Monday, December 24, 2007

Bajaj history (abridged)

In the early to mid 1960s Vespa outsourced to India to build Vespa Sprints. The Indian factory had to uphold Vespa's quality assurance and factory system. The relationship was short lived as legal issues came into play. The end product was that Bajaj purchased the factory from Vespa. After this happened the Bajaj badge began to appear. At first, with any brand transition, the bikes had a Vespa and a Bajaj badge on the legshield. You can find these bikes in the USA. Or you may be riding a Vespa Sprint that was made in India and not know it.

As you can see in the photograph above of this classic Bajaj, it's basically a Vespa Sprint with its trapezoid headset. It's a handsome bike.

The "Chetak" was named after a famous horse that belonged to a Indian Prince, I believe. The horse belonged to him and helped a lot in battle and such. Pictured above is a 1980s Chetak I believe. In my opinion, much more handsome than the newer 4-stroke Bajaj Chetaks. These bikes were 2-stroke and can be found in the states. They often sell for less than a Vespa of similar model.

In the 1980s Bajaj tried to sell in the USA. It didn't go well. It returned again in the early 2000s with Al Kolvites as the president of Bajaj USA. 4-stroke versions were imported. Bajaj USA died around 2006 and became Argo USA -- Chinese plastic scoots. A strong Bajaj culture existed via Bajaj Yahoo Group while the bikes were being sold. Note: some Bajaj are still available new as 2005 models. Check with dealers. The only thing about the newer Bajaj's that I could do without is the horncast and a little more chrome, say floor rail kit and a legshield trim would have been an added bonus.

Like its predecessor and its competition the Chetaks & Legends are work horses, like the Vespa P200s, and take a heck of beating and keep on running. The roads in India are harsh with pot holes and the Bajaj was built to withstand the harsh roads and to be easily worked on and repaired.

Like the Stella (LML), Vespa P-Series, the Chetak is the last of line of the work horse scooters. The Stella and Vespa horncasts are much more handsome than the Chetak and there is more chrome on the other bikes, but I have spoken with dealers and the overall report is that the 4-stroke Chetaks have way less problems than its 2-stroke rivals. I intend to give my one-year-old son my Chetak when he gets his license. My Chetak should run for a long long time. I ride hard and it remains to be very trustworthy and dependable.

If I was to buy my first scooter all over again, I'd buy a Vespa PX150 from Vespa Mechanicsburg for $3600 (sale price -- only have 3 left). My wife's Chetak costs $1999 and you just can't beat that price. Now the Chetak is $3000 and the Stella is $3300. Genuine Scooters runs a very smart marketing campaign for its Stella, because the bike uses Vespa aftermarket products. So this makes upgrades and accessories CHEAPER and easier to find. I have no intention of selling my Chetak, because it is a tank of a scoot, but if you're purchasing you should consider all your options and what you plan to do with your scoot . . . ie buy a Stella or PX and put a DR177 kit on it for a cheap speed/power upgrade. Or buy a Vespa for resale value. If you're looking to be accepted into the classic/vintage culture either a Vespa P-series or Genuine Scooter (Stella) will get you in. But if you're looking for a dependable daily rider that requires next to no maintenance, a 4-stroke Bajaj Chetak or Legend will deliver that to you at an affordable price.

If you come across a Bajaj from 1980 or earlier for a good price (it will be cheaper than a similar Vespa) it is worth picking up. The vintage crowd will accept you as well. And the bike is prettier than the newer bikes.

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