on this development, we may actually see a resurgence of the much-loved Jawa brand in the country, and this is the bike that we are most likely to see on our roads.
The 2017 Jawa 350 OHC pictured here was launched recently in the Czech Republic and is designed to invoke more than a hint of nostalgia, retaining the classic lines of the old bikes while being powered by a relatively modern four-stroke, 350-cc, air-cooled twin. Jawa claim that the engine has been sourced from Shineray, a Chinese manufacturer, and is based on an old Honda engine. This fuel-injected mill makes 26 PS at 5,250 rpm and 32 Nm of peak torque at 4,750 rpm. It is mated to a four-speed gearbox. The bike also comes equipped with ABS and, if launched here in India, will be the first Jawa to sport this feature.
There has been no official announcement about when, if ever, Jawa bikes will go on sale in India; however, we can speculate that we might know more by next year’s Auto Expo.