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The Yesteryears – An Icon Becomes A Legend

Nine decades after its launch, Jawa continues to ignite the same passion and emotion which defined an entire generation of motorcyclists

Passion and emotion – when it comes to Jawa, it would be quite accurate to say that these two words have taken precedence over everything else, right from the brand’s inception. The year was 1929. The world was between the wars, armaments were a profitable proposition, but motorcycles? Not so much! It was passion and emotion then, which drove František Janecek to stop making grenades (really!) and get into building motorcycles.

The rest, as they say, is history. After acquiring the operations of Wanderer from German manufacturer Winklhofer & Jaenicke, along with the design and tooling for the new Wanderer 500 motorcycle, he christened his new venture Jawa, taking the first two letters each from his last name and the company he had just acquired. His first motorcycle, the 500 OHV was launched on October 23 that year and was not only hugely successful but also paved the way for the brand that became synonymous with thrill, excitement and freedom for millions over the decades that followed. Smaller and more agile models followed shortly after, making Jawa an established name at that point.

Jawa continued to win hearts, races and accolades even after František’s demise in 1941. His passion proved to be contagious, spreading all over the world. India was no exception.

As the market was opening in India, two enterprising Parsi gentlemen, Rustom and Farrokh Irani, struck a deal with Jawa and began importing Jawa motorcycles into the country through their firm Ideal Jawa in 1960. The sprightly Jawa 250 was just perfect for India and immediately caught the fancy of Indian bikers. Recognising the demand, Jawa established a factory in Mysore in 1961 with support from the king at the time, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. Between 1961 and 1971, Ideal Jawa manufactured the 250 Type 353/04 under licence.

Jawa motorcycles quickly earned a reputation for being rugged, simple, and unbreakable, starting an everlasting love affair for many. The Jawa 250 became the ride of choice for urban youth. Suddenly, every cool hero in Bollywood was riding a Jawa, first trying to woo his lady love and then taking her out on joyrides, yodelling hit chartbusters. Off the silver screen, many brave racers took home wins on the Jawa 250, inspired by the European racing scene. By 1971, Ideal Jawa manufactured and sold the new motorcycles under the name Yezdi with technical assistance from Jawa, which carried forward the legacy and love for the brand.

While the last Yezdi motorcycle was sold in India in the late 1990s, Jawa never left the hearts of people. In fact, the yearning to own a Jawa became even stronger among the youth in the country. The ‘ring-a-ding-ding’ exhaust note, the blue smoke and the smell of petrol-2T mix suddenly found more relevance in the age of four-stroke bikes. This era became a classic case of ‘heart over mind’ for Jawa lovers. Countless bikes exchanged owners over the next couple of decades, several clubs were formed, and people proudly rode their bikes together. JYMC (Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club) spread across the country with chapters in many cities. Some kept their bikes rusty, some restored them to mint and some painted them crazy colours – but everyone kept the fire burning strong.

The rebirth – classic legends story

No points for guessing then what serendipitously brought Anand Mahindra, Anupam Threja and Boman Irani together. The three gentlemen, now fondly known as the ‘Three Amigos’ of the Indian motorcycling industry took the mantle of bringing Jawa back to the fore. Now, these men do not need any introduction and if you have been fortunate enough to witness their amazing banter whenever they got together for a Jawa event, you would know that all three of them have their fair share of Jawa stories. While they all come from different walks of life, what bound them together, and continues to do so, is the passion named Jawa!

Although the story behind the birth of Classic Legends sounds exciting, the actual excitement was waiting to unfold over the next couple of years. For Anand Mahindra, Jawa motorcycles were love at first sight but the challenge for Classic Legends was not only to achieve the same cult status with the new Jawa but also take it to a generation that had evolved from cassette players to cloud based music services. In his own words, “It’s harder for people of my generation — baby boomers — to understand new narratives. But for the younger generation to understand genuine stories is natural. My daughters love my sixties music because it was authentic, there was a story you cannot replicate. All of this is completely pregnant in the bike we’re launching. It’s about history, heritage, narrative and authenticity.”

The greatest challenge though, in Anupam’s exact words, also was, “Either resume from where the bike stopped or make the bike that would have been made today had it never stopped.”

Fast forward to not so long ago - 15th of November 2018 to be precise. When the Three Amigos presented the new Jawa, the whole world was watching. Not one, not two, but three brand new models swept everybody off their feet and set the booking counters ablaze. Website crashed, servers couldn’t keep up; such was the traffic in a bid to book the new Jawa models. Jawa even became the most searched brand on Google!

As the new chapter in Jawa’s glorious history was unfolding, the task at hand for Classic Legends was monumental still. Thanks to the overwhelming response, the Jawa and forty two were sold out for the next nine months in a matter of days. Classic Legends had the herculean task of delighting not just everyone who had booked a Jawa but also every single person who wanted to see them ruling the streets again. To deliver this, the concept of ‘Emotional Engineering’ was put into place. This meant that the Jawa motorcycles were designed and developed not as regular motorcycles but as objects of desire that put a smile on faces and set the heartbeat racing.

The lean and efficient taskforce at Classic Legends jetsetted across the length and breadth of the country, ensuring that a network of 100 dealerships was set up in a record 100 days, making us the only automobile manufacturer India to do so. In the meantime, the factory at Pithampur geared up to produce the motorcycles. And we were just getting started…

With bikes on the road soon after, it was our turn to make a difference by making Jawa a way of life. We started with conceiving an important initiative called the #ForeverHeroes that set a charter to give back to the armed forces. As a part of this, we auctioned 13 motorcycles from our first batch to raise a staggering INR 1,49,25,000. The sum was handed over to Kendriya Sainik Board, Ministry of Defence (Government of India) at a joint ceremony in the presence of eminent armed forces veterans, war heroes and officers, to be utilised towards the education of children of martyrs of Indian Armed Forces.

This was also the moment when we brought together the legendary ‘Hell’s Angels’, a band of veteran fighter pilots from Indian Air Force to recreate their iconic Jawa photograph shot right before the 1971 war. The initiative continued as we did our bit to support the families of martyrs of Ladakh Scouts by contributing towards a community centre for them during our maiden Ibex Trails ride. The ‘Border Man’ statue at the Atari-Wagah border now stands tall as our tribute to the sacrifices of the brave men from BSF that guard our borders around the clock.

2019 also witnessed the birth of #JawaNomads, the brand’s ride program with ‘Ibex Trail 2019’ giving a chance to riders from across India to experience the phenomenal landscapes of Ladakh while riding to give back to the local communities. ‘Punjab Da Tor’ established our second marquee ride program that gave a chance to Jawa riders to explore the unseen facets of Punjab ranging from spirituality, culture and patriotism.

2019 also gave us opportunities to celebrate our legacy and success. 23rd October last year marked the 90th anniversary of Jawa Motorcycles. The day saw the Czech Ambassador and his staff members join Jawa riders for a breakfast ride in Delhi and co-hosted the evening event where the Jawa ‘Anniversary Edition’ was launched. This motorcycle was built as a homage to the glorious beginnings of the brand in 1929. This edition was limited to just 90 units and featured a special 90th anniversary colour scheme inspired by the Jawa 500 OHV, the first ever Jawa to come out of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia.

Then came Classic Legend’s first anniversary in November, where the Three Amigos assembled back together on stage to look back at the year that went by and unleash the much awaited Jawa Perak. Through Perak, Classic Legends gave bikers India’s first factory custom, starting a whole new culture. The motorcycle embodies the spirit of Stealth, Vigilante and Dark. The Perak, once again, received overwhelming response when bookings opened on January 1st, 2020, and, as luck would have it, resulted in the website crashing yet again due to phenomenal traffic.

The last couple of years also gave us a chance to reignite the spark among all Jawa and Yezdi riders in the country and unite them back as a strong Jawa ‘Kommuniti’ with the biggest ever concurrent International Jawa Day celebrations across India, Forever Riders Meet and various such events. JYMC has since then seen many new chapters. Even the global pandemic couldn’t dampen the spirits of Jawa riders as Jawa lovers from across the globe came together this International Jawa Day for the Kommuniti’s biggest online celebration. Did we forget to mention that we won a few awards along the way? Yes, popular publications like Autocar India, TopGear India, Motoroctane and Autoportal conferred their prestigious Motorcycle of the Year Awards on the Jawa Forty Two.

The road ahead

After all this, it certainly seems we’re off to a great start, but for us it’s like we’ve just started rolling in the first gear. If you’re used to riding motorcycles, you’d know the first gear is the strongest in terms of acceleration but hits the redline just too soon. To keep the momentum, you need to shift gears and keep the throttle pinned. And that’s exactly what you will see us do. To be honest, each one of us would just love to go riding in the mountains or the beautiful coast down south, populating our Instagram feeds with pictures of the Jawa Forty Two against equally amazing scenery but we’d rather let our customers do that.

For us, the top priority remains giving the Jawa Kommuniti the best modern classic motorcycling experience. This means continuing the unmatched sales and service experience so that our customers only need to worry about choosing their next destination and freeing up space on their phones for the never ending stream of pictures that would follow. We can’t delve into details, but our product range will expand spoiling every motorcycle enthusiast in the country for choice. Watch out for two more additions to our range and a big launch on the global front!

As you read this, we’ve already started the further expansion of our retail footprint, reaching out to more customers. In our hearts, we’re all raring to get on our favourite Jawa and ride into the horizon, just like every motorcyclist sitting at home due to the ongoing pandemic. This means the Jawa Nomads will be back on the roads to create epic trips and offer unique riding experiences to our customers.

As we carry forward the legacy of Jawa, you can be sure of one thing – everything we do, we will do it with the same passion and emotion that started this journey nine decades ago. May you enjoy the ride!

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