1970 Kawasaki H1 Mach III

When speed was king

| January/February 2011

1970 Kawasaki H1 Mach III
Years produced:
Claimed power: 60hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 119.14mph (period test)
Engine type: 498cc 2-stroke air-cooled transversely-mounted inline triple
Weight (dry): 410lb (186kg)
Price then: $995 (1970)
Price now: $3,500-$7,000
MPG: 30-40mpg

Tony Silveira started his love affair with motorcycles early, but unlike many motorcycle-crazy kids, he rode his bikes, even fast two-strokes, carefully.

In fact, Tony still has the Suzuki Hustler he bought in high school back in the day — and with only two nicks showing on the original tank. That Hustler is now part of his collection of classic Japanese motorcycles, which includes two early Kawasaki H1 motorcycles, revered today as the fastest, most powerful and most out-of-control motorcycle of its day.

Building up to the Kawasaki H1

Kawasaki Heavy Industries really entered the motorcycle business in 1960, when it bought a controlling interest in Meguro, one of Japan’s first motorcycle companies. Meguro was subsequently combined with Meihatsu (a Kawasaki subsidiary that had been building small motorcycles since the mid-1950s), producing Meguro and Kawasaki-badged machines.

In 1965, Kawasaki tried exporting the 650cc W1, a BSA look-alike originally developed by Meguro in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the W1 was considerably slower than the BSA A7 it had copied, and given a choice between the fast and familiar BSA and a slower Kawasaki of unknown reliability, most riders chose the BSA.

Kawasaki management was quick to appreciate that in America, speed sold bikes, so they designed the 250cc Samurai A1 for the U.S. market. A fast two-stroke, it did well from its introduction in 1967 and was soon followed by a 350cc version.

MC Staff
12/30/2010 10:29:22 AM

Have you ridden an H1? Tell us about your experience.

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