’69 Kawasaki W2 650 Commander
Sometimes a bike becomes a classic because it is rare, or unique or just plain weird. Other times a bike becomes a classic just because. The Kawasaki W2 650 Commander is one of those motorcycles. The Kawasaki Twin has an interesting history.
Most people will say that all Kawasaki did was copy the BSA A7. That’s kind of true but the story starts before then. The Kawasaki twin started life as a Meguro 500cc OHV twin in 1954. It was a good motorcycle by standards of the time and place. In 1959 Meguro brought out the K1 model which pretty much was a copy of the BSA A7, BSA gave Meguro a license to copy it because they were going to discontinue the model anyway. Easy.
Kawasaki enters the picture in 1960 acquiring Meguro and the license to build the motorcycles. 1962 saw the first motorcycles to roll of the assembly line wearing the Kawasaki tank badge. Kawasaki upgraded the twin to 624cc’s in 1965 with the new W1 series motorcycles. At the time everybody was saying that Kawasaki had copied BSA’s A10 model and in some ways maybe so but there was one very distinct difference between the Kawasaki and its British counterpart. The BSA motor was a long stroke motor while the Kawasaki utilized a short stroke design. The short stroke allowed the Kawasaki to rev up quicker than the BSA and was actually a bit faster. However, the main problem with the Kawasaki was vibration, it would shake the fillings right out of your teeth.
1968 saw the new and improved W2 SS Commander model make it’s debut. A number of the shortcomings of the W! had been addressed and the W2 was a much better motorcycle. It was also the largest motorcycle being built in Japan.
The big twin only lasted a short while as Kawasaki turned its technological eye to the two stroke motor. The blisteringly fast 500 H1 Triple came out in 1969 and ended (for a short while) the Kawasaki four strokes.
So, in my daily cruise of ebay I came across a 1969 W2 Commander 650 that needs a new home and some love. It is in decent condition overall, seems like most all the parts are there and whatever is missing is probably not too hard to find as there are a number of good web groups, forums and parts suppliers out there that cater to this model. The bike has a little under 15K miles on the clock which isn’t too bad and I think with some clean up this is a pretty easy resto project. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Little side note here, the W2 was in reality a very good motorcycle at the time and in the late 1990’s when there seemed to be a resurgence of classic styled motorcycles, Kawasaki brought it back…in an updated form of course. The motor was now a long stroke motor that gave it more of a sound and feel of the British twins that it was emulating, but now the cams were bevel gear driven similar to earlier Ducati motors. The downside to this story is that Triumph brought the ‘new’ Bonneville. The classic British twin was back. Everybody loved the new Bonnie and the Kawasaki W650 was only on the market here for 1999 and 2000. What I find so interesting in that story is that most moto-journalists actually thought that the Kawasaki actually out ‘Triumphed’ the Triumph. The W650 in its latest form was actually the better motorcycle…and from having put miles on both, I too found the Kawasaki the better ride. This coming from a die-hard Brit bike lover.
Anyway, check out this W2 Commander, should be a really fun and not too much work project to get you a very cool ride for the summer.