Animals puff themselves up and appear big to scare away predators. In the 1980s, Enfield India and Ideal Jawa tried the reverse of this survival principle. They began to offer machines of smaller dimensions to counter the challenge posed by a breed of 100cc vehicles.
Permitted to establish minority joint ventures with local companies, foreign automobile companies had changed the complexion of the Indian motorcycle market. Indo-Japanese collaborations — TVS-Suzuki, Hero-Honda, Bajaj-Kawasaki and Kinetic-Honda — had swung the balance in favour of fuel-efficient, lightweight machines. The catch phrase in the Hero Honda advertisement of the 1980s — “Fill it. Shut It. Forget It” —captured the mood.
In response, Enfield India and Ideal Jawa started offering fuel-efficient, lightweight machines in addition to their big ones. When Zundapp folded up in 1984, Enfield India breathed fresh life into the German motorcycle maker's lightweight machines. The 50cc motorcycle Explorer and the 50cc step-through moped Silver Plus were built on Zundapp technology. Ideal Jawa pinned its hopes on the 60cc Yezdi Colt.
Many years before the Colt cantered into the market, the Mysore-based company had tried its luck in the small-bike segment. Among the Jawas it had acquired the rights to assemble on Indian soil was the 50cc Jawa Jet ‘A' series (Pionyr in Czechoslovakia). After expiry of licence, it manufactured the 60cc Yezdi Jet ‘B' Series, an upgrade on the Jawa Jet. The Yezdi Jet continued to be sold until 1978. In contrast to Jawa Jet and Yezdi Jet, the Colt was friendlier to sari-clad women bikers. In many respects, it resembled Enfield's 50cc Silver Plus.
Suresh Nama, who has an Yezdi Colt and an Yezdi Jet (in the final stage of restoration), has befriended men who worked at the Ideal Factory and, therefore, knows the logic that gave the Colt its shape. “I learnt from one gentleman that the Colt was made as a unisex bike.”The gears in this three-speed bike are hand-operated — a feature that appealed to most women bikers of those days.
The Colt's gearbox and engine are integrated.The fuel tank with 3.25-litre capacity is located under a long seat (the down tube on the Silver Plus holds the tank). “In a Deluxe version of the Colt, a bigger fuel tank was offered.”
Ideal Jawa provided a Spaco carburettor for the Colt. “It has a fine jet, facilitating fuel efficiency,” says Nama, who seems sold on his 1984 Colt which he picked up a few months ago in Mysore.