The North American JAWA/CZ Register
In the 1950’s and 60’s JAWA and CZ sold a lot of machines in North America. CZ was very popular in Trials and Motocross circles well into the 1990’s, and CZ’s are still raced here in historic races. JAWA left the US in the mid 70’s due to Japanese competition and pollution regulations which 2-strokes could not meet. JAWA mopeds with engines under 50cc were exempt from the pollution laws, as were the off-road CZ racers. In Canada big JAWA’s lasted a bit longer, but eventually competition and pollution concerns saw the end of the marque there as well. Along with JAWA and CZ motorcycles, Cezettas and, Tatrans also disappeared from view. By 1980 Czech motorcycles were a fading memory in North America, except for off-road racers. JAWA dealerships closed and parts became difficult to find. Through all these years and still to this day, Velorex continues to be one of , if not the largest, seller of sidecars in North America. Away from race tracks you are far more likely to see a Velorex sidecar than any Czech motorcycle today .
In 1956 as a teenager I had owned a Treestump/Pioneer/Typ550 Ultra Lightweight Motorcycle. After a decade I gave it away, and until the mid-1990’s thought about JAWAs very little. Then one day I decided to find out what had happened to the motorcycles I had loved so much as a teenager. A call to the Czech embassy in Washington gave me some names and soon I was talking to Gary Hooper of Westcoast Motorcyckes (on the west coast of Florida). Gary assured me that there were still JAWA’s and CZs. to be found and in a few months he had sold me a 350cc Supersport from the early 1960’s. It needed a lot of work, but I was hooked and the memories of the JAWA bikes I had admired nearly 40 years earlier flooded back. Then I wondered just how many people still had JAWA’s or CZ’s. Remember, by the mid 1990’s there were virtually none on the roads. Early in 1995 I placed ads in various motorcycle publications asking owners to contact me so I could compile and share a list of owners and the machines they had. I had to learn to use a computer to make the list, but within a year I had about 100 names in the United States and Canada, and began to learn of clubs and people elsewhere in the English-speaking world. Of course I never met anyone in person, and until 1999 communicated exclusively by phone or regular mail. Finally I got on the internet and communication was easy, fast and free. One of the early overseas contacts was an American living in New Zealand named Peter Cooper. He was a colorful character who sent out a newsletter to fellow New Zealanders called Wanderings. Peter sent his newsletter to me and in the fall of 1996 I began to send it out via ‘snail mail’ to the members of the North American JAWA/CZ Register, that is, everyone whose name I had collected during the previous year and a half. Eventually, Peter had to give up Wanderings and so I scrambled around trying to find information to fill a quarterly newsletter. Fortunately, I had wonderful help from the members of out little band and from the two English JAWA clubs, The Owner’s and the Rider’s. People send me originals or copies of manuals, I bought some more, and we built up a library to help owners restore the aging machines. My friends in England also generously sent me all sorts of printed material which was invaluable to folks who bought old machines, or had inherited them and had no idea what a JAWA was, or how to work on it. For example few new owners knew about the combined gear shift/crank lever and several were accustomed to jump-starting their machines. You can imagine how happy they were to learn how to kick-start a JAWA! As the internet grew more and more common, we could share information quickly, transmit pictures and diagrams, but we had never actually met each other in person. Actually most JAWA owners had never met other owners. The CZ people were more fortunate as they had gathered at race meets for many years.
In 1999 the Register got its own website and, while we have changed addresses several times, our site attracts many visitors and leads to new members. Our address is www.jawaczregister.org Readers may enjoy logging into the site to learn more about us. However, the site is only in English, though several of our members speak Czech. With the help of our website the Register continued to grow. There were over 100 members by the turn of the new century, but we were spread all over the vast North American continent so there was little face-to-face contact.
Then, The National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa scheduled an exhibit, Czech Technology in Motion and suggested members of the Register might like to come. Well, to make a long story short, we had our first Register Gathering in July 2000 in Cedar Rapids. Some twenty of us made it and had great fun. Dan Devine gave a talk about his years racing JAWA’s and CZ’s in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and he has remained active in the Register ever since. Every year after we have had an annual Gathering, the last two years at Irvin Bittner’s house in Chicago, where the largest display of Czech motorcycles and cars to be found in North America now takes place on a Saturday early in October.. Thirty or forty machines are there and Ervin’s Czech friends trade stories with Register members and other motorcyclists who come to admire machines most have never heard of or seen before. It is still hard to get more than 15-20 members there, but some come from Western Canada, a 3,000 mile round trip. Our Gatherings also feature bike rides, so we get a chance to ride JAWAs’s together, which simply would not happen without the Register!
In 2003 we inaugurated International JAWA/CZ/Yezdi Day with the intention of getting as many owners of these machines as possible to ride them in a “Virtual Rally” around the world. Without the internet it would not have been possible, but now every year on the second Sunday in July all over the world people ride and report our experiences to the website Vic Simmons, one of our active Canadian members maintains, www.jawaday.org People on every continent, except Antarctica, have participated, building bonds around the world. Libor Filak in Zlin, Czech Republic, and others have organized JAWA Day rallies Great fun is the order of the day. Next July some of us will gather at Bill English’s home in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada to ride together. Bill is another very active member whose collection of JAWA’s is growing at a breakneck pace.
Our newsletter, Wanderings now goes to most of out 150 members by email and is a valuable source of technical information provided most often by a mechanical engineer, Don Kueny, who has been involved with CZ’s and JAWA’s since high school. His articles get reprinted in other English-language JAWA newsletters. Wanderings and the Register library are still the center of our group, but the annual Gatherings and JAWA/CZ/Yezdi Days are also important in keeping the Register alive and growing.
Whether or not JAWA returns to North America, and we all hope it will, the North American JAWA/CZ Register keeps Czech machines going and their owners no longer feel like orphans. The last dozen years have been just wonderful for us all!