Izh-a race into dead end

Izhevsk, Russia was birthplace of Soviet motoprom with first motorcycles assembled in 1929 and the plant referred to as “MSK-14″ remained the biggest producer till 1980-s, 390,000 motorcycles left conveyor line. In total there have been made over 40 road motorcycles.

While experimental and sports machines were made in hundreds, Country’s general decrease of productivity also touched Izhevsk, though by its biography end in 2007 it reached 11 million machines. (Ref 12 million IZH website) Order of VSNKh (All-union peoples committee for economy) issued in 1931 stated to build a motorcycle producing plant in Izhevsk (first specialized enterprize in the country) with production capability 120,000 machines per year. First motorcycles Izh-7 (leftmost on pic) mark were made in 1933, light machines equipped with 300cc 2str. engine, 6.5 hp were analogous to L-300 Ë-300), which in its turn was copied from German DKW Luxus 300. Izh-8 a new model with 8 hp output saw the light in 1938 (central on pic), in 1939 an improved version Izh-9, 9 hp (right on pic). Unfortunately the plant didn’t reach its level of “120.000” with maximum annual output 4830 in 1938, totally counting 18,000 in pre-war time (before ther Great patriotic war) – too small quantity for a huge country with enormous deficit of transport. Therefore, it is not surprising that pre-war time in the USSR is considered by historians as “null”, not having domestic motorcycle industry.

Izh-7, Izh-8, and Izh-9                                                                    Izh-7, Izh-8, and Izh-9

pic. below, Izh-12 born in 1940 as a result of adding 4-stroke OHV engine, 348cc, 13.5hp of L-8 to Izh-9 frame and chassis, mass production was made to start in summer 1941. In November of same year it was decided to hand over Izhevsk plant to People’s Committee for Weaponry so that it didn’t produce motorcycles and after the war moto-production was founded on Izhevsk machinery plant.

Izh-12 of 1940
                                                                     Izh-12 of 1940


First Izhevsk motorcycle built in 1928 by Pyotr Mozharov, a gifted designer, who was at that time running “motodepartment” on Izhevsk weapons plant,this shown on pic stands in museum of Izhevsk has outstanding dimensions: Izh-1 ~2 metres long, weight 300kg,2-cyl. sidevalve 1200cc engine had sufficient 24 hp. Non standard techincal design solutions included: parts arrangement (almost rarely used V-twin with crank co-axial to frame, as modern Moto Guzzi have), fork combined parallelogramic and lever-type, frame lower back part served as silencers casings. This motorcycle was driven by P.Mozharov “First all-union test rally of soviet motrocycles” covered by “Za ruliom” publishers.

The same year 1929 6 experimental machines were made in Izhevsk under Mozharov’s supervision, all were of various designs. As results of first moto-rally were drawn, less of all penalty points got light Izh-4 with 200cc 2-T engine, this very machine took most attention of experts and was recommended for mass-production. Alas all work in Izhevsk was frozen by 1929.

In 1945 a team of experts from Izhevsk machinery plant was sent to Germany and as reparation got all technical documentation and production means providing up to 35.000 motorcycles/year, there was there was DKW NZ 350 model. It was not only Germany supplied technical papers, parts , but also German specialists including main designer of DKW factory Herman Weber. People’s Commitee for Weaponry head D. Ustinov cheered up plant’s workers: “You make weapons well, intelligently, but know nothing of motorcycles, that’s why I prohibit to make any changes in them. Copy them as they are, when you know what’s for what you will introduce your changes, but not even a nut now!” That was how a copy of DKW became a production base model for many years till the plant’s closing in 2007 incluiding majority of IZhevsk road motorcycles. 2-stroke, 1 cyl., 350cc engine with 72x85mm dimensions had 10.5 hp, left-side foot lever of 4-speed gear changing mechanism was doubled by a handle on right side of fuel tank. This was first mass-made model for the plant with totally 108,000 made in 6 years.


Izh-350C (s-“sport”) of 1948 – first sports motorcycle for numerous “motorcycle clubs”. It differed from road version in aluminium jacketed cylinder (with wider port and cylinder channels that augmented power by 4 hp.), telescopic fork, candle rear suspension.


One of Russian road legends – Izh-49 of 1951, had outstanding reliability and suitability for our “undescribable” enviroment. Front fork- telescope, candles in rear, and 2nd saddle screwed to rear mudguard turned this machine thoroughly ready and comfortable for daily rides. While most of parts were still interchangeable with izh-350 including front part of press-formed frame elements, 14-litre fuel tank (though it got a toolbox), and 19″ wheels. Long-travel, “slow” engine with cast-iron pot developed 11,5 hp at 4000rpm.

Izh-54 racer                                                                                Izh-54 racer

First factory road racer Izh-54 of 1955 had a tube welded frame and telescopic fork, rear suspencion eliminated, which reduced weight to 105kgs. Tuned engine borrowed from izh-50already 18hp, the machine was widespread in its time mainly because there was no alternative.

Izh-51 of 1951                                                                          Izh-51 of 1951

Sports Izh-51c of 1951 will represent some interest in its lower engine casing cast swell: it had a piston supercharger there connected at crankshaft with rod and oval rocker, this could raise power to 18hp.

Cross motorcycle looked as such in 1955: without electric gadgets, ignition- magnetto, raised silencers and pipes, huge fuel tank. Though Izh-49 had Al jacket on cylinder(16hp), it weighed 145kg, intake placement gives some idea of rough race tracks at those times, with nose up, near fuel tank. Multiday race version “M” index, was equipped with electric lights,which added 15kgs more.

Izh-49K                                                                                Izh-49K

Izh-49K- first mass-produced sidecar, which was assembled according to izhevsk design specifications in Vyatka-polyansk machinery plant(VMPZ) in 1956. The outfit weighed 254kg while it could carry 3 men at 65km/h speed.

Izh-56 of 1956                                                                           Izh-56 of 1956

Further part of race distance after 49th took izh -56 in 1956 with welded tube frame and normal pendulum with 2 hydraulic spring shock absorbers. Rear part outer look reminded “JAWA” sold in the USSR. Wheels were interchangeable, chain in well-insulated casing, 2-seat pillow was comfortable. Engine couild bragg race tested Al jacketcyl., with a bit modest 13hp at 4200rpm, which all in all could overcome conditional 100km/h border.

Izh-58                                                                               Izh-58

Prototype for new izh-58 was a relatively modern DKW RT 350, 2-cyl. , 2str., 18hp, chassis was unificated with Izh-56, only mudguards, seat and frame shape was changed. Izhevsk machinery making craftsmen exhibited the model in 1957 on Bruxselles world show. Mass production was started in 1961, new series were named “Jupiter”.

Izh-57M                                                                                Izh-57M

In 1957 the plant assembled new sports motos – multiday racer Izh-57M and cross Izh57k . Their 1-cyl.engine was tuned to 18hp, last modified Izh-57-2M had 23 hp reaching top 120km/h. It was 34th “International siday race” held in Chekhoslavakia, Soviet team with these Izhs took 9 gold and 3 bronze medals, Izhevsk plant was awarded gold medal by FIM.

Izh Orion                                                                            “Izh Orion”

Experimental izh “orion” of 1959: long arm front fork, most interesting feature was hidden inside: izh-58 twin had a direct fuel injection systems implanted, but this saw no way to conveyor and mass production.

Izh-231 of 1959                                                                        Izh-231 of 1959

Izh 231 “Saturn” of 1959 with spinal-cord like frame (without front diagonal tube). One experimental version had fuel tank and coatings serving as frame made of fiberglass which droppped weight to 140kg, with 1-cyl., 250cc engine, 14hp/5500rpm , it reached 110km/h. Main specialty here was block engine swinging together with pendulum, added with automated chain support mechanism. All onboard electronic system was integrated with generator, all these made it standing out too far from “simlpe folk” line, hardly this would have been regarded by Soviet motorcyclists.

Izh-58 “Sirius” of 1960                                                                   Izh-58 “Sirius” of 1960

One more experimental prototype with izh-58 twin and long-lever fork – Izh “Sirius”, 1960, power plant was designed similar to Izh 231 (swinging with rear suspension).

Izh-555                                                                                 Izh-555

In 1963 project Izh-555 supposed a machine to have a 492 cc 2-str. twin, 25hp/5000rpm. With sidecar tied to it, this could compete with Urals Dneprs while while being lighter (275kg) top speed 95kmh and cheaper in production costs(theoretically). There were several engine version including disc valve at intake duct.

Mass-made izh-Sh-11 for in union road race competitions , 1969, 2 cyl., 2str. engine borrowed from Izh jupiter-2 was tuned to 35hp, paced up to 160kmh.

Thorough modernization brought new mass-made models in 1971 with Izh-planeta-3 and Jupiter-3. Outer look was improved with newly designed fuel tank, side tool boxes and mudguards. First on Izhevsk were turn lights equipment, 19″ wheels swapped for 18″, 1 cyl. Planeta engine power increased from 15.5 hp to 18hp, Jupiter 18 to 25hp.

Izh-61K of 1960                                                                  Izh-61K of 1960

A frontier if not a revolutionary model of motocross bike was Izh-61k, 1960. a completely new short travel engine, 1 cyl. 2str., 340cc, 25 hp, 6-speed gb. Its engine served as prototype for following Izh PS road and sport modifications in 1970-1980-s, light tube frame(semiduplex), mass droppped with fork, saddle base(made of Al alloy), gross weight 116kg – way ahead of contemporary cross machines in its specifications.

Izh-344A of 1961                                                                       Izh-344A of 1961

A unique racing Izh-344A , 1961, 3-cyl 2-stroke, v-engine 54x52mm, 40 hp/7000-8000rpm and dismantable 6-speed gearbox installed in duplex frame (double, symmetrical tubes) weigt 130kgs, top speed 160kmh.

Izh-D15                                                                                  Izh-D15

Work on 500 cc twin continued in 1970-s with xp Izh-D15 “Jupiter 500″ of 1976. Durable frame for sidecars loads, oil pump and 5 speed g.b.

P.63 right up: modified frame, chassis and outer design of Jupiterpassed to 56th predecessor also given proper name “Planeta”. Difference was in open-type mudguards mounted to bridge, step-saddle became plain with handlebars for passenger, technologically less complicated were fuel tank, tool boxes decorations, smaller chromised silencers total square.

                                                                           Izh Planeta Sport

Most legendary was Soviet motorcycle “a sunsine through cloudy skies” – Izh Planeta Sport of 1973 nicknamed by general public “Dog” (abbrev similar to rus. “dog” – PS:, the machine was created to v/o Avtoexport requirements aimed at US and European markets. This was the only Izh not taking after DKW genealogy engines, but from supposedly izh-61K, sports engines developed at the begin of 1960-s. In addition, it was not unificated in other parts with “ordinary” Izhs, innovations comprized: separate lub system(oil pump), engine to clutch assy transmission through toohgears, powerful 3-phase generator, 12v onboard el. system, all mounted on a thermo-treated high-class alloy steel frmae, , rod-less fork, rear shock absorbers with preload adjustments, . Main tech. traits also included imported Japanese equipment: carb(Mikuni), headlight(Stanley), turnlights(Denso as well as gen. on some versions), 340cc engine (76x75mm) had 32 hp with max. speed 140kmh – a dream for most of USSR bikes at the time. Several years later PS lost some charm, 4 hp and imported parts, separate lub., though in some years its production output reached almost 25.000 machines/year it was considered unprofitable and taken off conveyor lines in 1984.

P. 64: XP izh “Trial” (in fact a fully legal road machine) designed in 1981 as a response to trial fashion at the time. The idea unified engine, el. system, shock absorbers, fork of PS with chassis and wheel borrowed from motoroller. Frame had an original design – without front tube and engine was mounted to safety tubes, serving as a rack in front part.

Izh-6.216                                                                                   Izh-6.216

1984 saw new mass-produced machines for in-union sport events: Izh 6.216 and Izh 6.2161, PS-based engine was giving 36 hp this time, while weight droppped to 116kg.(in cross variant).

Izh-7.106                                                                            Izh-7.106

2-stroke 500cc boxer Izh 7.106 was created 1985 in cooperation with Czechoslovakian “JAWA” : 2-cyl., 36 hp/ 7000rpm. Engine was joined to 5-speed gearbox, up to day equipment included electric starter, hydraulic brakes (front disc), 180 w generator It never saw mass prod. lines due to its complexity of making.

In 1986 it was planned to be put on coveyor a new “Planet-5-400″ with improved engine, vol. increased to 380cc (76x85mm), though brochures were ready, production was cancelled becasue of high level of vibrations.

Izh-7.107                                                                               Izh-7.107

In 1987 Planeta-5 entered mass production (izh 7.107) with usual engine capacity, though slightly modernized: 22 hp, first for 1-cyl. enigine mass-made single exhaust pipe, refreshed outer look (fueltank, coatings), gadgets panel were borrowed from Jupiter-5, made since 1985. This factory’s motorcycle had honour to be issued in one of the biggest series, reaching 500.000 pcs.

P.65: in 1980-s Izhevsk jioned competition to produce an escort motorcycle and most original was V. Batuev 2-cyl. engine based on Planet-Sport (76x75mm) resulting in ~700cc total Cylinders were arranged in a V-pattern, perpendicular to motorcycle axis with crankshaft along it, so that cardan final drive was a logical continuation. As we might guess, it had enough horsepowers, no one knows how upper level statesmen would have reacted to 2T smoke of such escort.

One more escort-try Izh “Vega”: 4T opposite engine from escort Dnepr(Kiev),acccompanied by 5-sp. g.b. and el.starter, cardan shaft. It was last “escort branch” research sample.

Escort fever passed to VNII Motoprom and resulted in Izh “Leader” , 1990, a thoroughly coated in plastic machine, with XP rotary 57 hp engine developed by VNII (all-union scientific research institute).

In 1980-s “ruling heavens” finally noticed that gap in tech. progress between the West and Sov. was catastrophic, so it was decided to to eliminate it by a proven means, buying licenses for production Yamaha Co. sold engine(4T, 1-cyl., Yamaha XT550), front fork, disc brake, air-hydraulic fork and casl Al alloy wheels. Process of adaptation lasted all 1987 and goods embodied in Izh 7.109 Orion should have opened a completely new, module family of motorbikes, as combining parts the plant could produce: a road, enduro, supermoto versions. Engine saw no chances as the state couldn’t supply some parts(tooth belt for timing mech., oil rings, spark plugs), as well as overall design complexity and demand for good quality motor oils. Infamous 4T project died out, while outer parts were adopted to be used for series of Planeta and Jupiter.

Izh-7.110 “Sprinter Sirius 400″ of 1991                                                   Izh-7.110 “Sprinter Sirius 400″ of 1991

Izh 7.110 “Sprinter Sirius 400″, 1991 was seen as an alternative way out for Orion same chassis, but home-made 2-stroke engine, 386cc, liquid cooled, separate lubrication, and electric starter. 28 hp were enough to reach 135mk/h, transmission (motor transmission and 5-speed gearbox), suspension with wheels were licensed (Yamaha). New model showed in factory’s brochures didn’t ever reach conveyor so far.

Izh-7.205 Competition                                                                 Izh-7.205 Competition

Izh 7.205 built in 1991, is a unique FIM multiday race machine, with all except for tires, chain, bearings and piston rings were made at the plant. Despite dying out air-cooling engines, designers managed to take off 50 hp from 500cc, 108 kg weight, long travel suspencion provided 300mm clearance.

                                                                        Izh-7.101-01 of 1994

Izh 7.101-01 of 1994 was Planeta-5 with all license parts included: cast Al alloy wheels, pneumo-hydraulic fork, front disc, besides, a part of these had also separate engine lube system(oil tank in engine casing), constant magnets generator with pointless ignition system.

Izh Planeta-6                                                                            Izh Planeta-6

By 1997 Izhevsk plant was ready to represent completely new generation of 1 cyl. motorcycle called Planeta-6 with engine unificated in crank and piston group to IZH P.S. , had also separate lub., pointless ignition, 5-sp. g.b., liquid cooled. The motorcycle went through many tests, (g.b. breakages, water leaks), so much expected by motorcyclists of the country…it never came out as for innovations in wasn’t the best time(economic crisis).

Izh-2.672 C50                                                                            Izh-2.672 C50

In 1990- friendly Vyatsko-Polyansk plant (VMPZ) started to make German Simson (2T, 50cc), Izhevsk put out new lightweight streetfighter style Izh 2.672 S50 : birdcage, turned over front fork, rear mono type suspencion, disc brake. Everything was ready for mass production, marketologists even made a 2000yr calendar with the model, it never was off assembly lines.

Jupiter-5                                                                                 Jupiter-5

In 1993 Izhevsk mechanical plant, making Jupiter twins adopted a new liquid cooling system design “ñá.1-08″ Since 1997 this modification was put into Izh 6.113-03 “Jupiter 5-01″(some had double names: old proper and new digital). Besides new cylinders and heads with additional parts like water pump, thermo regulator and radiator, the engine remained same without power increase, but it constant overheats were done away with, and not so noisy (finally famous rattling sound disappeared, “nut in pot”).

Designed in 1997 Izh-50 Man differed in dandy outer design: disc brakes on both wheels, turned over fork, giving concearns was its combination of fashionable outer look and obsolete design engine V-50 from Shaulyai city.

Izh-6.113 of 1988                                                                         Izh-6.113 of 1988

1998: mass produced cruiser-styled Izh 6.113 “Junker” with raised handlebar, front most mounted footrests, step-saddle, gadgets panel was installed in 2-halves fuel tank, each had a separate neck, engine – a watery version of Jupiter, new frame and pendulum of square section tubes, improved handling characteristics, It proved not quite appropriate for Moscow road police dept. to ride these models representing “forces of law”.

Izh-6.902 of 1998                                                                          Izh-6.902 of 1998

Hybrid Izh 6.902 of 1998 was a kit of sports engine (engine of IZH PS, 32 hp at 6000rpm, and road motorcycles parts) in general it proved rather a bad luck attempt, weighing 158kgs.

Ban for 2-stroke engines in Iran and Turkey – main export markets for Izhevsk motocycles forced it to design in short time a 4-stroke engine in 2000. It was unificated in parts already done, leaving untouched Planeta-5 g.b., and clutch: GAZ piston, VAz valves (from Russian popular budget cars), timing mechanical chain, and piece of camshaft from “Moskvitch”, made in Ufa. Though this engine (it had electric starter) worked somehow, it was not better in specs and most important in price aspects that well-made chinese 250cc 4T engines.

50cc Kornet                                                                        50cc “Kornet”

Chopper-style with typical front mounted foot rests, raised handlebars, drop-tank abundance of chrome plating all in one Izh 2.673 “Kornet” with VMPZ 50cc engine 2001. Chassis had both wheels disc brakes,
which couldn’t boast any other plant’s model. Nevertheless this complex for production model has been made for several years.

a Samson                                                                             a “Samson”

This is not even a motorcycle, but a unique off-road transport means nicknamed “Karakat” (“rolling crate”) or “pneumatic” because of low pressure balloons. and big. vol. Izh 6.921 “Samson”, 2001, could go through dirt , swamps, snow and even swim, with dry weight 355 kg it could take 2 persons and 100 kg of cargo with up to 60km/h speed. These machines with “watery” Jupiter engines were made in small series and were quite popular in Chikchi peninsula and other near polar circle far off regions.

Experimental Izh Planeta Sport R21 of 2005 in an attempt to use old PS popularity to own advantage in new level : engine Rotax (same as BMW F650). Nissin brake calipers, Kayaba fork, rear absorbers Reiger with huge adjustments options,, LCD monitor as a panel, tube frame of Chrome-Moly steel alloy designed so that it embraces most of expensive and fragile parts protecting them if fallen to a side. But miserable orders led no way to mass production, while it depended on imported parts supply.

IZH-5.103-036 of 2007                                                                  IZH-5.103-036 of 2007

In 2007 the designers made Izh 5.103-036 with Chinese 250cc 4-stroke engine and home chassis. An evident + was that customer would get a a machine with electric start, 5-speed gearbox and 21 hp engine, making 120km/h top speed. It was not a bad model but there weren’t enough means and … will of plant’s chairmen.
Epilogue (postmortem):

Thinking of the fate of our moto industry I recall N. Ernest saying: “our country managed to adopt production of tractors, automobiles, airplanes, and will surely do well with motorcycles, given it had due necessary attention…” (Pravda newspaper, 22 May 1935, “germ phase” of motoprom at the time). Unfortunately this “if”, “given” should be a key in our mentality and somehow serve to realize why we happen to be there, where we are today. As for motorcycles, survived most on photos than in metal remind us of the way motorcycle makers of Izhevsk did with the country…
Thanks for assistance “Ural Motorcycle Co.”, design centre “I-design”, history museum “Izhmash Zavod”, Alexei Popov (Riga), Moto Moscow Russia

Transl. by Eugene R.

This translation & copy; Eugene Radchenko 2011. Copyright. All Rights Reserved. Special thanks to Eugene for doing this articles translation especially for us here, it’s priceless Eugene! Thank You.