Water Heater Find: BMW/Chang Jiang CJ750

This bike maintains a few different identities, depending on who you ask. Yes, it looks like a classic BMW R71, but as a Chang Jiang 750, it’s actually a Chinese-built derivative of a Soviet-made IMZ – which is the company that copied the R71 first. I may have that misconstrued, but it’s the best I can sort it out at the moment. Regardless, this clean barn-find example was discovered while the seller was removing a hot water tank for scrap, and it’s listed here on craigslist for $8,700.

As far as I can tell, the Soviet company IMZ was the first to copy the BMW R71, releasing their own model under the model name of the M72. I have no idea what copyright laws were like back then, but this is seems like a pretty obvious rip-off of a competitor’s design. Regardless, IMZ sold the tooling for the M72 to the Chinese, and then a few years later, we have the CJ750.

The seller believes this is the high-zoot M1S model, which utilizes a 12V electrical system and electric starter, with an overhead valve engine (as opposed to the standard side valve unit.) The bike also comes with exceedingly rare luggage that appears to be in mint condition, along with the very cool sidecar and tonneau cover. The seller notes all of the original manufacturers stickers remain affixed.

The feelings evoked by what is essentially a copy-cat bike cause me some inner-conflict. In some ways, this is an awesome design that is so beautiful, one would hope there were multiple ways to experience it; in another vein, however, it seems unfair to rip off the work of one of the world’s most storied motorcycle makers. Where do you wall on the issue – would you ride this Chinese-made CJ750?


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  1. Bob S

    It is a pretty looking bike.
    I am no expert on motorcycles, but I love the BMW bikes, and when I was doing a lot of flights into Beijing in the 1980s and 90s, these and other cheap BMW clones were among the most common bikes on the streets.
    From what I have learned from my friends who are familiar with these bikes, is buyer beware. The quality can vary wildly. One friend, who is very knowledgeable regarding these bikes, stated that the only way he would own one, would be if he got it cheap. The first thing he would do, would be to swap out the engine for a BMW unit.
    Here is a link for someone interested in buying this bike, or another one like it.
    One site I looked at, stated that the company went out of business when China started opening the borders to more trade.

    Like 4
  2. mtshootist1

    sticking BMW emblems on the tank makes one think that someone might be misrepresenting what it actually is. I had a guy try to pass off a Russian Ural Patrol with sidecar painted Africa Corps tan with Africa Corps Nazi Eagle and Palm Tree Stencils on it, as an original WWII bike, I just laughed at him, and told him that I didn’t think the Africa Corps had modern side reflectors on their bikes in WWII.

    Like 7
    • DougB

      I have BMW roundels on my CJ, but it’s really because I’m gradually turning it into a wartime-look bike – no CJ-branded bikes traversing European battlefields during the war (or any war reenactments).

      Some of these you will see attempting to be passed off as actual BMWs, but it’s pretty easy to tell them apart and people call out fraudulent sale ads or auctions. This guy is advertising his as a CJ, so I don’t think anyone can claim misrepresentation. The ones you have to worry about are those touted as being “titled as a BMW”. Though mine wears BMW roundels the headtag is clearly chinese…mine was made in 1965, or at least that’s what the headtag/papers say, so there’s no issue titling/insuring it as a CJ.

      Like 2
  3. On and On On and On Member

    I’m thinking that this model R71 from 1938 originally with flat heads, no OHV, was the model the Russians got tooling from the war deals as Germany went under, spoils of war if you will………… I’ll try to check that out.

    Like 1
    • David Frank David Frank Member

      These BMW clones seem to be found everywhere. Here’s one that is at the NSA Headquarters in Ft Meade, Maryland at the museum. It is a Chinese clone captured from the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese used thousands of these on the Ho Chi Minh Train and in the Tet Offensive.

      Like 1
  4. Bob S

    Yes, the main BMW factory was in the part of Germany that became East Germany, behind the iron curtain.
    After the war, the Russians took every piece of iron, and all the papers, out of every factory in their zone, and carted it back to the USSR.
    They even made pre war copies of the BMW cars.
    Here is the story:

    Like 2
    • Gerard Planche

      …and as soon as the wall fell, GM/Opel bought the Eisenach plant and were the first Wessies to build modern cars in the East. Production of the Wartburg ended shortly thereafter: with free access to Western cars and the need to comply to European regulation, demand for local vehicles died.
      Today Opel is no more GM but continues to build sub-compacts in a totally new factory in Eisenach.

      Like 2
  5. Chuckster

    Russia and China ripping off other people’s stuff ? I don’t believe it

    Like 7
    • Alan Brase

      Russia had some grievances with Germany attacking them and who can say they were not entitled to the rights to this motorcycle?
      That still does not mean a normal person would want to own one. I think the Ural brand came from a time when Russian industry was modernised a little. But neither are BMW’s. Want a good WWII bike? find a Harley XA. Also BMW copy, interpreted by Milwaukee.

      Like 1
  6. SubGothius

    The Wikis explain how the Soviets came to start building these:

    In a nutshell, the Soviets anticipating a Nazi invasion realized they didn’t have anything comparable to the German BMW bikes and sidecars for light, fast, durable transport, so they sent some covert agents to purchase a few for local reverse-engineering, then postwar just continued building and refining the same basic design.

    Like 2
  7. Howard A. Member

    Rodney Dangerfield quote, “everything was going fine, but now, it’s falling apart like a Chinese motorcycle” ( loved Rodney Dangerfield) IDK, I mean it looks alright, but in my life, I’ve found, if you wanted a quality product, you paid more and got the original. If you wanted the cheap junk, like my old man with tools, you bought the Chinese junk, and were usually disappointed, and should have just spent the money on the good one, because now you’re that much behind. I think Chinese are capable of quality stuff, but we don’t see it, and their mission is to make the most money, and this what they do. Does anyone know, if this is true with this?

    Like 2
    • DougB

      These bikes are tough, but sometimes the parts can require some fiddling to work. They’re easy to work on, easy to modify, and can take just about any BMW R-bike power plant (my first one came with a ’52 BMW R67/2 engine, around which I built a full R67/2, and I have an R60/2 engine in my current CJ). Jim Bryant is well known for putting in even bigger BMW engines in the rigs he build (and maybe is still building?).

      Like 2
      • Clay Bryant

        I was in Jim Bryant’s place outside Beijing an d he really builds a neat “scoot”. He puts top end stuff into the motors and has one of the most awesome paint guys working for him . Better then new when he finishes and reliable too. China made 1.3 million of these so there’s a few to go around. I haven’t went there yet to his site but was going to see if Jim Bryant/Beijing/ Chang 750s would bring something up. I have a bunch of pics if I find I’ll post. Awesome pieces. Incidentally. I have the only known Audi motorcycle in the world, possibly a WW2 prototype. The Audi museum doesn’t even have one..

      • DougB

        Haha, I think I know which Clay you are from CJU, but are you a “Bryant” as well, as in related to Jim?

        I bought my R67/2-powered CJ from Jim in something like 2005, and at one point Jim stopped by my place when he was starting his epic ride around the US, and then to Beijing, on his R100-powered R69S sidecar outfit. He ended up buying the engine-less CJ rig from me when I started to build up an actual R67/2, which is now complete and a great rider.

        Clay, do you know what’s happening to the TCJE YahooGroup given the latest changes from Yahoo? I couldn’t find anything CJ-related on Groups.io.

        Like 1
  8. M vickery

    I know that those ultra cheap modern scooters you buy that are made in China lack features like valve guides, so I somehow doubt they were made better back then.

  9. canadainmarkseh Member

    There are few versions I’ve read about as to how the Russians obtained the plans to there copy of the BMW. I’m not going to go into that. This much I will comment on, I had a brand new out of the crate Ural Patrol. It was slow and underpowered, and I repaired it as much as I rode it. By the time I had 21000 kilometres I’d replaced the starter, ignition module, alternator bearings and 3 sets of tires 4 on the back wheel of the bike. I had adjusted the valve 3 times as well. A lot of the bolts are soft too and need to be changed out brakes are manual adjust and need constant attention. 90kph was achievable on a down hill or if you had a strong wind to your back. Now it is my understanding that the Chinese version is even worse. You could not give me this bike they are an inferior build, I’ve even herd that people that have these need to be on the lookout for cracked welds. No thanks.

    Like 2
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      I’d like to further comment that my know 42 year old gold wing with custom sidecar has out performed the Ural In every way. More powerful, more reliable, faster, less of a tire eater, more comfortable, better brakes, better handling. The only thing good about these CJ’s is the sidecars. Take the sidecar off and transplant-it onto something else. Take the bike and junk it. I don’t know about the CJ but the sidecar built by Ural is pretty good, the bike not so much.

  10. local_sheriff

    Great-looking bike design from a time a motorbike looked excactly like… a motorbike – not just a plastic-wrapped fragile toy in Mardi Gras-inspired livery. I can fully understand why the Soviets/Chinese wanted their own version of it.

    Now, is it better than the original? Frankly, I absolutely have no idea but given there are 74 years since WW2 ended the manufacturer(s) have had a couple of years to improve the initial design. However it’s worth to keep in mind civilian production was never top priority in communist countries when it came to access to quality raw materials.

    This ‘BMW’ is just another addition to the almost endless list of vehicles that were reverse engineered, made under license(or without), visually and/or technically copied before and during the cold war. GAZ AA, Moskwitch 400, ZIS-150 and of course the Lada + numerous more. If everything you crave for is a DAK-inspired bike but you can’t lay your hands on a legit WW2 BMW, I would say go for it. Just don’t expect it to be the real deal

    Like 1
  11. DougB

    I know a good bit about these, having had one before and having ridden my BMW R60/2-powered CJ outfit to work just this morning. ;-) The leather bags are not really rare and can still be bought rather reasonably from Oldtimer Garage or from other online sellers in Europe, and that was likely the case for these.

    The bike being auctioned is a decent example, but there are a handful of additional modifications a buyer might want to do to better achieve a vintage BMW look, like replacing the tank, ditching the turn signals, using a more vintage taillight, replacing the ignition switch, etc.

    But, what I love about these CJ’s is that you can really make them whatever you want them to be. Mine is slowly heading toward a wartime R51/2 look, but some people go full custom with flames and mag wheels (not my taste). Parts are pretty easily available (from Asia) and of course a lot of BMW parts fit (sometimes with some fiddling), and then there’s all the spares available for Russian M72s.

    Would I pay close to $9K for a CJ, though? Not me. I snagged mine locally for $3K and probably spend another $2.5K on a BMW engine/tranny/carbs auction and then the new parts to rebuild it. At this point I have more in the engine than the rest of the bike, but it’s solidly reliable now and ready for winter snow fun.

    Anyone, whomever buys this and for what price, enjoy it and make it whatever you want it to be. There was a great YahooGroup called “TheChangJiangExperience” and there’s the Chang Jiang Unlimited website’s “Toolbox” section for tech advice. The former YahooGroup will likely transition to Groups.io at some point but there’s a decently active Facebook group, too.

    GLWTA, Seller!

    Like 4
    • Clay Bryant

      Doug B…No relation to Jim although his roots I think were like mine and had some connection. My family came from Massachusetts and settled out here in Nebraska in 1878. For what it’s worth, Stephen Bryant was the first cop in America in 1620 in Plymouth, Mass. I’m almost 75 and if I was going to hop on something it would most decidedly have 3 wheels under it. He has an American style restaurant hooked on to his bike business and serves up a good hamburger. Neat operation. He really turns up some nice rides. I really need to dig out some pics of them and post them on here. He just had finished up a cream colored one that was out of this world that was going to Denver.I’m going back to China yet this year and think I might look him up again, maybe drag a couple of his irons home. He builds the guts of the bike up and makes them pretty stout. Just because I like the way they look, I bought a Tank motorcycle from China. Look them up…looks like a little Harley, kind of. Travel to China is cheap right now. 5-600 round trip, 30 bucks or so for 3/4 star hotels, great meals for 6-10 bucks, and a great exposure to a different culture. As friendly of people as South Africans. Look up Chinese hotels. You won’t believe what you get for 30 bucks. Marble, brass. stone.. Would be 250 up over here.

      Like 2
  12. Lance

    More like the seller was thinking Cha Ching Hey how about paying him with dollars bills made in Russia???

  13. Kevin

    These regularly trade for around $4K in good running condition.

  14. John

    A double copycat. I wouldn’t touch one, and I’ve had lots of 50s and 60s BMWs.

  15. Ian Hickson

    I have wanted a Ural for 30 years. @ wheel drive, go through the snow, very valuable in Manitoba. But I would take the Chinese knock off of a Russian knock off of a German bike.

  16. Cat Bike Guy

    Keep in mind that these Chinese bikes were originally made for basic military transport. Think old WWII Jeep. It’s not a long distance tourer by any measure. This is a parade bike. Take the grandkids out for ice cream. Drive it at 55 mph on the interstate for over an hour, the engine will seize. The good news is that after a smoke break, it will fire up again and run without issue until of course it seizes again. Rinse and repeat. I’ve had the side valve engine and long ago replaced with a R80 BMW engine by Jim Bryant. Big difference. Now I decide where to stop, not the engine. Speaking of stopping, the stock brakes are just the ticket to get your heart racing since stopping distances are scary long with the single leading shoe brakes using tin hat drums. It’s a unique looking bike and bound to get you attention however $10k for this bike? Dream on!

    Like 1
  17. Danny Gonzales

    Well, as somebody already has said, buyer beware, in as far as I know, these Chinese bikes have never been dot certified for use on the roads in the United States, the Ural s where when they began to import them to the Richmond Washington area, at the great expense to to guys bringing them over here. But as it’s listed, the design improvements are from around the mid 2000’s . The Russians did sell the 1937 model of the BMW’s to the Chinese, but they cannot be licensed to operate on the United States highways. And, if ya ever had anything that was really built in China, you already know that the quality of their metallurgy is very questionable. If you want to get a little better idea of the bike, I would say that you might like to see the Ural America motorcycle website. They are truly the people that have been getting the bikes updated from their original 1939 quality, and as I said the things that they have said that the bike has on it have only been being done for less than 16 years. Also, have you ever seen the actual quality of the workmanship and the quality of the painted products that come from China, they are truly horrible, to them paint isn’t exactly for the beauty of the product, it’s just a rust preventative, that’s it, so, think before ya buy. Cause if you are really interested in getting a vintage looking bike like that, get the Ural, at least it’s got a warranty and it’s just what they are saying that it is. Enjoy your day, Danny

    • DugB

      What a well stated ad for Ural America. The fact is that any 60’s era bike, including the M72 and CJ, can be legally titled in the US no problem. My ‘65 CJ is titled and insured as such in VA which is no slouch DMV regulation-wise. And I’d take my CJ’s freshly rebuilt BMW engine any day over sub-par Ural quality (Soviet Steeds is a good location for story after story of Ural quality inconsistency and unreliability). At the end of the day you pick what you want, but for the $20K you’d pay for a new Gear Up you can have your CJ, with a very reliable BMW engine and upgraded brakes, and have $10K left over (at least).

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