František Janeček who founded his company in 1927 in Czechoslovakia (the former communist bloc country now divided into two countries - Czech Republic and Slovakia) began by making Wanderer motorcycles under license. Soon, he purchased the plant & machinery of this German brand and renamed his new firm as JAWA* in 1929.
* JAWA is a combination of alphabets borrowed from JAneček and WAnderer.
While the plant continued making motorcycles František Janeček felt the need to diversify in to making cars. So, in 1934 he develops his first car JAWA 700, followed by the JAWA 600 Minor in 1937.
Development of newer JAWA cars were on, but the German occupation of Czechoslovakia since March, 1939 stopped them from unraveling newer designs. Several prototypes of new models were tested but kept under wraps as the Germans knew the prowess of František Janeček and his team. In five years they made about nine prototypes under a misleading brand that appeared more like a BMW offshoot, BWM or the Böhemische Werk Minor (Bohemia Minor Works).
The final design selected in 1944 was a 600 cc, 2 stroke, 2 cylinder car that developed 20 horsepower. The car had three gears and could do about 90 km/hr. By this time, the Germans who were defeated (World War II) left and Czechoslovakia came under the influence of communist Soviet bloc. By the time it was ready to enter in to production in 1945, new regulations enforced JAWA to hand over production to a government controlled enterprise called LETECKÉ ZÁVODY that made aeroplane and other defence equipments (the firm still exists today and makes small airplanes). Their automotive division, then was called Aero.
And so the Aero MINOR was born.
In the winter of 1949, Stalin’s 70th birthday was coming up. Each country under the Soviet bloc (Poland, East Germany, Hungary, etc.) wanted to impress him with one of their best creations. Stalin’s love for cars was well known and so the Czechs decided to modify the looks of the Aero MINOR by changing its front grille, putting a white steering, expensive white paneled dashboard, etc. This was presented to Stalin in Moscow (see image below).
The Aero MINOR continued to be under production (later as Aero MINOR II) until the year 1952. Over 7000 cars were hand produced during all this time. Few of them had a wooden body work to be used as delivery vans.
Scale model cars of Aero MINOR are also available. Yes, not in 1:18 but in 1:43, the international favourite scale size.
The Aero MINOR, inspired by JAWA. And JAWA, the brand that every Indian can still identify with.