The versions of the origins of the Soviet "oppozit" motorcycles
by both Marcel Reinbold and Murray Barnard are interesting, but show
a lack of serious research into the subject. This is to be expected
however, as most of the literature is only available in Russian and
is therefore very under-researched in the West. Indeed, it has only
been since the collapse of the Soviet Union that it has been easy to
travel to the locations of the factories and talk to the Russian and
Ukrainian historians and begin to gather the full story.
write this response from Irbit, home to a large part of the "oppozit"
story. It was in this little town on the edge of Siberia that the machinery
and tooling of the Moscow Motorcycle Factory arrived in the winter of
1941. It was from here at the end of February 1942, the first M-72 motorcycles
were loaded onto a train to be sent west to be united with sidecars
from the GAZ plant and be sent further west to fight the Nazi invaders.
works from the basis that the Soviets repatriated the R71 production
line and then "invented" the story of obtaining the M-72 in
1940. This however, flies in the face of the Soviet attitude to reparations.
The Soviets were NOT coy about admitting to taking entire factories
from the defeated Germans. They were in fact PROUD of the fact and trumpeted
it loudly. Why "hide" the origins of the M-72 production line
if it was reparations? They didn't do that for the R2 production line
- set-up at MMZ in 1946. They didn't do that for the DKW RT 125 production
line - set up also at MMZ in 1946. They didn't do that for the Wanderer
production line, set-up at KMZ in late 1945. They didn't do that for
the DKW NZ 350/1 production line set-up at IzhMZ (IZH) in 1946. Why
be proud of these reparations and not the R71? Simply because the R-71
production line had already been obtained prior to the German invasion
contrary to popular belief the Soviets didn't move all the BMW facilities
in the Soviet zone back to the USSR. Most stayed where they were and
churned out reparations for the Soviet Union. The Eisenach plant continued
to build R35 BMWs until 1955 (though under the EMW name from 1952).
to Marcel's comment about legions of Soviet soldiers being mounted on
H-D WLAs and Indian 741s. It is indeed true. These two brands were the
most numerous in the Red Army. Almost 30,000 H-D and 20-25,000 Indians
and tens of thousands of British bikes. Most were fitted with Soviet
made sidecars, the same Wehrmacht derived sidecar that was fitted to
the M-72 and made at the GAZ plant in Gorkiy (Nizhniy Novgorod). If
Marcel is interested he can find the production numbers for M-72s in
"Historie der M 72 und ihrer Nachfolger." by
J.Pevsner and R. Rodenkirchen in Motorrad-Classic Issue 2/2000. Whilst
the Soviets made about 20,000 motorcycles all up in the war years they
paled in to insignificance compared to the Lend Lease units.
comments about the A-750 being a more primitive bike than the R-71 are
certainly true. Given as it was designed six years earlier in 1932 by
P.V. Mokharov it may be expected. The equivalent BMW of the time was
the R11 and it was much of the inspiration for the NATI-A-750 (later
PMZ-A-750). Indeed the Soviets recognised the superiority of the M-72
and ceased production of the A-750 in favour of the M-72.
other pre-war motorcycle of the Red Army was the TIZ-AM-600, a copy
of a 1931 BSA Sloper 600. These were produced from 1935 until 1941 when
production was stopped in favour of the M-72 and for a short time the
TMZ-53 (a 1000cc side valve copy of the BMW R-75).
(Photos of the TIZ-AM-600 are available at http://rosweb.ru/lomakovka/motos3tiz-am-600-1939.html)
to the reason that the Germans sold the Russians the R71 and not R12
production lines.- the reason is very simple. The R71 was deemed by
the Wehrmacht to be a failure. It was more expensive to produce than
the R12 and had no redeeming benefits. The Wehrmacht already had many
thousands of R12s in satisfactory service and saw no reason to replace
it with a more complicated model that offered no benefits, unlike the
Zündapp KS750, and BMW's copy the R75, and would only complicate
the supply of spare parts.
it is true that BMW had developed the R71 with an eye to selling it
to the Wehrmacht to replace the R12, Zündapp had been progressing
in development of the KS600 via the KS700 to the KS750. This motorcycle
so impressed the Wehrmacht that it ordered BMW to produce it under licence
and BMW quickly prepared the R75 as a face-saving alternative to building
the KS750 under licence from Zündapp.
Soviets had fairly grand plans for the M-72 in 1940. They intended to
set-up three plants to build the bikes. One at LMZ in Leningrad (St
Petersburg). One at MMZ in Moscow and a third at KhMZ in Kharkov. Many
needed parts were to be built by other companies. With the invasion
in 1941 the plants and parts were quickly transferred south and east.
The LMZ plant ending up in the surrounds of the GAZ plant at Gorkiy
and the MMZ finally ending up in Irbit after stops at Kazan and Sverdlovsk
foundry for the Irbit plant was set-up in the grounds of the brewery
on the outskirts of town. A building in the old town was turned into
the engine/gearbox/final drive machining/assembly plant. An old school
opposite was turned into the technical training school. Should Marcel
want to come to Irbit, he can see these buildings and see the plaques
commemorating their usage during the war. He can see the memorial to
the workers from the factory who volunteered for service in the Red
Army and died. He can then go to the Irbit State Motorcycle Museum and
see the 1940 BMW R71 with Wehrmacht sidecar that was provided along
with the tooling and machinery. He can see the photos of workers building
both the plant and bikes in the winter of 1941-42. He can read the accounts
of the veterans of those times, including the accounts of workers sent
to Bavaria in 1940 to learn to use the tooling at the BMW plant.
he can dismiss it all as a conspiracy because he hasn't seen photos
of Soviet riders on these bikes during the war. The choice is Marcel's.
Personally, I find the evidence in Irbit more than convincing.
on to Murray Barnard's account. The Belgium FN M12 of 1937 was not the
first usage of the driven sidecar wheel. In fact it goes back at least
eight years earlier. Either P.V. Mokharov of the Soviet Union or H.P
Baughn of Great Britain seem to have to been the first to employ a driven
sidecar wheel in 1929. In fact Baughn 2WD outfits were so successful
in trials events in the early 1930's that there were attempts to have
the ACU to ban them from competition. A great many companies experimented
with 2WD in sporting events and indeed many companies employed them
in military vehicles prior to the commencement of WWII.
to the claim that the H-D XA was inspired by the BMW R12, anyone making
such a claim should surely see an optometrist. Yes it is clearly BMW
inspired but only the R71 had the features found on the XA and they
were not used by the Wehrmacht. No the origins of the XA and the frame
of the 841 probably came in the form of plans provided by the Soviet
Union who wanted a great many items from the Americans under Lend Lease.
At the moment this is pure speculation, but it would be interesting
why both H-D and Indian copied a plunger framed bike when the Wehrmacht
did not use them. Only the Red Army used such a bike.
to Barnard's claim that BMW licenced the R71 in 1938, this is simply
a mistake of dates. The real licencing occurred in 1940 by which time
BMW realised that the R71 was a Wehrmacht reject and the German and
Soviet governments had signed the necessary economic and political treaties
to allow for the technology transfer.
has again done too little research to state that the M-72 continued
after the war as the model K-750. The K-750 wasn't introduced by the
KMZ factory until 1958. Seven years after it produced it's first M-72
in 1951. It also ignores the production of the M-72 at Gorkiy until
1949 when production facilities were transferred to KMZ in Kiev. His
statement that the 650 OHV motors were first produced in 1968, again
shows a lack of research. IMZ had been producing OHV engines since the
M-52 of 1957 and the M-61 of 1958. The reference to 1968 is undoubtedly
based on a lack of understanding of the various factories caused by
the combined marketing of all Soviet motorcycles by Avtoexport. The
K-650, first introduced in 1967 was marketed in the West in 1968 and
was probably the first OHV machine known in the West.
claim that the Soviets did not copy the BMW R75 during the war is also
false. The TMZ-53 produced from late 1941 to 1943 in Tuemen was apart
from it's sidevalve 1000cc motor (based on a M-72 crankcase) very much
a copy of the R75. Complete with high and low range gearbox and differential
sidecar drive. A visit to the Moscow Polytechnic Museum will allow an
inspection of the only known surviving example. (Photos of the TMZ-53
are available at http://oppozit.ru/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1112)
again his comments about the Chinese machines shows inadequate research.
The Soviets had been supplying the Chinese with M-72s since the beginning
of the Korean War. In 1956 IMZ updated it's model to the M-72M and transferred
the older M-72 production line to the Chinese where it was known as
the 1957 model. First complete production of Chinese M-72s occurred
in 1961. Prior to this, units were assembled from a combination of Soviet
and Chinese parts.
complexity of Chinese production certainly rivals that of Soviet production
and deserves it's own complete history.