The 1969 Honda CB750 Four is generally considered to be the first Japanese ‘Superbike’. I beg to differ. Yes the CB750 broke ground with electric start, disc brakes and a wonderful engine. But… in my humble opinion, Kawasaki really led the way into ‘Superbike’ with the 1969 H1 Mach 3. The Mach 3 also known as ‘The Blue Streak’ (due to the blue stripe on the gas tank) was less than a Superbike in all but one category…horsepower. Power to weight ratio. It handled lousy, braked marginally, would scare the crap out of mere mortals (and some immortals)…it truly was a motorized ‘Flexible Flyer’. But we all loved it!
In 1972 Kawasaki came out with the 750cc H2, the Mach 4. This motorcycle was capable of mach speeds and then some. It handled better than the Mach 3 and with some modifications it actually handled pretty well. In a straight line nothing on two wheels (and most four wheel vehicles) could beat it. I paid my rent for a year or so racing cars with my H2. I thought I was King of the world until my friend Mike Kaller bought King Kong…The Z1.
The Mighty Z1 really did bring the term “Superbike” to life. Big motor, Big power, and beautiful styling.
My friend Reg Pridmore won the AMA Superbike Championship in 1977 aboard a Kawasaki, the first for a Japanese manufacturer…along with the help of Craig Vetter and Keith Code.
I found a really nice ’75 Z1 on ebay this morning. It has been set up nicely with 1974 body work and livery (paint scheme) and repro exhaust. Here’s the the thing about the ’75 versus previous years. It’s better.
For 1975 Kawasaki gave the Z1 a better frame, better suspension, brakes that could actually stop King Kong, tuned the motor to be a bit more friendly and got rid of the chain oiler (the chain oiler was maybe a good idea but sure made a mess of the rear wheel…). The down side of the Z1 was that it chewed up chains, sprockets and rear tires. Well, manufacturers of those parts weren’t prepared for a bike like ‘The Mighty Z1′.
The seller of this particular Kawasaki Z1 has done a nice job of making the bike look right. It does need some basic service work..as in go through the carbs, check the electrical’s but from there, you’re going to have a fabulous motorcycle.
My suggestions though….upgrade the rear shocks, new springs in the front (along with Race Tech emulators), a set of GP touring bars, better brake pads, some sticky tires and hang on.
Another thought here, The Z1 also makes an incredible ‘Sport Tourer’. The motor is strong enough to pull you and a passenger, along with your luggage, the seat is surprisingly comfortable for long stints in the saddle, and honestly, The KZ900 is a great all around motorcycle.
Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures. This is a really great motorcycle to have.
<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1975+Kawasaki+Z1+900&icep_item=111362860979&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”>
1975 Kawasaki Z1 900</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1975+Kawasaki+Z1+900&item=111362860979&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D“>
I can’t help myself. There must be some sort of genetic defect in my DNA that makes me love Honda 350’s. But, I can take solace in knowing that I am not the only one. The Honda 350 is the best selling motorcycle of all time. I think? I hope? I really don’t want to be the only one with this incurable disease.
I have 4 1/2 Honda 350’s in my barn. Two run, one doesn’t (its the parts mule), and the other one and a half is in a bunch of boxes and parts hanging from the ceiling to be put back together sometime soon?
On ebay this morning I found a small group of 350’s that all need some love but could turn into a couple, a couple, of very cool bikes.
First, the bike above is not in the collection, it’s just what you could maybe build out of what’s there…
There is a CL77 (305 Scrambler) in the batch which is really quite nice. Most of these bikes are destined to become parts bikes however, but that’s OK, those of us into this sort of thing need a good stock of parts bikes…and an understanding wife or a very separate (as in another town) industrial / storage space.
The Honda 350 is one of those things in life that does ‘everything good and nothing great’. It gets you around town, it can handle freeway speeds (kind of…??) its headlight is as good as a Boy Scout flashlight in a dust storm, The alternator is as weak as can be so you need to always ride the bike at at least 3,000 RPM just to keep the battery up to snuff (if you’re really serious about these bikes you upgrade the alternator). When it’s hard to start chances are it is the battery, buy a ‘Battery Tender’ and keep it hooked up.
Despite its little flaws, the Honda 350 is still the perfect motorcycle. It is the Labrador Retriever of the motorcycle world, always there when you need it, willing to do whatever you ask of it.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. There are a couple of real gems in this bunch.
Ok, lets face it, this was not BSA’s finest hour in some people’s opinion. The Rocket 3 was a rather late answer to Honda’s market changing CB750-4, but still the Rocket 3 is an incredible motorcycle.
By 1971 BSA was trying everything they possibly could to sell bikes, sadly this version of a great bike went over like a fart in church. They painted the frame a dull grey, they made the gas tank smaller (you could only go about 75 miles before you started pushing) and it was kick start only…where’s the magic button? and of course, you always knew where you left your bike parked because it marked its spot with a bit of Castrol. Oh and did I mention the brakes? Think of Fred Flintstone? Ok,enough of the downsides, there is a lot of ups to the Rocket 3.
Yes, the Honda CB750 had a disc brake up front, yes it had an electric starter, it could go more than 75 miles on a tank of gas, and yeah, it was comfortable. But…the Rocket 3 was faster, handled better and had a soul that the Japanese four couldn’t match. That soul, sadly, didn’t transfer into sales however.
Over the course of its production run, the BSA went through the ugliest gas tank every put on a motorbike to the one of the coolest set of mufflers ever put on a motorbike (the”Ray Gun Muffler”) and yet still retained the power and handling that made it great.
Interestingly enough, more people are more familiar with the Triumph Trident than the Rocket 3. Same motorcycle, different badges (Triumph was part of the BSA group at the time). If you believe that, you would be wrong. Here’s what made the BSA better. The frame was fully welded versus the Triumph’s ‘lugged and brazed’ frame (Schwinn bicycles use lug and brazed construction), one reason why the BSA handled better. Number 2; The motor was tilted forward in the frame 15 degrees where the Triumph was straight up, this gave the Beezer better weight balance and more responsive handling.
In 1971 Dick Mann won the Daytona 200 roadrace on a Rocket 3. Interestingly enough, he previously won on a Honda CB750. This was the Rocket 3’s swan song.
Given the choice, I would pick a BSA Rocket 3 over a Trident every time (don’t tell my friend Ted…who loves his Trident more than well, more than just about anything?) And, think about this…a motorcycle that I would give up my entire collection for (I’d still have to finance the balance for one…) the Triumph X75 Hurricane, uses the BSA motor.
So, I found a really nice ’71 Rocket 3 on ebay today and it is one of those that has the grey frame and the small gas tank, but hey, I like it. The bike is a semi-restored model, which means it still needs a few bits and pieces, but is a good runner. 11,100 miles on the clock and has the usual oil drips but this is a really cool bike that will be great fun to ride for a long time. You would be amazed at how smooth a well sorted triple really is. I would have no problem throwing a tank bag and a set of soft saddle bags on and heading around the country on this bike.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Every now and then you find a little cool motorcycle, that well, is just a little cool motorcycle. This little Suzuki 125cc Colleda I found on ebay is exactly that. Not a whole lot of info on this bike, it was early in Suzuki’s history but it spawned one of the great bikes in their history the Colleda TT 250 which had some success in Grand Prix Roadracing.
The Colleda is a very simple motorbike, a 125cc single cyliner 2 stroke. Doesn’t get much more simple than that really. What it got when it came out was a much improved suspension (compared to earlier models, the 90cc version to be exact), a little more power and more modern styling.
I found a nice unrestored model on ebay located in Bakersfield California. It is a runner, the seller rides it all the time he says. It definitely is showing its age but that’s just fine. It’s a little bike that would be fun to ride around town, maybe trailer to a rally somewhere and have people ask you “what the hell is that?”
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures
I have always been a fan of oddball motorcycles…actually owned a lot of them, much to the bewilderment of family and friends. While doing my daily search of ebay for stuff I need and / or want, I found a bike I have never heard of before, a Junak?
In Post War Europe there were a ton of motorbike manufacturers, in Poland alone there were Twenty Eight, 28!!, between 1928 and 1972, the Junak is Polish. There is so much history in Eastern European motorcycle building its mind boggling. If you want to learn more about the Post War Eastern Europe motorcycling industry you will spend hours upon hours and days upon days at your computer and talking to motorcycle historians and then it goes back to Britain…and then….
Back to Junak. Junak was the first and only (at the time, post war) manufacturer of four stroke motorcycles in Poland. The best and most popular was the M10, a 350cc single cylinder that very closely resembled the Ariel single (with maybe a touch of BMW thrown in for good measure). Like I have said before, most of the Eastern Euro bikes had their basis on British bikes…who didn’t? Well, maybe the Italians?
The Junak M10 is a very simple 350cc single that had many uses. It was originally designed for the military (was there an Eastern European motorcycle that wasn’t??), and for touring.The Januk M10 became a very popular civilian motorbike especially with a side car, but also had good success in cross country racing
And, circuit racing (roadracing)
I found a very beautiful example of the Junak M10 on ebay this morning. It is a 1963 with just 400 miles (610 KM) on the clock. It is a first kick starter (most of the time) and good runner. Interestingly enough spare parts aren’t all that difficult to come by, there are a number of sources that can still supply you with parts to keep this bit of Post War Eastern European motorcycling culture on the road. Cosmetically it’s really nice, going to need a few things here and there but nothing to be overly concerned about if you plan on riding it. The seller is asking nearly $10K for it…is it worth that much??? You decide.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures
In 1978 Cycle Guide magazine editor Paul Dean was asked, what is the most boring motorcycle out there? Without one bit of hesitation “The Kawasaki KZ400.” This was for an article to be written by Rich Taylor on how to take an ‘Everybike’ and make it more. Well, there was no more an ‘Everybike’ than the little Kawasaki.
A quick bit of history here, Kawasaki made their reputation on building the fastest two stroke motorcycles you could buy, I should know, I had their fastest, the “Evil, Wicked, Mean and Nasty” H2 750. Then Kawasaki went into the four stroke business with the mighty Z1 900. The Z1 was a huge success so Kawasaki jumped headlong into building four stokes. One of the first was the KZ400 twin. Now, Kawasaki was smart, they had the Hi-Performance market, what they didn’t have was the commuter market, Honda owned that one with the CB350. The day to day rider needed an economical, reliable, easy to ride, easy to maintain good piece of basic transportation.
The KZ400 was marketed by Kawasaki as a good, fuel efficient means of transportation. They were right. As a matter of fact, during it’s run, the KZ 400 outsold the Honda 350/360/400! Why? Well, it’s smooth running engine accounted for a lot of that, it was reliable, could do 75 mph all day long with no strain, got up to nearly 70 mpg. It had a modest price and modest performance (a whopping 36 HP…) and could actually do ‘The Ton’ (100 mph..my stock CB350 tops out at maybe (?) 90). What more could you ask for in a commuter bike. The other thing that made the little Kawacker so good was that for learners it was a great value. Most could buy one, ride it for a few months, get the itch for something bigger and faster and then sell it for almost what they paid for it! In 2003 the British magazine Classic Motorcycle Mechanic rated the KZ400 in the ‘TOP 40″ motorcycles of the 1970’s!!!
Kawasaki built the KZ’s from 1974 to 1984 with only a few changes. The first couple years there were oil leaks, carburetion issues, little hiccups here and there. In 1977 the little KZ got the needed redesign and a few upgrades. One of the best upgrades was the KZ400A Deluxe model. For just a few dollars more you got a fairing to keep the wind off of you, you got a nifty set of saddlebags and a nice rear rack. Absolutely perfect for the commuter…who, the bike was designed for.
I found on ebay this morning a really, I mean really nice, KZ400 Deluxe that is really ready to ride. It has been gone through top to bottom and front to back, 11K miles on the clock is nothing for this little bike. Honestly, this is a great bike for a commuter in an urban area and truthfully, it is a PERFECT solo tourer.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. This a really neat bike.
Ricky…”Lucy….I’m home!! Look what I got you!!”
Lucy…”Is it a new dishwasher? A new clothes washer?”
Ricky…”It’s Honda VT500 Ascot!…you’re going to love
Lucy…”Does it do dishes and clothes?”
Ricky…”No, it’s a motorcycle”
Lucy…”Is it a Dual Sport? Because thats what I really want”
Ricky…”Well, no…but it’s a really great motorcycle…”
You know, I feel sorry for poor Ricky, here he is getting his lovely wife something great and, well…so much for good intentions. The truth here is pretty universal, we (men) buy our wives, kids, or significant others, motorcycles we really want to have not necessarily what they want, even if they tell us ‘exactly’ what they want…it’s in our genetic code, we can’t help it!
Ok, I’m taking Ricky’s side here. The Honda VT500 Ascot is a really cool motorcycle, Lucy is missing out big time by telling Ricky to sell the bike and get her a ‘dual sport’. The Ascot would be a lot of fun for her to ride…why?? Easy, it’s got a great motor…not too fast but fast enough to be a lot of fun. Next, it’s really quite comfortable (and for a woman, the low seat height is a big advantage). The VT500 has a decent suspension(which can be modified to be really good), the shaft drive is very low maintenance, and it’s a good looking bike (if it wasn’t for that god awful square headlight, which thankfully can be replaced…). And lastly, it can be made into a very cool cafe racer which will get her away from any thought of a dual sport bike.
The truth is, the VT500 is one the most under appreciated motorcycles built. I have written before about bikes that didn’t receive the love they deserved and the V-Twin Ascot is high on that list. I had an opportunity once to spend a couple of days on one and I had an absolute blast. I didn’t want to give it back to my friend.
I had been racing a Honda FT500 Single for a few years and loved it. When I got on the ‘VT’500 I felt right at home, well, not quite, but the styling made me feel at home? The V-Twin Ascot was a really nice bike to ride, like I said before, it wasn’t all that fast and it could use a bit of a suspension upgrade but really, this is a bike that will do pretty much anything you want it to do. Make it a cafe racer, street tracker (its original design), make it a sport tourer…which I believe is its true destiny, or let it be your daily ride just as it is.
I found a very nice VT500 on ebay today. The story at the top is basically true…this guy bought a clean VT500 for his wife but she wanted a Dual Sport, ok..there is no accounting for taste (just kidding) so now he is selling it. This Ascot has only 10K miles on the odo which is not all that much, it is a runner and cosmetically pretty nice. It is stock, which I always like. The seller did a carb clean, new battery, oil and filter, air filter, etc, but I would go ahead and change out the rest of the fluids, brake pads and some new tires…then, as I start gathering all the parts to make it into a great cafe racer, I’d ride it everyday.
Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures. Here’s a note however…this is the second time this bike has been posted at the same price. It didn’t sell before and my feeling, being involved in vintage bikes for quite a while, is that this bike is a bit overpriced. It is a nice bike, maybe around $1700-$1800 is a good selling price. Contact the guy. The VT500 is a very cool bike.
The Yamaha ‘Tuning Fork’ logo is historically important because Yamaha has been in the piano business since 1887, motorcycles didn’t come along until 1954…The YA-1 ‘Red Dragonfly’, 125cc of two stroke fun.
Post World War Two was a big time for small displacement motorcycles around the world and truthfully, other than here in America, they still are. Small displacement bikes are used by commuters, police, mail delivery, just about everyone, even your Dominoes Pizza in Mexico gets delivered on a 125!
Through the 1950’s and into the 1960’s the motorcycle business here in the U.S was dominated by the British and Harley Davidson. I know that some of you will disagree with me and that’s Ok…but the Japanese were coming and they were coming fast. It didn’t take them long to go from ‘Jap Crap’ to serious competition for the US buyers dollars. I use the term ‘Jap Crap’ only because it was a common feeling and, in some cases true, at the time.
Yamaha was the first to successfully to take on the Brits with the XS650 twin, it was also Yamaha’s first four stroke motorcycle. Following the heels of the XS650 Yamaha went after the big Brit singles. 1976 brought the TT500. Big torque,big powerband, Yamaha reliability and easy to start…by comparison to the BSA B50 and Gold Star.
The TT500 found its success in long off-road races particularly the Paris-Dakar where in 1979 (the first of the Paris Dakar Rallys) Yamaha took the top two places, the second year of the rally Yamaha took the top four! places.
The TT500 leant itself to heavy modifications the best of which was the Dick Mann chassis. I have ridden a TT500 with the DM frame and it did wonders for the bike. The TT as it is was a bit slow handling, not bad, you just had to plan ahead a bit more than on a lighter bike, but it is still a great bike. Yamaha hit a home run with the TT, it spawned the XT500 (the street legal version which also in my mind really created the Adventure Touring market that BMW then perfected) and the SR500 (Yamaha’s factory Cafe Racer…which I still love and lust after!).
I found a really nice TT500 on ebay today, yeah it’s got some flaws but hey…it’s old. It is a low hour (according to the seller…) runner. I would simply get it, give it a good through and love riding it. Or…search around for a Dick Mann frame (you can just call Dick Mann Specialties and get one…$$$$) and turn it into a really cool street bike. Or…get a Champion frame for it and go vintage flat track racing. The TT will be anything you want and be happy doing it.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.
Not too many people are familiar with OSSA motorcycles much less Yankee. A quick history here…isn’t that part of the charm of this blog???
OSSA actually started out making movie projectors in the 1920’s, motorcycles didn’t come along until after World War Two. At that time a lot of motorcycle companies got into the business of making (or importing) smaller two stroke motorbikes…BSA, Yamaha and even Harley Davidson. It was also a time that Moto-Sport was growing. Europe was the international base for all things motorcycling…Moto-Cross, Enduro’s, Trials and Road Racing. The only Moto-Sport America can lay claim to is Desert Racing.
Up until the mid to late 1960’s American Desert Racing was dominated by Triumph, BSA, and Harley Davidson…big, heavy, single and twin cylinder bikes from Britain and here at home, then came the Europeans with their light weight two strokes and literally and figuratively left everybody in a cloud of two stroke smoke and dust.Husqvarna,Bultaco,Montessa,OSSA,DKW,Penton,KTM…the list goes on. The Japanese got into the game as well.
OSSA was primarily known for its Trials and Enduro bikes but also had some relative success in both Moto-Cross and Road Racing. In the late 1960’s Eduardo Giro (grandson of the OSSA founder) developed a Monocoque framed road racer that in the hands of Santiago Herrero won four 250GP’s. Sadly Sr. Herrero was killed at the Isle of Man in 1970. After the death of their racer, OSSA withdrew from roadracing and focussed on Trials.
Here in the United States, OSSA was popular in Flat Track racing, National Champion and racing legend Dick Mann won the 1969 Santa Fe National ShortTrack aboard an OSSA he helped develop…cool huh?
Now you know enough about OSSA to get you laughed out of any motorcycle trivia game. But this post is about the Yankee Z500, which is basically two OSSA 250’s mated together. The motor was originally developed for European road courses but they were also looking for versatility both on and off road. The Yankee Motorcycle Company was the importer of OSSA Moto Cross and Enduro machines and John Taylor, the head of Yankee in New York wanted to design and build a bike that would compete with the Euro’s but be better by being more powerful,better built, more reliable and faster. OSSA was well known for being reliable, some thing I can’t say about my beloved(?) Bultaco’s. Mr. Taylor enlisted the help of Dick Mann to design the chassis which had some unique features such as a rear disc brake, the first of its kind on a dirt bike. Also, low gear in the standard 6 speed transmission, which wasn’t allowed in AMA racing, could be disabled to comply with the rules. And one more cool thing about the Yankee…the top fork crowns were manufactured by Smith and Wesson. I guess you could shoot somebody if they got ahead of you on the trail? Just kidding, this is non-violent blog.
There were 762 Yankee Z500’s built. A couple of things happened here, first production delays. The first 500’s didn’t come the assembly line until 1971 and by that time the Japanese manufacturers had really stepped up their development and Yankee was now behind the curve. Secondly, no matter how good they rode, they were a bit on the heavy side for serious Enduro riders. So production of the Z model was discontinued after a short run. But I have a question, there was a regular street going 500, has anyone seen one here in the U.S? This motorbike looked to have huge potential? Why wasn’t it brought to market? Granted the road going two strokes were starting to fade by that time. Could it have competed with the Suzuki T500? Oh yeah!!. The Kawasaki triples?,Handling yes, performance no. The Yamaha twins? Probably so.
Today I found a really nice, I mean really nice 1972 Yankee Z500 on ebay. This bike has only 1880 miles on the odo, it is all original with the exception of the front fender which is a Preston Petty unit which is period correct. It is not a runner but the seller says it has good compression, kicks through and shifts through all the gears. My guess is that getting it running should be pretty easy, it has just been sitting decades. The bike is cosmetically in great condition it appears. So, I think someone should get this bike and make a very unique and cool cafe racer out of it…what else would I think?
Click on the pics below for more pictures and some info.
Is there a motorcycle in your past that you regret ‘not’ buying? Many of us have come home with a bike that once it is in our garage we asked ourselves “what was I thinking?” Worse yet is when your significant other asks you the same question, in a much different tone of voice. And then even worse yet is when you rationalize the purchase and start tearing it all apart to ‘restore’ it or ‘customize’ it and coming to the realization that you made a mistake. You DFU’d.
Next scenario…years ago you were choosing between two new motorcycles, your significant other had given approval for either one (he or she didn’t care which one you bought they just wanted you to stop asking them which one you should get, asking all your friends which one to get, because they were getting annoyed by you at this point as well, “Just flip a coin and buy one…”).
Scenario number three…you bought one of the two but in the back of your mind you still keep thinking about the other one. Fast forward two, three, four decades and while driving home one day you see one parked in a driveway with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. It’s the exact model you looked at all those years ago, color and all. You turn around, you write down the phone number and hurry home with your heart pounding. You run in the door, the S.O is there, you tell him or her about the bike, the checkbook is looked at, you get the green light and the phone call is made…the bike was sold five minutes ago.
This is a true story, mine. The bike was a Yamaha XS650. I have loved that bike since the first day I sat on one at International Motorcycles in Canoga Park. Having spent years on Brit Bikes, I felt right at home on the Yamaha.
The Yamaha was also a successful racer, it powered ‘King’ Kenny Roberts to the AMA Grand National Championship, when it really was a Grand National Championship but that’s a whole ‘nother story. The XS is still very popular in Vintage Flat Track racing.
The XS650 is the perfect platform for any customization…cafe racer, street tracker, chopper, tourer, vintage flat tracker… it just plain ol’ works. The motor is gorgeous, reliable and easy to work on. The chassis lends itself to mods very easily and there are a lot of aftermarket suppliers that can help you make an XS the bike of your dreams. Now you just have to get one.
I found a really nice 1977 model on ebay today. It is a runner that has been gone through pretty well. It’s completely stock, which is always perfect in my book, that way you can customize it any way you want or just leave it as it is and enjoy it.
Oh, and did I mention it can be customized really well…
Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures. This is a really nice bike for the price.