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A Two-Wheeled Military BMW… From China… With Five Wheels

Deartháir April 27, 2010 Two-Wheel Tuesday 6 Comments

Admit it. Given the chance, you'd road trip anywhere on this thing.

This beautiful example was spotted at the Powerama show in Edmonton this weekend. A wartime BMW is rare enough, but one with the upgraded 750cc, 37hp engine? Well that’s something special!

Wait... what's this?

But hold on there bucko. Something doesn’t seem quite right. What’s with all the Chinese labels and markings mixed in with the German? Lo and behold it’s not, in fact, a BMW at all.

When the Russians took Austria during the closing days of World War II, they also occupied a BMW aircraft factory. This particular factory not only produced warplanes, but also military motorcycles. In true fashion, they packed up the entire assembly, including blueprints, dies, castings and machinery, and shipped it back to Russia. There they duplicated it exactly, and continued producing the BMW motorcycles for many more years.

Years later, when communist China decided they needed a military motorcycle, they approached the Soviet Union for help. Once again, the entire manufacturing process was packed up and shipped off, where once again it was copied exactly. How exactly? This particular bike is one of the Chinese versions, but the owner informs me he has been able to track down replacement parts for the original BMW motorcycles — entirely labeled in German, with German packaging — and the replacement parts fit perfectly, even though they were designed for a bike from the 1940s, and his was produced in the 1970s.

This particular example now appears to be a fascinating mix of Russian, German and Chinese motorcycles, but it is immaculately restored and cared for and is in perfect running order. The owner informs me it starts on the first or second try every time, in any weather. Oh, and he drives it all the time. It’s used for road trips, rallies, vacations or just day-to-day driving. Now that’s the way a classic is supposed to be used.

It should be noted that the owner is also a mechanic in the Canadian Armed Forces, so this project has been built on his own, whenever he could find the spare funds and the time to do it. We here at Redusernab salute a soldier and one of our own. This is a fine example of “doing it right”.

  • Every time I end up at a motorcycle show, I find myself heavily lusting after a Ural, regardless of if they're any good.

  • BPR

    This is a Chang Jiang! The design dates back to when BMW was still running sidevalve engines (Like a Zundapp, if that means anything to anyone).

    You can buy one in the states, assuming a top speed around 50 is OK with you. Check out their website:

  • I have a couple of friends who are way into these things. One has a Chang Jiang, the other a Ural. They are a hit at any party.

    I do note that riding in the 'car' can make some people pretty queasy….

  • Urals are nifty. Two wheel drive ftmfw.

  • There's a retired guy here who rides a Ural sidehack rig, a two wheel drive one. Not the OD green military one, the pretty civilian one. It's a nice thing to see. There used to be a dealer nearby in Sierra Vista, he had a bunch of them. Add a Ural or Chang Jiang to things I need. Hell, who's in a big hurry, anyway?

  • BPR

    A buddy had a bright red Ural sidehack rig for a while. I took it for a spin down to the local hardware store. I have never gotten more grins, thumbs up, and other affirmative gestures than I did on that thing. It was downright silly with it’s screamIng red paint, knobby tires, jacked up suspension, and sidecar. Everyone who saw it had a comment or a smile.