To be honest and objective, then, probably, the most correct conclusion would be that the history of the domestic motorcycle industry really begins precisely with the Second World War. While neighboring countries were testing out developments in the production of motor vehicles, our country was solving its internal problems, which, against the background of the First World War and the change of power, the state system, did not find a place for a motorcycle project. Although later, reading Soviet textbooks on motorcycle building, you find curious references created by the censorship, but nowhere do you see that the most famous motorcycle was designed from the development of the enemy and allies. Soviet textbooks prefer to keep silent about the prototypes of their own developments.
Legendary, the most famous and recognizable motorcycle among Soviet technology. Our troops desperately needed a vehicle that could counterbalance the German BMWs and Zundapps. Yes, later the allies shared their motorcycles, which immediately went to the front, but it was the M-72 that became their family and beloved workaholic.
By and large, this is a copy of the BMW R71. Here you can see the magic of numbers and many small parallels that are read between the lines. German motorcycles are labeled “R“ and “K” because the generic name “power wheel” in German sounds like “KraftRad”. In our marking from the German R71, it turned out M-72, where “M” is the designation from “Moscow”.
The Americans also looked at the successful BMW project and combined the Harlley-Davidson base with the R71 engine and cardan shaft, and later released a full-fledged model under the WLA42 index, which was given to us as an aid in 1943.
So it turns out that both the M-72 and WLA42 prototypes fought against their original BMW R71 on a common front.
Our M-72 entered the front line in 1941 from the Iskra plant. A low center of gravity that adds maximum stability when driving “solo”, an under-valve structure powered by each boiler (cylinder) from its own carburetor, a sidecar drive and a front fork with hydraulic shock absorption – what is not a worthy response to Nazi Germany?
There are legends about these motorcycles and their subsequent developments, starting from the successful center of gravity, which is almost in the fifth dimension (with such a load, with which the M-72 is driven, it is not comprehensible to the mind how it does not roll over and overcomes off-road tremendous survivability, and most importantly, amazing work / maintainability. How many jokes about engine repair from nothing, literally from improvised means. Maneuverability and off-road capability undoubtedly do credit to this bike. Yes, it is not very high-speed, it develops no more than 90 km / h, but it swallows holes with enviable success.
Subsequent developments, even in the post-war period, went to civilian life with the expectation of a possible return to the front.
The second round of development of the motorcycle industry in the USSR was the period of the Cold War.
This is not a joke, the Cold War really spurred the use of maximum experience in motorcycle design. Motorcycles during the war and after the victory became a huge help to the population in rebuilding the country. New models came out into the world so that, if necessary, the owner of the motorcycle could quickly turn from a collective farmer into a combat unit.
The only real drawback in this motorcycle is its weight – 380 kg, which is a lot. If the breakdown of the motorcycle is difficult or it is simply bogged down in the off-road, it is almost impossible to pull it out alone.
Other developments of the Soviet military motorcycle industry
In the shadow of the M-72, you can find earlier designs, some of which again stretch from Harley-Davidson. The most successful personal project of the USSR can be considered the L-8, 350 cubic meters of the engine, with an overhead valve structure. And everything would be fine, the motorcycle has proven itself not bad, only it was produced at different factories, where the standards were not observed as clearly as the German enemy. As a result, the soldiers faced a real disaster during the repair, since the configuration of the model, although they had the same structure, might not be suitable in terms of dimensions and clearances in terms of details. In other words, a spare part from one motorcycle might not fit all 100 for the same motorcycle that came from another factory.
The same problem arose with the release of the M-72. Motorcycles were assembled at different factories in the country and did not have 100% accuracy of adherence to the drawings in the dimensions of parts up to mm.
Military developments in chronological order:
- KhMZ 350
Allied countries provided the Soviet army with a modest number of motorcycles such as the Harley-Davidson WLA45 and 741 Military Scott, even Indian. It should be noted that the most serious motorcycles were sold in senior ranks, and the simpler ones were adapted and often combined with our sidecars from the M-72.
Conclusion: during the Second World War, motorcycles in Soviet history have firmly entered the life of the population of our country, later taking an important place in the life of people. Motorcycles were not only a way of moving and delivering ammunition, but also replaced horse-drawn vehicles. It was the development of the wartime motorcycle industry that created the main system of motorcycle production in the USSR.