Chang Jiang Motorcycles - China Syndrome, Asian Invasion

No Clone Like An Old Clone

This whole reverse-engineering thing isn't exactly news in China. Witness the Chang Jiang 750. The CJ750M1 is essentially a knockoff of the Russian military M72-M is for mototsikl-which was an evolutionary version of BMW's 1938 R71 side-valve Boxer, knocked off by a Soviet concern by the name of Uralmoto Zavod. The actual chain of events was much more complicated, and a bit shady in spots. With World War II looming, BMW may or may not have played ball with IMZ Ural, depending upon whom you ask. Something about a German end-run around the Treaty of Versailles and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact...

Meanwhile back at the ranch, no matter what else you call a 22-horsepower flathead-twin-or the 32-horse OHV M1S-in a sidecar rig with 6-volt electrics, a four-speed gearbox and drum brakes, calling the CJ750 an R71 Replica is something of a stretch. And just to inject a little much-needed confusion, Xiang Jiang, Chandong, Changhong, Fengtong and Hongyang all build the same bike.

Armed with a more contemporary spelling of the Chang Jiang brand, Zhejiang Qianjiang Motorcycle Co. Ltd. now makes a predictable selection of home-market scooters and small-bore four-strokes such as the Too Ziche QJ150-2G. The old-school Chang Jiang tag refers to equally old-school CJ750 variants shipped all over the world by various companies in the People's Republic. Export bikes are refurbished Chinese People's Liberation Army surplus, variously restored, refurbished and customized with everything from Dave Perewitz-inspired flames to convincing Afrika Corps livery. More than a million were built for the PLA, and there are evidently warehouses full of brand-new examples, as well as loads of spare parts. Civilian versions carry VIN numbers that can earn a legal license plate in China, which can be worth more than the actual motorcycle to someone living in Shanghai.

The 746cc CJ flathead uses a pair of 78 x 78mm cylinders and 5.8:1 compression, sending the subsequent 22 ponies through a two-plate dry clutch and shaft drive, finally arriving at a meaty 3.75 x 19-inch rear tire. With a lot of patience, a long stretch of flat pavement and maybe a tailwind, the healthy CJ can propel three adults and 200 lbs. of cargo to about 60 mph on a good day. Compared to one of these things, a 40-horse Ural is the Millennium Falcon. The only means of transportation more retro than this has four legs, runs on alfalfa and leaves big steaming piles in the street.

If you're in the mood for an 800-lb. Chinese anachronism, there are plenty of outfits willing to set you up. Zhang's Motor Works (www.cj750.net) sells the basic 750 M1 for about $2200-including a box of spares-plus whatever it costs to ship the beast to your chosen port. ZMW makes for a nifty acronym, and its bikes are completely rebuilt with new parts and various improvements such as short-skirt pistons and modern rings.

Just make sure whatever CJ you buy is at least 25 years old. Otherwise, it's liable to be confiscated and fed to a U.S. Customs crusher. There are bargains out there, but only if you do your homework. And remember Master Po's advice to Caine way back in 1972:"If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past."

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