M-72 motorcycle celebrated on a 1999 Russian 2 rouble stamp
|Manufacturer||USSR, various state factories|
|Weight||225 kg (496 lb) (conventional)|
350 kg (770 lb) (sidecar)  (wet)
The M-72 was a motorcycle built by the Soviet Union. Conceived as a replacement for the two heavy motorcycles used by the Red Army—the TIZ-AM-600 and PMZ-A-750—both of which had performed unsatisfactorily during the Winter War with Finland and were considered outdated designs. The replacement chosen was the BMW R 71 which had been rejected by the German Wehrmacht as a replacement for the R 12. As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the necessary legal, political and economic procedures were in place for BMW to provide the design, tooling and training for the manufacture of the motorcycle and military sidecar.
Production was intended at three factories located in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kharkov with ancillary items coming from several other factories. Only the Moscow factory Moskovskiy Mototsikletniy Zavod (MMZ, "Moscow motorcycle plant") produced any complete motorcycles prior to the German invasion in 1941 and commencement of the Eastern Front (World War II).
The Moscow factory was moved east to the town of Irbit in Western Siberia and renamed "Irbit Motorcycle Factory" (IMZ). The Kharkiv and Leningrad factories were relocated to Gorkiy on the outskirts of the GAZ car/truck plant and renamed "Gorky Motorcycle Plant" -GMZ. During the war, motorcycles were produced at both IMZ and GMZ, however all sidecars for both the M-72 and Lend-Lease bikes were produced at Gorkiy. In 1952 500 M-72 engines were shipped from IMZ to enable the KMZ factory in Kiev Ukraine to produce their first batch of M-72s. KMZ produced the M-72 until 1956. A closely related model, the M-72N, was produced later.
In 1957 the Soviets sold the M72 production line to the People's Republic of China. The IMZ plant supplied M-72 military bikes to China up to the transfer of the M-72 production line in 1957 and continued to supply parts to China until 1960. Production continued in China through the mid-1980s, making the M72 the vehicle with the longest production life, from The BMW R71 in 1938, to current day Chang Jiang CJ750.
M-72 motorcycles were predominantly produced with a sidecar attached, although some solos made appearances for escort duties and the like.
M-72 were produced at IMZ in Irbit from 1942 until 1955. A subsequent model, the M-72M was produced from 1955 until 1960.
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- Historie der M-72 und ihrer Nachfolger. J.Pevsner und R. Rodenkirchen; Motorrad-Classic Heft 2/2000.
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- Media related to IMZ M-72 at Wikimedia Commons