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1959 JAWA 355 - Part One
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Phil Speakman is about to head off on an overseas trip aboard his 125cc Jawa two-stroke which, naturally enough, is a non-runner. But before we even go there, where did Jawa motorcycles come from in the first place?

It comes as a two pronged attack, I realise that now. First Tony rings up and suggests a trip, shortly followed by Mr Frost's call reporting that he's somehow found an excellent ferry deal which he's got to book 'now'. Before I know it their fait accompli has worked and I've agreed to join them on a trip to the Dutch Jawa Owners Club's 15th year anniversary rally in Boutange, adjacent to the German border.

Fortunately for Tony, his Jawa is running like a Swiss clock whereas mine is running like a Swiss chocolate. His is a 1972 559 250cc model in the peak of physical fitness, whilst my 1959 125cc 355 model sits aloof yet ignored on my hydraulic ramp, SORNed due to a combination of lack of road fund licence and shortage of get up and go from me. It's been like that since the ignominy of being recovered home with a snapped final drive chain that seized the rear end and made a right mess of the chain guards.

A Jawa 355, yesterday.

I'll put my hands up right here and now. I knew there was something not quite right with the drive train, that was evident by the more than occasional rubbing of the chain on the inside of the guards. However, out of sight is out of mind and my assumption that the guards were just a bit out of shape proved wrong. You see, it turned out that the rear sprocket was moving at will along its splined shaft that transfers drive to the rear wheel. As it did so, it allowed the chain to rub on the guards which eventually weakened it to the point of breaking... leaving me stranded on top of Parbold Hill on an autumn Sunday afternoon.

After studying various manuals, exploded diagrams and with help from the RealClassic message board, I realised that my sprocket's detachment from the shaft was pretty serious and a new unit might be the best solution. But where could I get one of those from? The Jawa 355 and 356 twin exhaust port singles weren't imported into the UK and mine arrived as a selection of components in a suitcase from Holland many years ago. Externally both models appear identical, though the 356 enjoys an extra 50cc to play with over the 123cc 355.

---- interlude ----

Trilbys and berets. Bohemian...

Frantisek Karel Janecek was born into a wealthy Bohemian family in 1878 and married Baroness Carolina Strijk van Lindschoten with whom he had one son, Frantisek Karel Jnr in 1904. Their Prague based armaments factory expanded into motorcycle production in 1929, building under licence a copy of the Chemnitz built Wanderer motorcycle from adjacent Saxony. It was a combination of the first two letters of Janecek and Wanderer that gave us the Jawa motorcycle name.

Whilst attending a motor show in England, Frantisek Jnr met and hired motorcycle racer and engineer George W Patchett. George took Villiers engine technology with him to Prague and Jawa built their first two-stroke, the Jawa Williers 175 in 1932, a popular seller compared to the far more expensive Wanderer model.

Frantisek Karel Jnr, yesterday.After the Nazi invasion of Sudentenland in 1938, threatening the Janecek family estates, Frantisek Karel Jnr visited Britain regularly to try to interest the British government in his latest design for an anti tank gun. During one such trip, Frantisek Karel Jnr learned that Prague had fallen and just hours before the Nazis marched in, George Patchett had thrown the only two prototypes of this new weapon over the wall of the British Embassy, from where they were subsequently smuggled to Britain safely inside a sofa.

George Patchett himself soon returned to Britain, walking past the distracted Nazi border guards with the blueprints in his jacket pocket, as they listened intently to a radio broadcast from the Führer.

George W Patchett. Check out the socks....

Frantisek Karel Jnr stayed in Britain by pretending to the Nazis that he was there to spy on British armour plating technology, whilst simultaneously working for British Intelligence. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, British Military Intelligence informed the Nazi authorities that Frantisek Karel Jnr was a prisoner of war in Canada, whilst he actually worked throughout the war for BSA in Birmingham under the name of Littlejohn, the literal English translation of Janecek.

The Littlejohn adaptor that was developed from his designs was an attachment that screwed to the end of the existing British two-pound anti-tank gun, converting it to squeeze bore operation. As the hard cored tungsten round entered the adaptor its soft outer shell was compressed from 40mm to 30mm, giving it a smaller cross section, but with the same mass. Together with the increasing pressure within the tapered barrel, the round emerged as an APSV (armour piercing super velocity) projectile. The Littlejohn adaptor was used on British armoured cars in the North Africa campaign against Rommel and was fitted to the Hawker Hurricane aircraft.

After the end of hostilities, Frantisek Karel Jnr returned to Prague, only for the communists to subsequently nationalise the Jawa factory and dispossess the Janecek family. Frantisek Karel Jnr moved to Switzerland and Sweden, before eventually settling in Canada with his Canadian born second wife, whom he had met in nursing in wartime Britain.

---- meanwhile, back in the shed ----

I decided to send out a few speculative kettenrad related emails to some of the Jawa parts specialist on German Ebay, resulting in a reply from Fred Rode at that he had a good second-hand sprocket in stock. He even offered to send the part and I could pay him if it fitted, or simply return it.

I sent my address and went off to work in Newcastle for the week. Further offers to pay by Paypal or cash and requests for his address brought no further reply, leaving me to travel home on the Friday in frustration with only a new pair of Altberg motorcycle boots that I picked up en route in Richmond to cheer me up.

Now, new boots are one thing, but to arrive home to find an unpaid for rear Czechoslovakian sprocket waiting for you, well it fair lifts the soul so it does.

Even more so when offering the assembly up on the Saturday afternoon reveals no problems and all to be in perfect working order. No more roving sprocket, no more chatter of chain against tinware, all was well in the world and it was time for an MOT, surely?

Well… the missing exhaust pipes might pose a problem as I'd taken the opportunity of getting them re-chromed whilst the bike was laid up. I dug myself in for a lengthy prevarication over the sprocket solution you see and I never expected such a quick solution to my drive train problem.

Random Jawa stuff on

FERC. They don't make them like that anymore. Actually, they probably do...

Never mind, the pipes would soon be back and the bike could go as it is to Holland and ….and…and, well, I'm not really quite sure quite what happened next.

Maybe we could call it a fit of misplaced enthusiasm?

Or possibly downright idiocy?

When I rang Mr Frost to tell him about the sprocket on Monday morning his delight at the news of the repair turned to a pitiful drawn out 'Oh NOOOOOOOOooooooooooo'.

I think it was the news that the entire Jawa now resided in three plastic tubs except for the frame, swinging arm and tank, which had been stripped to bare metal, stabilised with phosphoric acid and were now ready for their second coat of primer.

What the hell was I thinking of?

Just two months away from a foreign trip and I'm ripping the bike apart for a rebuild.

Talk about making life difficult.

Will I ever learn, I wonder?

Thanks to Carolyn Allcock, who’s original article in Torque (Jawa owners club magazine) provided some of the Janacek family history. She is the great granddaughter of the original Frantisek Janecek.


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