František Janeček was born on 23rd January, 1878 in Klaster, a small village in Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic). He studied mechanics in Prague, receiving his degree from the Berlin College of Engineering.
While serving on the Italian front during World War I, he developed a flurry of designs, patenting over 60 inventions – including an improved hand grenade which became standard issue for the Czech Army.
After World War I, the demand for weapons fell, so the skilled workforce and factories of Europe focused their precision manufacturing techniques on the nascent world of motorcycles.
In 1929, Janiček was lured in.
Combining the first two letters from “Janiček” and “Wanderer”, the first Jawa motorcycle was conceived – the Jawa 500 OHV.
Instead of starting from scratch, he purchased the motorcycle business Wanderer from German manufacturer Winklhofer & Jaenicke, along with the design and tooling for the new Wanderer 500 motorcycle.
Combining the first two letters from “Janiček” and “Wanderer”, the first Jawa motorcycle was
conceived – the Jawa 500 OHV.
To serve the masses, Janeček knew he needed a lightweight and economical motorcycle.
He recruited G.W. Patchett – a renowned British engineer with prior racing experience – to lead this initiative.
From 1930 until the outbreak of World War II, Patchett served as the chief designer for Jawa.
Patchett’s first step towards a universal motorcycle was using the 175cc Villiers two-stroke engine.
By 1933, the new model had taken off – the Jawa 175 became the most popular motorcycle in Czechoslovakia.
Subsequently, Jawa discontinued production of the 500cc OHV.
Under Patchett, the Jawa R&D team began designing engines in-house.
Additional models were introduced, mostly based on 250cc and 350cc two-stroke engines. The factory also made sophisticated four-stroke racing machines with overhead cams in very limited numbers during this period.
These machines helped establish Jawa’s reputation for brilliant engineering and exceptional handling.
This newfound confidence led Jawa to enter factory race teams at the Isle of Man TT races in 1932, 1933, and 1935.
Janeček developed the Jawa 350 SV four-stroke in partnership with Patchett. The same year, Jawa motorcycles participated in consecutive Isle of Man events.
The outbreak of World War II put a pause on the production of Jawa motorcycles – but not their development.
Although the Jawa factory was forced to make armaments under Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Janeček kept working in secret, driven by his passion for innovation.
His next line-up of motorcycles would famously go on to be called the Jawa “Perak”.
Janeček mounted SS stickers on his bikes and coated his bikes in the same shade of green as the German vehicles.
He continued testing his creations right under his oppressors’ noses.
Janeček’s son Karel took over the business and continued to work on his father’s designs.
Janeček’s dream became a reality.
The Perak made its debut public appearance at the 1946 Paris Motor Show. It won a gold medal.
With plunger suspension in the rear, telescopic forks up front, a square-section steel tube frame, and a now legendary multi-disc wet clutch integrated into the gearbox, it allowed clutchless gear shifts .
Designed by J. Josíf and J. Krivka, the Perak was built around a new 249cc two-stroke single unit engine/gearbox construction.
Jawa was nationalised. Although exports to the U.S. diminished behind the Iron Curtain, exports to third-world countries boomed.
The two-stroke models were joined by advanced four-stroke 500cc OHV twins.
The nationalisation also merged Jawa and CZ, creating a single brand – Jawa-CZ.
The Jawa line-up grew even more formidable with the advanced four-stroke 500cc OHV twins joining the existing two-stroke models.
The 60’s and 70’s saw Jawa-CZ take the motocross and enduro worlds by storm, securing eight first places in the six-day trials and six motocross world titles.
Backed by legendary racing success and reliability on the track, Jawa motorcycles were exported to 120 countries across the globe. Jawa also ventured into road racing with exotic two-stroke engines in a V4 configuration.
Founded by Rustom and Farrokh Irani, the firm Ideal Jawa began importing Jawa motorcycles into India.
Recognising the demand, Jawa established a factory in Mysore in 1961 with support from the king at the time, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.>p>
Between 1961 and 1971, Ideal Jawa manufactured the 250 Type 353/04 under licence.
Jawa motorcycles quickly earned a reputation for being rugged, simple, and unbreakable.
The Jawa 250 was the first choice of commute for urban youth – and many brave racers took home wins on the Jawa 250, inspired by the European racing scene.
Fariborz Irani, CK Chinappa, and Somendar Singh were a few of the household names who made the brand famous racing these motorcycles on all kinds of terrain.
By 1971, the Ideal Jawa company manufactured and sold the new motorcycles under the name “Yezdi” with technical assistance from Jawa.
Chained by export restrictions under the communist regime, Jawa soldiered on, eventually outlasting it.
Many famous models – like the iconic Californian – helped keep the mystique around the brand alive.
To this day, Jawa motorcycles continue to be manufactured in several parts of Europe.