Motor scooters are a very popular way that many people around the world choose to get around, particularly in crowded cities where parking for traditional four wheel cars tends to be at a premium. Indeed, the entire point of the motor scooter as a vehicle has always been a balance of economical operation and effective utility.
The real heyday of motor scooters was from the immediate post World War II years to the late 1960s. Two of the earliest and best known motor scooters of this period came from Italy in the form of the Piaggio Vespa and the Innocenti Lambretta. Both types of scooter were immediately popular as the time period they debuted in was marked by recovering post war economies around Europe where many things, particularly petrol, were strictly rationed in many places
Through the 1950s, many more companies around the world began producing motor scooters as demand for them was growing. Through the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, the motor scooter truly came into its own as a popular vehicle with youth in many places as it came to be a symbol of status and affordable freedom for young people with lower paying jobs. The scooter became an inseparable part of the Mod subculture which was popular in Great Britain through the late 1950s to the mid 1960s.
The Čezeta debuted in 1957 and was the former Czechoslovakia’s contribution to this golden age of motor scooters. Immediately distinguishable from its contemporaries by its very different design which included a long front section ahead of the driver that terminated in a single headlamp, this aspect of the vehicle’s design would see it given the affectionate nickname of “Pig” in its homeland. Indeed, with its long snout, the Čezeta resembled that farm animal more than anything else.
The Čezeta exists in both a classic and a modern line. The classic line was produced from 1957 to 1964 and encompassed three versions. The Čezeta was revived in modern form in 2017; though the classic shape has been kept, the modern version is a very different breed of pig from the classic.
Let’s spend some time with the Čezeta:
The Right Man for the Job
The Čezeta was designed by Jaroslav František Koch (1893-1983). Born in a small village near Prague, Koch studied industrial design and spent the First World War and immediate post war years working for aircraft companies.
Koch was an accomplished motorcycle racer and was responsible for designing the legendary Praga BD 500 series of motorcycles which were produced between 1927 and 1935.
In 1940, shortly before being hired by Česka Zbrojovka (ČZ) at the company’s Strakonice factory, Koch took out a patent on a scooter of quite revolutionary monocoque design. A Monocoque design uses the vehicle’s body shell to give structural inegrity and strength rather than a separate internal frame that the body shell could be attached to. The biggest advantage to the monocoque frame was savings in materials and weight.
ČZ Strakonice became one of the world’s most prolific and successful producers of racing motorcycles from the immediate post World War two years to the mid 1980s. Koch was truly in his element and it was during his time at ČZ that he designed the Čezeta.
A Scooter Apart
The design of the Čezeta was a clear departure from those of its contemporaries. Other than satisfying the requirements to classify as a scooter for licensing purposes and giving young people in the former Czechoslovakia and other former Socialist countries in Europe a taste of affordable freedom that western scooters were giving to the youth in other parts of the world, the Čezeta was a very different animal indeed as scooters went.
Aside of the aforementioned monocoque body design and “snout” on the front, the Čezeta also featured a notably longer wheel base than other scooters. The advantages of all these features gave the Čezeta a very strong structure, better ergonomics for both driver and passenger as well as improved cargo carrying ability. The “snout” was the key to the Čezeta being able to carry more than other scooters as it allowed the fuel tank to be put out front in a position over the front wheel, thus freeing up more cargo space under the seat. It also created space for a small luggage rack to be mounted on the front section of the scooter.
The classic line of Čezeta scooters comprised three series: 501, 502 and 505. The 501 and 502 were scooters in the truest sense while the 505 brought the utilitarian qualities of the vehicle to the fore.
The 501 series was built between 1957 and 1960 and was built in six sub-variants which were primarily differentiated by changes to the engine and its cooling system.
Debuting in 1960, the 502 series brought a number of improvements including better suspension and engine starting systems. The 502 also brought with it a modest increase in maximum speed and significant improvements in cargo and passenger carrying ability in the form of an available trailer and the ability to be fitted with a side car. The sidecar itself was made by a company called Drupol and was given the name “Druzeta”. The 502 series was built until 1963 and existed in four sub-variants.
An interesting chapter of the Čezeta story occured in 1960 when the NZeta debuted. The NZeta was a license produced version of the Čezeta made in New Zealand from imported Čezeta components and 25% locally made parts in accordance with import laws at the time. NZeta production lasted for three years.
Built between 1962 and 1964, the 505 series took the front end of the 502 series and married it to a steel rear frame to create a tricycle vehicle with an emphasis on transport. The 505 could be fitted with a variety of rear cargo sections that included flatbed and cargo box options as well as a van body with a completely enclosed cabin for the driver.
The 505 series had a maximun hauling capacity of around 200 kilograms which made it quite useful for small delivery and courier work as well as light transport around agricultural and industrial sites.
All members of the classic Čezeta line could be fitted with an optional clear plastic windshield for increased protection from debris.
The “Pig” Today and Learning More
Roughly 20 years after the last Čezeta was built, ČZ Strakonice faded from the motorcycle manufacturing landscape and the scooters they produced became collectible rarities. Today, the best chance of seeing one of these classic scooters is at a vintage automobile event or automobile museum in the Czech Republic.
The rights to the Čezeta name and design were purchased by Prague based British expatriate, Neil Eamonn Smith. Smith set up the Čezeta Motors s.r.o. company in 2013 to begin the production of a new generation of scooters under the Čezeta name. The first of this new generation debuted in 2017 as the series 506.
While the new generation of the scooter has faithfully kept the look of the classic line, everything else is different. The 506 series is fully electric rather than petrol powered and has a composite material body shell over an internal frame as opposed to the metal monocoque construction of the classic series.
The new Čezeta is planned to be limited production only and built to order by individual buyer. As such, the new series is aimed for those with a taste for nostalgia rather than a want for utility.