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1959 Jawa 355 - Part Two
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Phil Speakman started his rebuild of a 125cc Jawa two-stroke last time. Now he's got to paint it, get it running and get it roadworthy in record time. But that's nothing compared to the struggle Jawa went through to build bikes during the Second World War...

Fortune favours the brave, so they say.

Possibly it's true, because shortly after committing myself to a full rebuild of my 1959 Jawa 355, less than eight weeks before I'm due to ride it across the low countries to a rally on the German border, I get assigned a five week stint of night shifts, right on my very doorstep. Unpredictably short and regularly cancelled night shifts at that. The best sort if you want to crack on with a restoration, I find.

However, money is a bit tight at the moment due a recently completed house renovation so I decided not to go down the powder-coated and out-sourced paintwork route. Instead I decided to repaint the frame and tinware myself, using an oil based coach paint, matched by my local paint factor to a sample of the correct shade of Jawa maroon. It's also my first attempt at pin-striping, as these bikes just don't look right without it.

Jawa frame doubles up as handy drying rack...

I've put all the chrome components out to a local re-chromers that I haven't tried before, with the reassurance of an MZ restorer friend who has always been very happy with their results and more importantly, price. So fingers crossed.

Then we get to the new parts inevitably required on all rebuilds -- rubber components that have reached the end of their natural. For that, I eventually plumped to use the Jawa Clements' shop. He supplied me with almost everything I need in one shipment with combined postage to reduce costs. For £125 I bought all the cables, rubber components, some replacement chrome parts and two brand new rear suspension legs for just £23 each. He even kindly threw in a new airbox for free, after I enquired about one subsequent to the initial sale. Jawa parts are very cheap compared to Adler and dare I say it, MZ components. In fact, I'm dreading my upcoming DKW RT200 rebuild, because I've already taken a peek at the price lists. Ouch!

After a few trials with brush painting, I settle for a combined brush/aerosol approach. That is, I brush paint all components before flattening back with wet and dry and applying a final sprayed finishing coat. Oil based coach paint won't cut back and re-polish the same as cellulose, so the quality of the sprayed final coat is vital.

Conservatory doubles up as handy assembly shop...

Another peculiarity of coach paint is its tendency to remain soft to the touch for some time after drying and it is therefore very easy to mark newly painted parts. However, that's where the benefits of a house renovation comes into play, namely the new conservatory in which I erect a trestle table for component baking in the unusually hot mid-April sun. A couple of days after spraying, all components are hard enough to work with -- essential given the tight timescales involved. Gradually, finished components re-emerge from the garage to coalesce during long spring evenings in the conservatory back to a 1950's Czech motorcycle.

Burned midnight oil not shown.

However, when I consider what the Jawa employees went through just to get these bikes into post-war production, I realise that I'm being more than a little wet in worrying about soft coach paint.

When the Nazi's marched into Prague, the Jawa factories were commandeered for the German war effort and all components and raw material stock had to be accounted for, but not all by the same administrative departments. Thus the Czechoslovakian management led their occupiers on a merry five year dance of hiding materials by falsely claiming each to be already accounted for and allocated to another department. During this engineered confusion, 8500 unfinished motorcycles and 700 cars were squirreled away into storage, utilising closed public houses and barns.

Such was their frankly stunning success in this deception that the Jawa factory was able to hit the ground running after liberation by the allies, with 15 tonnes of alloy components, 150 tonnes of sheet and bar steel and iron, and 31,000 ball bearings. From the spring of 1945 to the end of the following year an astonishing 10,000 completed motorcycles and 700 cars were produced for sale using those precious hidden resources. The first of these new vehicles went on sale in the summer of 1945. Not bad for a continent that was on its knees.

1959 Jawa 355
Jawa stuff on

Nor were Jawa restricted to pre-war designs either, oh no. You see, they'd been deceiving their German masters in that department too. In their Prague service department, a false wall had been constructed to house their 'Brains' unit, a group of their finest minds under the guidance of Josef Jozif. They were entrusted with the secret and dangerous task of developing new models for what they all hoped would be post-war prosperity.

It was during this time that their groundbreaking Springer 250cc model was designed, and not just on paper either. As the Prague site was entrusted with the repair of Wehrmacht motorcycles, the Brains team took the opportunity to build, develop and actually road test their hidden prototypes under the very noses of their occupiers. By false accounting, petrol allocated for the running in of repaired DKW motorcycles was diverted to their own DKW badged prototypes which were ridden out through guarded factory gates sporting Wehrmacht livery. Using this deception, they were able to test their new designs over a 100,000km test period, ready for a post-war world.

Those brave men and women risked (and indeed gave) their lives every single working day to deceive their occupiers, just in the hope of producing better motorcycles for a post-war era. Well, it puts my restoration worries into perspective.

First attempt at pinstriping? Blimey. 1959 Jawa 355

By the start of May my chrome was ready for pick up and I was delighted with the results. I'd also found two other suppliers of new parts, namely in Prague and who both accepted Paypal and gave such excellent helpful and friendly service that I'd have no hesitation in recommending either.

The Jawa passed its MOT first time and since then I spent much of my free time in tweaking, adjusting and quite frankly getting things set up right. The sort of vital fiddling essential after a complete strip down. I put 150 miles on the bike and felt happy that it had as much chance of powering itself to Bourtange as any bike I own.

Tony's 1972 250cc 559 Jawa, yesterday. 1972 250cc 559 Jawa

So - by the time you read this -- accompanied by Tony on his 1972 250cc 559 Jawa and Gary on his 175cc Voshkod, hopefully my 1959 355 Jawa will have crossed the Pennines via Woodhead pass to Hull, Rotterdam and beyond. Wish us luck…

Gary's 175cc Voshkod, photographed with a Ural camera, by the look of it. 175cc Voshkod


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