By Tom White
Adolf Hitler tried. So did the Russians. But nothing could stifle the Czechoslovakian spirit—a society that honored its engineers and technicians with a level of respect usually reserved for artists. It’s no wonder that the Czechs would build the best and most reliable motocross bike in the world by 1965.
CZ’s motocross history started in the mid 1950’s with a 175cc bike that was easily modified to 250cc (although the company was founded in 1919 as a weapons manufacturer). The single cylinder’s twin exhaust port design was necessary to help overcome cylinder distortion caused by excessive heat. The original CZ two-stroke engine pumped out 22 horsepower and used a twin-pipe exhaust system.
In the beginning of its development, the twin-pipe CZ was no match for the English-built Greeves two-stroke, but CZ was quick to develop and improve the basic design. Unlike the British factories, CZ was also willing to translate its works bikes into production machines. In 1964, CZ put a production version of a 1963 works bike into the capable hands of a young Belgian rider name Joel Robert. Robert (pronounced Row-Bear) would win the 1964 FIM 250cc World Championship on the CZ Type-968. It weighed just 214 pounds and delivered 26 horsepower. Robert and CZ would go on to win several 250 World Championships. CZ ushered in the two-stroke era.
By 1967, CZ would improve on the twin-pipe design with a new single-port cylinder that utilized a much less vulnerable high pipe. Unfortunately, the factory that was once so quick to make changes now slowed development to a crawl. By the time the Japanese factories came on the scene, CZ had stagnated. They would lose both Joel Robert and Roger DeCoster to Suzuki, and by the late ’70s they were forced to soldier on with Iron Curtain riders.
1965 CZ TWIN-PIPE 250 FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
CZ twin-pipes enjoy celebrity status among motorcycle collectors. A correctly restored twin-pipe 250 will sell for around $10,000, and the 360cc twin-pipe will sell for as much as $15,000.
There are two collectible models: the Type-968 twin-pipe 250 and the Type-969 twin-pipe 360.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Amazingly, you can buy a brand-new twin-pipe (250 or 360) in Czecho today. Replicas and NOS copies are not as valuable as original motorcycles. Look for the original magnesium hubs (preferably not painted), the hand-formed aluminum airbox, correct Barum tires and original Pal rear shocks.
Parts can be found in the USA at Bertus CZ/Jawa in LaPuente, California, at (626) 330-2326. In Europe parts can be found in the Czech Republic from Jiri Starec at +420 342 372 489.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com