Pol­skie Mo­tor­cykle Warsaw con­certo

A work visit to Poland last year had me look­ing for any­thing mo­tor­cy­cle.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos Gaven Dall’Osto

My first suc­cess was a ticket to the Pol­ish round of the Speed­way World Cham­pi­onship where I was joined by 54,000 rowdy Poles who ab­so­lutely love the sport. I also dis­cov­ered the Muzeum Tech­niki where there was a dis­play of Pol­ish mo­tor­cy­cles. I had no real knowl­edge of any Pol­ish mo­tor­cy­cle brands be­fore my visit so it was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. A glossy cat­a­logue (al­beit in Pol­ish) listed all the mo­tor­cy­cles on dis­play in chrono­log­i­cal or­der.

His­toric In­flu­ences

In over­view, Pol­ish mo­tor­cy­cle his­tory was pretty much dic­tated by the coun­try’s his­tory. Poland gained in­de­pen­dence in 1918 af­ter 150 years of Ger­man-Aus­trian and Rus­sian rule. Dur­ing that time ev­ery­thing was im­ported. In­de­pen­dence gave both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate busi­nesses the in­cen­tive to de­sign and man­u­fac­ture lo­cally. The gov­ern­ment be­gan pro­ceed­ings by de­cid­ing to re­place its mil­i­tary mo­tor­cy­cles. The other ma­jor force was a pre-WWII gov­ern­ment pol­icy which cre­ated a spe­cial mar­ket for max­i­mum 100cc mo­tor­cy­cles (chris­tened Setki – Pol­ish for Hun­dreds) be­cause they were ex­empt from gov­ern­ment tax and you didn’t need a li­cense to ride one. They be­came the most pop­u­lar model and nearly ev­ery lo­cal man­u­fac­turer pro­duced one. All was go­ing well un­til the 1st Septem­ber 1939 when Poland was again in­vaded by Ger­many, bring­ing pro­duc­tion to a halt. Many of the fac­to­ries were ran­sacked and equip­ment was sent to Ger­many. Many of the engi­neers were ei­ther killed or trans- ported to Ger­man slave camps. Then in 1945 the Red Army cap­tured Poland and busi­nesses restarted, na­tion­alised un­der Soviet con­trol. Var­i­ous brands of mo­tor­cy­cle were made by ei­ther one fac­tory or an­other and some­times un­der the same roof. Ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion also meant only one ma­jor Pol­ish en­gine man­u­fac­turer so many ma­chines were very sim­i­lar.

In 1956 the Poles made a stand against Stalin’s rule (la­belled “Go­mułka’s thaw”) re­sult­ing in the sup­pres­sion of cen­tral­iza­tion of the in­dus­try and com­pa­nies be­gan man­u­fac­tur­ing what­ever they wanted. A change in gov­ern­ment pol­icy dropped the en­gine ca­pac­ity for mo­tor­cy­cles that could be rid­den with­out a li­cense to 50cc which re­sulted in a pro­lif­er­a­tion of mopeds. Pol­ish mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­ture shrunk then fi­nally dis­ap­peared due to the in­va­sion of cheap Euro­pean and later Ja­panese mo­tor­cy­cles.

Mil­i­tary Heavy­weights

The ear­li­est ma­chine on ex­hibit was a 1932 Sokol 1000 (Sokol trans­lates to Fal­con). In 1927 the Pol­ish Army de­cided to re­place their Har­ley-David­son im­ports. The brief was based on a Har­ley type frame and In­dian type V-twin en­gine. It took un­til 1930 be­fore a suit­able ma­chine was de­vel­oped, de­signed and built by Cen­traine Warsz­taty Samo­chodowe (Cen­tral Au­to­mo­tive Work­shop) in Warsaw. The dis­play ma­chine was a side­car ver­sion. De­signed for the tough Pol­ish con­di­tions, it al­lowed bet­ter han­dling and greater off-road speed than the orig­i­nal Har­ley, while fuel could be man­u­ally in­jected into the heads to aid start­ing in -40° tem­per­a­tures. The throt­tle was on the left and the side­car on the right so was easy for a sin­gle rider to push through boggy con­di­tions while un­der power. The en­gine was a 995.4cc, 4-stroke, 45 de­gree V-twin with 4:1 com­pres­sion pro­duc­ing 13.2hp at 2,000rpm. It is thought that the Pol­ish Army had about 1600 units be­fore the 1939 in­va­sion. An­other Sokol, the 1935 600 RT M211 was pro­duced for mil­i­tary and civil­ian use. The frame and girder fork front were sim­i­lar to the Ariel raced suc­cess­fully by the de­signer, Tadeusz Ru­daswki. The en­gine was a 4-stroke, sin­gle cylin­der, side valve, 600cc unit pro­duc­ing 15hp at 3,900rpm. A 3-speed hand or foot change gear­box moved the solo/side­car ver­sion with weights of 164/239kg to a top speed of 110/90kph. Ru­dawski in­tro­duced in­no­va­tions such as oil in­jec­tion into the cylin­der, oil tank in the clutch hous­ing and rub­ber en­gine mounts. The cas­sette type gear­box in­cluded pa­tented ec­cen­tric mounts for easy chain ad­just­ment. The front and rear wheels were sep­a­rate from the brake drums and so were in­ter­change­able. About 4,000 units were sold by 1939. Rep­re­sent­ing 1937 was a sports model Sokol, the 500RS (Ru­dawski Sport), de­vel­oped us­ing the 600RT frame. The en­gine was new with over­head valves and triple valve springs and was tri­alled in 7.5:1 and 9.5:1 com­pres­sion ra­tios pro­duc­ing 18hp at 4,500rpm and 22hp at 5000rpm. Bore and stroke of 78mm x 106mm (496cc) and al­though the 500RS weighed 160kg the low com­pres­sion ver­sion was good for 125km/h. Tele­scopic front forks were next to be added but the project was stopped and only

about five pro­to­types were made mak­ing the dis­play bike very rare in­deed. The Hun­dreds Mov­ing to the late 1930’s we find ex­am­ples of the many ‘Hun­dreds’ made in Poland. They all shared one com­mon el­e­ment – a 98cc, 3hp Vil­liers unit en­gine with 3-speed gear­box. The 1938 Neiman 98 was made by a com­pany who were fa­mous for sewing ma­chines, then bi­cy­cles and fi­nally mo­tor­cy­cles. The fac­tory was in Grodno on the then Pol­ish bor­der which is now in Be­larus. It is dif­fi­cult to say whether the Nie­man de­sign was orig­i­nal, based on proven mod­els or made un­der li­cense. It is very sim­i­lar in struc­ture to some English light­weight mo­tor­cy­cles like Ex­cel­sior. Weigh­ing just 70kg it was good for a 65kph top speed. An­other com­pany SHL started mak­ing the SHL 98 in 1938. Owner Rafał Ekiel­ski went to Vil­liers in Great Bri­tain, to study their pro­duc­tion flow and

in May 1938 bought the rights to man­u­fac­ture the Vil­liers 98cc 3hp en­gine. Not only doc­u­men­ta­tion, but also equip­ment was brought from Eng­land. Rafal de­signed a frame of pressed chan­nel sec­tions and cast­ings held to­gether with screws. At 78kg, it was a lit­tle heavy and un­der­pow­ered but was solid, re­li­able and com­pet­i­tively priced against the im­ports and lo­cal Sokols. In 1939 SHL were about to ex­port to Turkey and they were work­ing on a 200 and 350cc Vil­liers-pow­ered ma­chine with full sus­pen­sion when the war came. The fi­nal 1938 ex­hibit was a Perkun 98. Warsaw So­ci­ety Fac­tory (WSF) Perkun ini­tially spe­cialised in boat and in­dus­trial en­gines. Strug­gling with the global re­ces­sion in 1936 they em­ployed a new man­ager, Jan Wask­iewicz, who de­cided to build mo­tor­cy­cles us­ing a tubu­lar frame with fric­tion damped sin­gle spring, trape­zoidal pressed steel fork and a rigid rear. Ini­tially their Vil­liers was im­ported but they built their own en­gine even­tu­ally. Weigh­ing 70kg, the Perkun 98 was in­tro­duced at the Poz­nan In­ter­na­tional Fair in May 1938. Mov­ing to 1939, on dis­play was the Podowka 98. Pow­doka trans­lates to ‘Horse­hoe’ as the com­pany ini­tially made horse­shoes and nails. They im­ported their Vil­liers en­gine and also con­tracted to man­u­fac­ture the Baker (James) frame un­der li­cense. It was recorded that the Pol­ish Army also used the Pod­kowa 98 for dispatch rid­ers. Mass pro­duc­tion started in the end of Jan­uary 1939 but was stopped af­ter about 130 units were built. Only 21 are known to sur­vive to­day. The other 1939 ex­hibit was from the Sokol fam­ily and the last de­signed by Ru­dawski. Test­ing in­cluded 10,000km of con­tin­u­ous road use. The re­sul­tant Sokol 200 M411 was in­tro­duced just be­fore the war broke out and the first unit was pur­chased by the son of the then Pol­ish Prime Min­is­ter. The light­weight frame was made from ‘U’ shaped sheet steel sec­tion screwed to­gether to form hol­low sec­tions. Frame flex al­lowed the rear wheel to move some­what like sus­pen­sion which they pa­tented. The front fork was pressed steel with fric­tion dampers and a sin­gle cen­tral spring. It was pow­ered by a rub­ber­mounted 2-stroke 199cc en­gine, pro­duc­ing 7hp at 4,000rpm. Weigh­ing just 100kg, it was good for 85km/h. In Au­gust 1939 it fa­mously made it 1986 me­tres up to the top of Pol­ish moun­tain Kasprowy Wierch (Kasper Peak). Parts for 800 were made but only 78 were pro­duced and this is one of the very few in ex­is­tence.

Post war kick­start – badge engi­neer­ing

The first post war ex­hibit started with a 1947 Sokol 125 M01. The Red Army takeover started the coun­try man­u­fac­tur­ing again in 1946, Sokol be­ing the first Pol­ish man­u­fac­turer to start pro­duc­tion. Pre­war left­over frames from the SHL fac­tory were used and the re­sul­tant iden­ti­cal ma­chines were badged ei­ther Sokol or SHL. The Sokol 125 took the M01 model num­ber while the SHL be­came the SHL M02. They shared a new 125 (S01) en­gine pat­terned on the DKW RT125 with a 3-speed foot op­er­ated gear­box and 6V al­ter­na­tor. 203 mo­tor­cy­cles were built be­fore the pre-war sup­plies were drained. A new ex­pen­sive im­ported seam­less steel tube frame copied from the DKW was de­vel­oped to con­tinue pro­duc­tion of the Sokol, while the SHL frame re­tained the orig­i­nal, less ex­pen­sive pressed me­tal de­sign, both made at the CWS fac­tory in Warsaw. Deemed too ex­pen­sive, the Sokoł 125 was dis­con­tin­ued in 1950 and the SHL M04 be­came the only mo­tor­cy­cle avail­able on the Pol­ish mar­ket. The next ex­hibit jumped to the 1954 SHL M05. The front sus­pen­sion was now a tele­scopic fork. Weight of the mo­tor­cy­cle was about 80kg and the top speed, 67kph. Around 12,000 units were pro­duced in this one year. A sis­ter 1954 ex­hibit was the WFM M06, one of the most pop­u­lar mo­tor­cy­cles in the his­tory of Poland. Slightly im­proved from the M05, pro­duc­tion fin­ished in 1966. It was cheap but

tough enough to han­dle post-war Pol­ish roads. The 123cc 2-stroke sin­gle now pro­duced 6.2hp at 4900rpm and gave the 96kg ma­chine a top speed of 80km/h. The other 1954 ex­hibit was the WSK M06. This model was a twin brother of the WFM M06. The Wytwór­nia Sprzetu Ko­mu­nika­cyjnego (WSK) fac­tory in Swid­nik near Lublin started mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­ture be­cause the WMF fac­tory wasn’t able to meet de­mand. This ex­am­ple was one of the first WSK mo­tor­cy­cles made when as­sem­bly be­gan in Septem­ber 1954. Mass pro­duc­tion be­gan in earnest in 1955. WSK con­tin­ued to pro­duce mo­tor­cy­cles un­til 1985 and in this time they pro­duced a record 2 mil­lion mo­tor­cy­cles.

For some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent the next ex­hibit was a speed­way bike, a 1955 FIS. The FIS was born out of the ini­tials F for Fedki, I for Izewski (the engi­neers) and S for Stalowcy (their race club). The rea­son for build­ing the first Pol­ish en­gine for a speed­way mo­tor­bike was to make them more af­ford­able and rac­ing more com­pet­i­tive. The en­gine was pat­terned off a JAP and pro­duced by WSK in Rzeszów. It made its de­but on April 30, 1954. At its of­fi­cial trial the FIS set a new track record and the ma­chine was adopted by all Pol­ish speed­way rid­ers. The 497cc sin­gle, pro­duced 43hp at 6000rpm and pro­pelled the 92kg beast to 100km/h in around 3 sec­onds. 1956 was rep­re­sented by a Ju­nak 07. This was a more con­tem­po­rary mo­tor­cy­cle, much like the early Sokols and prob­a­bly be­cause some of the orig­i­nal Ru­dawski team were in­volved. Trans­lated, Ju­nak means Brave Young Men. It was the only 4-stroke do­mes­tic mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tured in Poland af­ter WWII. It was de­vel­oped as a 500cc for heavy mil­i­tary use but ended up 350cc. It was first shown in 1954 but it took un­til 1956 to pro­duce 30 units. The unit con­struc­tion 349cc en­gine pro­duced 17hp at 5700rpm and pro­pelled the 165kg ma­chine to 115kph.

Mopeds emerge

The 1958 ex­hibit was a Mo­torower Rys (Mo­torower trans­lates to Moped and Rys to Lynx) – the first-ever moped man­u­fac­tured in Poland by Wro­claw by Zak­lady Me­talowe Wro­clawiu. It was a beau­ti­ful de­sign with tele­scopic front and fric­tion damper swing­ing rear fork. Pow­ered by the lo­cal SM-01, unit con­struc­tion 2-stroke sin­gle 49.8cc en­gine pro­duc­ing 1.6hp at 5600rpm, and fit­ted with 2 gears, they were pro­duced un­til 1964 and many were ex­ported to so­cial­ist Cuba where they are still used to­day. Also in 1958, af­ter six years break, SHL pro­duc­tion was re­ac­ti­vated in its orig­i­nal fac­tory, Huta Lud­wików. It was the re­sult of “Go­mułka’s thaw” al­low­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing free­dom. 1959 was rep­re­sented by an Osa M50. Trans­lated it means The Wasp which co­in­ci­dently shares its

name with Vespa (‘Wasp’ in Ital­ian) and was very sim­i­lar in de­sign. Made by WFM the Osa was re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 1959. It was the only Pol­ish scooter, and, al­though ex­pen­sive, it sold well. Com­fort­able for two peo­ple it had big 14 inch di­am­e­ter wheels and was pow­ered by a 2-stroke 148cc S-06 en­gine with the cylin­der ly­ing hor­i­zon­tally. Rep­re­sent­ing 1960 was an­other moped the Mo­torower Ko­mar 230 (Ko­mar trans­lates to Mos­quito), an orig­i­nal Pol­ish de­sign. It was de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by the ZZR (United Bi­cy­cle Fac­tory) in By­d­goszcz and re­sem­bled a bi­cy­cle with its tubu­lar frame and ped­als. Ini­tially fit­ted with a Sim­son Suhl 2-stroke en­gine from the GDR, the 1960 Ko­mar 230 was fit­ted with an up­graded SM-02 ver­sion, still a 49.8cc 2-stroke pro­duc­ing 1.5hp. In 1961 alone about 4,000 Ko­mars were sold, which rep­re­sented more than 30% of the moped mar­ket. Ev­ery­one rode Ko­mars – post­men, clerks, young­sters, adults, the work­ing class. In 1968, pro­duc­tion con­sti­tuted 98% of the coun­try’s 2-wheeled ve­hi­cle mar­ket. The Ko­mar was man­u­fac­tured un­til 1983. The 1961 ex­hibit was the SHL 11 which was in­tro­duced to the mar­ket that year. It had an Earl’s fork front end, en­closed chain case and was the first Pol­ish mo­tor­cy­cle pro­duced with an en­gine ca­pac­ity of 175cc; a sin­gle cylin­der, 2-stroke pro­duc­ing 9hp. Over 180,000 SHL M11’s were made. In 1962 the Es­corts Group bought a li­cense to man­u­fac­ture the SHL in In­dia. It was called the Ra­j­doot and was made there un­til 2005.

A lit­tle bit fancy

A most in­ter­est­ing and sup­pos­edly the ul­ti­mate SHL was the next ex­hibit, a 1968 175cc Gazela M017 (Gazela trans­lates to Gazelle). The en­gine des­ig­na­tion W2 was de­vel­oped in co­op­er­a­tion with the Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity of Krakow. They took the pre­vi­ous S32 en­gine and op­ti­mised the port­ing, in­creas­ing power by al­most 50% and torque by over 33%. It was the first Pol­ish mo­tor­cy­cle equipped with bat­tery ig­ni­tion and al­ter­na­tor. They also in­cluded pro­vi­sion for a later up­date to elec­tric start. The 12 volt sys­tem was in­ter­est­ing as com­bined two 6 volt bat­ter­ies con­nected in se­ries. The Gazela show­cased the de­vel­op­ing Pol­ish skills with large deep sheet me­tal press­ings which en­closed the mo­tor­cy­cle. The chain was fully en­closed and there was even a ‘patent pend­ing’ hinged cover over the fuel filler, which was part of a huge cowl that ex­tended for­ward to en­case the head­light. The wheels were cov­ered in deeply valanced guards and the lead­ing link forks had pressed me­tal cov­ers en­cas­ing the sprung dampers. The rear swing arm was also pressed me­tal and had ad­justable rear shock ab­sorbers. This was an ex­pen­sive mo­tor­cy­cle at al­most twice the price of sim­i­lar ma­chines. Pro­duc­tion ceased in 1970 and it is re­ported that 50,000 were sold – the last WFM mo­tor­cy­cle as the com­pany moved on to man­u­fac­ture trucks. 1974 was rep­re­sented by the Mo­torower Romet 750. In 1971, ZZR merged with an­other bi­cy­cle com­pany and cre­ated the brand name ‘Romet’ for their moped prod­ucts. From that time, the Ko­mar be­came the ‘Romet Ko­mar’. The frame now had a tele­scopic front end and swing arm rear. The area be­tween the wheels was opened up by mov­ing the fuel tank over the rear wheel, mak­ing it more women and kid-friendly. It used a new im­proved 50cc S- 017 en­gine, al­low­ing the pedal as­sist to be re­moved. A mo­torised trol­ley ver­sion for trans­port­ing goods was also de­vel­oped. The 750 was man­u­fac­tured un­til 1976.

Last mo­tor­cy­cles and mopeds

1985 was rep­re­sented by a WSK 125 KOS (which trans­lates to Black­bird). The WSK M06 B3 se­ries be­gan pro­duc­tion in 1971. Pro­duc­tion of the KOS be­gan in 1979 pow­ered by a 123cc, 2-stroke sin­gle. The ma­chine on dis­play was the very last one off the pro­duc­tion line on the 30th Oc­to­ber 1985 and was gifted to the Mu­seum. It is re­ported that 41,540 units were made be­tween 1979 and 1985 and this was the last mo­tor­cy­cle made in Poland. The last ex­hibit was a 1988 Mo­torower Chart 210 (which trans­lates to Grey­hound). It was in­tro­duced in 1988 and de­signed by a sep­a­rate team of engi­neers in the Romet fac­tory who dared to be dif­fer­ent and worked se­cretly un­til the first pro­to­type emerged. The re­sult was more mo­tor­cy­cle than moped and it sold well be­cause of its re­li­a­bil­ity, moder­nity and per­for­mance even though it was al­most twice the price of the orig­i­nal Ko­mar. Pow­ered by a mod­ern 49.8cc, 2-stroke sin­gle sourced from the Deza­met com­pany, it pro­duced 2.8hp at 5800rpm. It had larger brakes (125mm), and the Chart was loaded with fea­tures like a bat­tery, elec­tronic ig­ni­tion, di­rec­tion in­di­ca­tors and front and rear brake lights. It was a very com­fort­able moped thanks to the use of oil-damped sus­pen­sion with 140mm of travel. Over 80,000 were pro­duced be­fore all Pol­ish mo­torised twowheeled man­u­fac­ture halted in 1994. The Mu­seum is well worth a visit if you’re ever in Warsaw.

MAIN & ABOVE The two rooms of the Pol­ish Mo­tor­cy­cle Ex­hi­bi­tion in Warsaw.

BE­LOW The last mo­tor­cy­cle made in Poland, the 1985 123.5cc WSK Kos (Black­bird).

LEFT Poster de­pict­ing Pol­ish Mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers.

ABOVE & LEFT 1937 496cc Sokol (Fal­con) 500 RS.

1935 995cc CWS MIII (Mark 3) later to be­come the Sokol 1000 (Fal­con 1000).

497cc JIS Speed­way bike from 1955.

1958 175cc SHL Gazela M17.

1956 350cc Ju­nak M07.

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