Heavy Metal: 1975 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750

The Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750 was to other motorcycles what heavy metal was to rock and roll — outrageous.


| May/June 2015



Kawasaki front view

1975 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750

Photo by Nick Cedar

1975 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750
Top speed:
110mph
Engine:
748cc air-cooled 2-stroke triple, 71mm x 63mm bore and stroke, 7:1 compression ratio, 71hp @ 6,800rpm
Weight (dry):
448lb (204kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
4.5gal (17ltr)/28-30mpg
Price then/now:
$1,825/$2,000-$12,000

Remember heavy metal? Back in the day, heavy metal was loud guitars playing songs in minor keys with occult themes and horror-movie lyrics, raging about social instability, political corruption and apocalyptic prophecies. The music was provocative, and like heavy metal, the Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750 triple was outrageous, loud, uncivilized and exciting. It was horsepower personified.

From its late 1971 U.S. debut on, of all places, the Queen Mary ocean liner, the Kawasaki 750 2-stroke triple showed it had what power-hungry bad boys wanted: a 74 horsepower engine powering a bike with a curb weight of 450 pounds. The Mach IV was to other contemporary motorcycles what heavy metal was to rock and roll — in a word, outrageous.

Building up

The company behind the 750 triple, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, was as much unlike its progeny as one could get. A huge, well-established, diversified company, it built (and still builds) ships, railroad rolling stock and electrical plants. The motorcycle division came after World War II, following Kawasaki’s forced exit from aircraft manufacturing. In the 1960s, the rapidly-growing Kawasaki motorcycle division saw Honda as its archrival, and gaining points and publicity at the expense of Honda became a prime objective.

Kawasaki’s first major score against Honda came in late 1968, the same year Black Sabbath, considered by many as the first metal group, was formed. The score was the introduction of the 500cc H1 Mach III, a blazingly fast 2-stroke triple with electronic ignition. It was a light bike with a strong engine and weak brakes — not the best combination for the speed-crazed boys who tended to buy it. The H1 was popular, sold well and put Kawasaki on the map. It spawned a smaller 350 version, which was widely held at the time to have better handling. Later versions of the H1 had better brakes and a stiffer frame, but it was still fast and exciting.

In the meantime, Honda had made history with its CB750 Four, a much more civilized motorcycle. Kawasaki had its own 750cc 4-cylinder in development when the CB750 came out in 1969, but decided to postpone the introduction of its new 4-stroke until it could come up with something that would definitively trump Honda. In the meantime, Kawasaki built on its loud ’n proud image by designing a 750cc version of the controversial 500.

tonyc
5/29/2015 3:58:36 PM

Seventy four horsepower?! My god, how can humans deal with such an omnipotent beast? LOL I grew up in that era and remember well the reputation of both the 500 and 750 Kawis. In college in the early 70s someone had a 750 that they ridden onto the walkway between the dorms (not open to traffic). He was intending to do a burnout, or a quick get-away, or something for the benefit of the girls who were sunbathing on the lawn beside the path. Needless to say he was unready when the RPM hit the power band. The bike wheelied, and shot down the path with him desperately trying to figure out how to steer a bike with its front wheel in the air. It all came to an ignominious end in a nearby hedge. The girls seemed less than impressed.


tonyc
5/29/2015 3:39:51 PM

Seventy four horsepower?! My god, how can humans deal with such an omnipotent beast? LOL I grew up in that era and remember well the reputation of both the 500 and 750 Kawis. In college in the early 70s someone had a 750 that they ridden onto the walkway between the dorms (not open to traffic). He was intending to do a burnout, or a quick get-away, or something for the benefit of the girls who were sunbathing on the lawn beside the path. Needless to say he was unready when the RPM hit the power band. The bike wheelied, and shot down the path with him desperately trying to figure out how to steer a bike with its front wheel in the air. It all came to an ignominious end in a nearby hedge. The girls seemed less than impressed.


timkern
4/30/2015 2:33:40 PM

Just a couple observations: The 350 "handled better" because it had half the horsepower of the 500; and how anybody got 30mpg out of the 750 has to be the mystery of the century. MPRT (miles per rear tire), maybe -- the 4.00 x 18 didn't show a lot of rubber!






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