1969 Jawa CZ360
The bike that would be a star
Ricky Carmichael’s No. 4 Suzuki might be famous today, but it owes a little bit of that fame to this Jawa CZ360.
The year was 1969. American motocross was young and struggling to climb out of obscurity. In October, at the Inter-Am motocross race in Pepperell, Massachusetts, it got its big break: “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” showed up to film the event and expose would-be American fans to the European stars who dominated the sport.
Although Sweden’s Arne Kring won the race on his works Husqvarna, CZ’s American rider, Barry Higgins, became an underdog hero to a national audience. He finished fifth, and top American, on this machine, beating several Euro stars.
“Motocross racers were far from sports heroes then,” says Higgins, who now runs H&H KTM World in Douglasville, Georgia. “We were thought of as hooligans on motorcycles, and getting on TV was a big step to help change that.”
Higgins is quick to credit the bike for his performance. Thanks to trick stock parts and solid reliability, the Czechoslovakian-made CZ was a natural choice. The year before, Jawa had won the 500cc and 250cc FIM World Championships, as well as the U.S. 250cc Inter-Am Championship.
“The Czechs built a solid bike,” Higgins says. “It was bulletproof compared to the Huskys, Bultacos, Maicos or anything else out of Europe. My mechanic did make a downpipe for it and ported the cylinder, and we ran alloy wheels, but everything else was stock—stock forks, shocks, brakes, chassis.”
The reason Higgins could get away with using so many stock parts was that the CZ was a top-shelf machine for its day, featuring an integrated gearbox, a dry clutch, a twin-plug ignition system and a rear brake integrated into the sprocket-side of the magnesium hub casting. Custom paint bearing the name of Higgins’ sponsor, Ghost Motorcycle Sales in Port Washington, New York, completed the look.
Having been restored to its former glory, the machine is now on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio—much as it looked when it helped introduce motocross to the U.S. on “Wide World of Sports.”