IMZ-Ural (Irbit Motorcycle Factory) (Russian: Ирбитский мотоциклетный завод, tr. Irbitskiy Mototsikletniy Zavod) is a Russian maker of heavy sidecar motorcycles. In 1940, the Soviet Union acquired the design and production techniques for BMW R71 motorcycles and sidecars. The first M-72 model was finished in 1941. Originally, factories were to be located in Moscow, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), and Kharkov, but due to the approach of Nazi German troops, the Moscow facilities were moved to Irbit, and the Leningrad and Kharkov facilities to Gorkiy (now called Nizhny Novgorod). A similar design is the Soviet (now Ukrainian) Dnepr motorcycle. Both Ural and Dnepr motorcycles are sometimes known by the generic name, "Cossack motorcycles," which was used between 1973 and 1979 by SATRA in the United Kingdom. Plans for the M-72 were later sold to the Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, a Chinese industrial firm, to build the Chang Jiang.
Motorcycles have been produced in Kiev since 1946 at the Kiev Motorcycle Plant (Kyivskyi Mototsykletnyi Zavod (KMZ), Київський Мотоциклетний Завод, (КМЗ)). Initial production was of a 98 cc two-stroke model that was confiscated from the German firm Wanderer as reparations. The original design for KMZ heavy motorcycles, and their cousin the IMZ, is taken from the pre-World War II German BMW motorcycle R71, which the Soviet Union licensed in 1940. The plant and equipment needed to make the M-72 (the Soviet derivative of the BMW R71) was transferred from the Gorky Motorcycle Plant (Gorkovskyi Mototsykletnyi Zavod, GMZ located in the city of Gorkiy (Nizhny Novgorod) in 1949. The first batch of M-72 motorcycles was produced in 1952 with the supply of 500 engines from IMZ. In 1958 KMZ replaced the plunger framed M72-N with the swingarm framed K-750. In 1964, KMZ introduced a military model, the MV-750 with a differential two-wheel drive to the sidecar wheel. In 1967, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, KMZ released their first OHV engine in the "Dnepr" K-650. Unlike the earlier sidevalve engines with their roller bearing crankshafts, this engine featured a sleeve bearing crankshaft as found in the World War II Zündapp KS750. The K-650 was superseded by model MT-9 650 cc, which was available in both solo and sidecar models (often referred to as the best "Cossack") as it was reliable and featured a new transmission with reverse gear and an automatic declutching mechanism incorporated into the riders foot pedal. The MT-10 was the first Soviet motorcycle to feature 12 volt electrics.
The Dnepr is famous for its off-road capability. Armed services models equipped with sidecars had two-wheel drive and as much as 15 cm (5.9 in) of ground clearance. The present engine is a 650 cc OHV boxer twin. Current models are fitted with engines ranging from the factory standard 650 to 750 and 1,000 cc.
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 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 MMZ produced any complete motorcycles prior to the German invasion 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 IMZ. The Kharkiv and Leningrad factories were relocated to Gorkiy on the outskirts of the GAZ car/truck plant and renamed 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. 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.