More ‘Juevos’ than Brains…that described most of us in the late 60’s and through the 70’s.Give me horsepower, give me “jerk the handlebars right out of my hand” kind of power, “I don’t care about anything else”.
Lets go back a little ways. Kawasaki, aka ‘Kawasaki Heavy Industrties’ was in the business of building big steamships to ship Japanese goods all over the world. Kawasaki also built locomotives to transport people and goods all over Japan and Asia. Kawasaki also built the first Bullet Train. Kawasaki is also in partnership with Boeing for the 777,787 and more airliners. This is a company that is into machines that GO!!! It is a very interesting history.
Over the years there have been motorcycles that have defined a generation, for me it was 1969. Honda brought the CB750. Sophisticated, powerful, disc brakes… a gentleman’s motorcycle. Kawasaki took another approach, brute power. “Lets build something that will blow everything else into the weeds, scare the crap out of the rider but put a huge grin on his face”! Here comes the H1.
Kawasaki was the first to develop the 3 cylinder 2 stroke motorcycle (Suzuki came in right behind). It was all about power in your right hand. These motorcycles were built for one thing and one thing only…straight line speed. Sixty horsepower out of just 500cc in a motorcycle that weighed less than 400 pounds…big fun. However…going around a corner was another thing.
The H1 was designed for the rider with good ‘straight line’ skills. Terms like ‘wobbly, vague, scary and “OH Shit!!” perfectly described the Mach 3 when riding a twisty road. A chassis that was more flexible than a rubber band, brakes that wouldn’t stop a mule cart, and a suspension that…well, didn’t. And there you have the Kawasaki Mach 3. But still it is a very fun motorcycle, within it’s limits.
I found a beauty on ebay this morning. Whats cool about this one is that is not a restored version. There have been a couple of fixes, just cosmetic but it’s basically a very original 1969 Kawasaki H1. The down side is the same thing I find all the time, it’s over priced. This is a motorcycle that sold for less than $1000 new, now the seller is saying that others have sold for over $20,000. It is an iconic motorcycle no doubt, but…the bidding is already at nearly $10K. You can buy it, put it in your collection, look at it once and a while or you can find one that has risen hard and put away wet, do the upgrades and go have a lot of fun for a lot less $$$
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. Yes, I think it’s overpriced but it is a really cool motorcycle from one of the best era’s in motorcycling.
I have owned so many motorcycles over the years that I have probably forgotten some of them, but one I have not and never will, is my 1972 Kawasaki H2 750. I have written before about how I came to owning this bike before so I won’t bore you with the story again. That Kawasaki Triple was the motorcycle that first really touched my soul. The H2 was the first motorcycle I took a long (to Canada) trip on, the bike I street raced cars on (for rent money…I almost always won), the bike I had so much fun modifying and spending money on and the motorcycle that could scare the sh*t out of me. Evil,Wicked,Mean and Nasty is how most everyone described the Mach 4. A reputation well earned. The H2 was, if nothing else, a pure adrenaline rush and when you’re in your twenties, what more could you ask for?!
I love the Kawasaki triples. I have ridden every size. From the 250 to the 350, 400, 500 and 750 and loved them all. As the line of Triples evolved they also became more civilized, still exciting but not the hooligan bikes they once were. It was also the end of an era for two stroke motorcycles. The Mighty Z1 and later the KZ500 and 650 put the nails in the coffins of the Triples. Well, the EPA had a lot to do with it as well.
In 1960 Kawasaki took over Meguro motorcycles, in 1961 came out with a 125, in ’62 brought out the 250cc Avenger, this was the bike that got the attention of the American public. I have ridden the Avenger and WOW!!! Granted a later version, but still a high WOW factor. The 350 Samurai was even more impressive. Now think about this, Kawasaki’s first four stoke was the 650W1, pretty much a copy of a BSA A10. The Samurai 350 was as fast as the bike nearly twice it’s size! Since that time Kawasaki has tried to bring back the W650 a couple of times with very little success. Too bad, because it was and is a great machine.
So anyway, back to the Triples…Wheelie prone? Yes. Ill handling? Yes. Poor gas mileage ? Yes. Too much fun? OH YEAH!!! Kawasaki did civilize the triples over the years but they were and still are a lot of fun to ride. On the 500, if you romp on the throttle, at 3500 RPM you’re looking at the sky. Can that be cured? Do you want it to be?
There are all kinds of things you can do make these great bikes handle better. Some are easy and cheap and some take a bit of engineering, but it’s worth it.
I found a really nice KH500 on ebay and the price is reasonable, has lots of new parts and is ready to ride. Yes I would make a few changes, only because of my experience with these bikes…but thats just me. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
There is a raw excitement that comes along with riding a Kawasaki Two Stroke Triple no matter what size that can’t be matched by any other series of motorcycles.
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”>
In 1982 I was the Sales Manager at a Kawasaki dealership here in Southern California, I loved my job. The family I worked for was great, they helped me in my roadracing effort, and thanks to them I was doing pretty well. Here is the better part…I was racing a Kawasaki but my daily ride was a Honda. It didn’t look good for the Sales Manager to be riding a bike we didn’t sell, so…I was given a ‘demo bike’ to ride. Life doesn’t get any better, especially when your first ‘demo bike’ is a Kawasaki GPZ750.
I spent ten really good years on a Kawasaki H2 750 Mach 4, Kawasaki’s flagship three cylinder two stroke rocket. At times it scared the crap out of me…the H2 was called “evil, wicked, mean and nasty” by every motorcycle magazine and most people who owned them, but after some really good (serious) modifications the monster was tamed and we had great times together. Sadly,the H2 was stolen from me (if I ever find that guy…”hell hath no fury than an H2 rider without his triple!) and that is how I ended up on a Honda CB750F.
Back to the GPZ. When I was told I was getting the GPZ I wanted to cry, cry tears of joy. I had already sold a few of them and everyone loved it so I couldn’t wait to ride it.
Closing time on Saturday afternoon I was given the key, and a stern lecture from my boss as to how I was to ride the bike responsibly (the look on his face didn’t match his words…if you get my drift here…). I spent the next two days flogging that GPZ up and down every canyon road I knew here in Southern Cal. The smile never once left my face.
Here’s the deal with the GPZ…Kawasaki was already successful with the KZ series and had brought out the GPZ models in 550 and 1100cc in 1981 but they had to compete with the Honda CB750F model and Suzuki’s very capable GS750. Kawasaki was known for building motorcycles with ‘King Kong’ horsepower but didn’t have the chassis to control it. The GPZ750 changed that.
The GPZ was not just a ‘tarted up’ KZ750, there were chassis mods (courtesy of the Z1 and models soon to come…like a shorter wheelbase for quicker turning, beefier headstock and more), engine changes like new cylinder heads,new cam profiles, different carburation and a different riding position. What Kawasaki was going for here was a pure unadulterated sportbike and that is what they got. What they didn’t expect that it would also be a really good sport tourer. The GPZ1100 was Kawasaki’s ‘heavyweight’ sport tourer, but now they had a 750 that was at home on a canyon road as it was on the interstate. The first GPZ 750 is one of Kawasaki’s finest bikes of the era. The GPZ underwent some changes over the next couple of years (some good and some… ‘not so much’) but it was and still is a fabulous motorcycle.
I found a beauty today on ebay. This GPZ is a stocker, which in my book is pretty much the best way to find a used bike…that way you get to do whatever you want to do to the bike instead of undoing what someone else did…unless you would have the same things done to the bike. A bit of a convoluted thought but hopefully you get my meaning. This GPZ has been garaged for twenty years with 24K on the clock, not bad but it is going to some love. Standard stuff will be required here…carb service (full clean and rebuild), change all fluids, new tires (they’re old. I don’t care how ‘new’ they look or how much tread they have left, they are not worth keeping on the bike), brake pads, etc, etc. There is the standard corrosion on the bike that can with a little time and effort can be dealt with. This bike is a rider not a collector piece. Do the basics and ride it.
The GPZ 750 is a really wonderful motorcycle that will do anything you ask of it…blast through your local Sunday morning canyon ride, commute to work everyday, or throw on a set of soft saddlebags, a tank bag and head off to Telluride. Click on the pics below for more (not really) info and more pictures. Having ridden one for a while I can say this a perfect example of the ‘UJM’ being taken a level higher.
1967…The Summer of Love. Haight Ashbury, Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, my second year racing in the deserts of Southern California, and one year away from being able to ride a street bike ‘legally’. What a time in life. My step dad also decided that it was time to get my mom riding a motorcycle. He had already set me down the path of moral and social degradation, did he really have to sacrifice my mother as well??? Apparently so.
Now, Michael (step-dad) was a devout follower of Edward Turner and his Triumph Twin but every now and then he would drift into the occult…he was racing a Bultaco as well as his Triumph, but when he came home with a little Yamaha 250 street bike I thought he had really gone over the edge. Until I rode it. The ‘giggle factor’ of that little motorcycle was unbelievable. Family and friends loved that little bike…everyone except mom. Oh well, her loss, our fun.
When mom decided she didn’t want to ride the 250 it was sold to a friend who then traded it (along with some cash) for a Kawasaki 350 Avenger to another friend. If the 250 was fun, the 350 had to be a LOT MORE fun and it was. The bike was very typical of Japanese bikes of the time which means it handled like crap… Wobbly doesn’t even begin to describe the general handling of the A7 but what a motor. That 350 would easily outrun bikes twice its size, well unless you were racing on a twisty road but back in those times more of us were thinking of simple speed more than corner prowess.
The A7 Avenger was a very good motorcycle for the time. The motor was strong (somewhere around 40HP and a top speed of around 100mph) and reliable, fit and finish was…well, better than acceptable and handling could be made better with a few modifications. The A7 sold well but not as good as it should have. Sadly it had to compete with Yamaha and Suzuki, Honda was entirely focused on four strokes. The Yamaha was fast and handled good, the Suzuki was faster, but didn’t handle well at all. So the Kawasaki fell right in the middle.
The Kawasaki A7 350 was an outgrowth of the very popular A1 250 but got some good improvements along the way. Basically what Kawasaki did was slide a bigger better motor in an existing chassis (that was based on a Kawasaki Grand Prix bike) and call it good. Ok, wait a minute here. I know that I said the bike was wobbly handling and then I say it’s based on a grand prix chassis, which by all counts should handle pretty damn well, they did by mid 1960’s Japanese manufacturer standards. And, they were far away from production bikes.
The motor though got a good number of upgrades, a major one being the ‘Inject-O-Lube system. Not only did the oil pump squirt life saving oil into the petrol mix, it also sent it directly to the main bearings, hence, longer engine life.
For performance Kawasaki decided to go with the Rotary Disk Valve intake system versus the Piston Port design used by other manufacturers. Why? well it is a more efficient design as it doesn’t waste any fuel (it’s all burned which means more power!), the rotary valve gives more torque from lower RPM’s and has better throttle response throughout the RPM range. However, the Rotary Valve system is more complicated and expensive to build and therefore Kawasaki decided to scrap it (after testing it on the 3 cylinder H1 500cc Triple). The interesting thing about the Rotary Valve design is that the carburetors are not behind the cylinders where you normally find them but inside the engine cases inline with the crankshaft. Now, you would think that would make the engine way too wide for a high performance twin cylinder motorcycle…you would be right except for the fact the Kawasaki engineers moved other parts around to make the bike acceptably narrow. It is really a fascinating system.
So, with all that being said and now that you know everything Kawasaki A7 Avengers…I found a really nice one on ebay today that should fit well into anybody’s mid to late 60’s Japanese two-stroke collection.
This A7 is not showroom perfect…thank God. I much prefer bikes that wear their age with grace and dignity. The engine has been overhauled with new bearings and seals, some parts have been replated or repainted. The exhaust is not stock but for a bike with chambers, it’s not obnoxious. The bike looks and sounds really nice check out the You Tube video on the sellers page.
Click on the pic’s below for more pictures and more information. This is a nice fun bike that with a bit of suspension work and nothing else should be an absolute blast to ride.
In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not. So what was it?
Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.
From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.
Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.
I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.
At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.
Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.
On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, tail light and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider. Oh yeah, you may want to add some sort of small mufflers on, JC Whitney has a couple of styles that would look just fine and still let you have that sweet English parallel Twin sound.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.
Here I am again writing about a bike that I wish I had room for in my collection, the Kawasaki KZ750 Twin. It may not have the status of a Bonneville, a Lightning 650, a Commando, or even an XS650 (I have owned 2 out of the 4), but the KZ750 Twin deserves more love that it gets. The KZ750 is a classic bike that has been flying under the radar since it was new.
When the 750 twin came out it fit right between Kawasaki 600 and 1000 fours and we all looked at it and thought…why? At that time there were only two big vertical twins left on the market, the Bonnie and the XS, Kawasaki thought they could find a place in that market. There were still riders that liked vertical twins. Compared to the Triumph and the Yamaha, the KZ750 was just plain boring. The styling was conservative, the motor was just a lump (styling wise) between the wheels and, the mufflers were a bit too big with a big ugly seam running along the top and made the motor sound more like it was wheezing instead of breathing.
What Kawasaki did do with the KZ twin motor, that was either good or bad depending on your point of view, was smooth out the vibration that vertical twins are known for. Part of the charm (?) of the vertical twin motor is the feel, the vibration that comes up from the seat,the footpegs and handlebars…it let you know the bike was alive. Kawasaki built the motor with counter balancers that took that feel away but made the bike a very smooth ride for a big twin. I think that was part of why the KZ twin was really a non-event in motorcycling, that and it just came out a few years too late.
The KZ750 wasn’t fast, it came to market with a modest 55 horsepower (give or take), a top speed of somewhere just north of 100mph (barely), a bit heavy at a little over 500 lbs, and a soft suspension. The brakes were decent though. But you know what…it’s a great motorcycle!
One thing that Kawasaki is well known for is building bikes with great motors, and the KZ750 twin is no exception. Kawasaki motors have a reputation for being nearly indestructible, many journalists have called them the ‘King Kong’ motors of the industry…what else would you expect from a company who also builds steamships and locomotives?!
The beauty of the KZ 750 twin is that it can be any kind of motorcycle you want it to be. You can leave it stock (why?), chop it, bob it, load it up with a faring and saddlebags for touring, put a sidecar on it or, in my case, make a cafe racer out of it. The KZ750 twin is ultra reliable, easy to maintain and parts are still available. The net is full of resources and enthusiasts for this under loved motorcycle.
I found a really nice KZ750 twin on ebay this morning that somebody needs to buy. This is one of those, buy it…go get it…ride it home. Well, unless you live in North Dakota or Minnesota. It has only 9446 miles on the clock, it’s in really great condition and will be a great value for the buyer. Put on a new set of tires, give it a good going over, re-jet the carbs (they came from the factory way too lean), put on a set of good aftermarket mufflers, a set of lower handlebars, better rear shocks…ok, wait a minute, I’m heading off into the cafe zone. Really though, set it up which ever way you would like this is a really good motorcycle for the money.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.
Wives, listen up. We all know your husband is nuts. He spends more time with his damn motorcycle than he does with you and your five kids (can you blame him? really). He rides his bike every day to work, he goes riding every weekend with his other biking buddies and subscribes to every motorcycle magazine there is, he especially likes Easy Riders Magazine and he doesn’t even own a Harley?!
He rides when it’s 104 degrees outside, he rides in the rain, the fool even rides when it snows and your mother keeps asking you why you married him…you ask yourself that same question every day. He’ll sit outside in the garage when it’s three degrees below zero putting on a new chain, bleeding the brakes or polishing the fairing on his beloved Ninja for the umpteenth time. He’s nuts. But you love him and it’s Christmas time, you need to get him something special, something meaningful, something warm. I found the perfect gift for the guy that rides a Ninja.
It’s cold where I live here this morning so while sitting here at my computer looking through ebay in my non-heated office, I kept putting on more layers until I look like Charlie Brown in winter. I looked through headlights, motors, fenders, hat pins, and then I found it…what every true Kawasaki Ninja owner needs in the winter…Genuine Kawasaki Ninja Long Johns!! These are the real deal.
Yep, good old real long john’s with the flap in the back and everything. The cool (actually warm) thing about long johns is that you don’t get cold air rushing down your shorts when you’re riding and you can walk around the house in them and everybody will just laugh at you…let ’em laugh you’re warm…and stylin’.
I found these on ebay this morning, yeah they have been worn once and washed afterwards..considering they were worn by a Ninja owner back in the 80’s you might want to ask about skid marks? All joking aside, this is a pretty cool (warm) christmas present idea for the guy that loves his Ninja.Click on the pics below for more info.
There must be something going on in the universe that keeps bringing me these Kawasaki twins. I’ve always liked the KZ750 twin and have developed a great fondness for the W2 models. I’m not going to go into the history of these Kawasaki models because I’ve done that at least twice before. It is a good story, just go back a few postings and you’ll find the story of the Kawasaki 650’s. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just clones of BSA twins of the era. Yes, there are similarities and yes, Kawasaki did have a licensing agreement with the folks at the Birmingham Small Arms company for some designs, but Kawasaki did do some things their own way, especially in the second generation W series motorbikes.
Today I found a very nice W2SS that has a good amount of work done on it and is so far selling for a very reasonable price. The owner found this in a shed 6 years ago and has spent this time bringing it back to life. The motor was torn down and gone through, new bearings, pistons,rings,valve job; the carbs were done, trans and clutch were refurbished, and the front end got new seals. The frame was sandblasted and painted and the tank was also repainted. The seller says the tank paint was purposely distressed to look old? All in all this is a nice example of an interesting motorcycle.
There are a couple of things I would do however. First, upgrade the suspension front and rear, go through the brakes and make sure they are up to spec and put a set of GP Touring bars on. After that, take it for a good long ride. The only question I have is, why is the bike sitting on a lift instead of the side stand?
Click on the pics below for more pictures and a lot more info about this nice old Kawasaki.
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.