Kawasaki W2TT Commander

The Kawasaki W2TT Commander helped set the stage for Kawasaki's success

| November/December 2005

Kawasaki W2TT Commander

Years produced: 1968-69
Total production: 639
Claimed power: 53bhp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 110mph (est.)
Engine type: Air-cooled, pushrod, two-valve, vertical twin
Weight (dry): 181kg (398.2lb)      
Price then: $1,350 (est.)
Price now: $4,200-$7,000

"The ultimate in motorcycles — speed, style, comfort, handling and safety for the sports rider," boasted the first paragraph of the Kawasaki W2TT Commander sales literature.

"Instant power every time you crack open the throttle. Hour after hour of high speed riding without engine strain. This is a real high speed touring motorcycle."

The reality of riding Kawasaki’s British-style 650cc didn’t match the hype, but the two-cylinder W2 was still an important bike for Kawasaki. It was with the pushrod vertical twin, launched in 1967 when the Kawasaki motorcycle operation was still in its infancy, that the Japanese giant paved the way for its fire-breathing two-stroke triples and fearsome Kawasaki Z1 four-cylinder of the early 1970s.

Early efforts

The huge Kawasaki corporation, which built ships, trains and planes, had turned to making motorcycle engines and then complete bikes to keep its aircraft division busy after World War II. After building some small-capacity two-strokes under the name Meihatsu in the 1950s, Kawasaki stepped up its involvement when it took over the ailing Meguro bike firm in 1960.

Like many Japanese manufacturers at the time, Meguro had specialized in copying European bikes, notably BSA’s 500cc A7 vertical twin, which was reproduced as the Meguro K1. In 1965, Kawasaki made a few modifications and released the twin as the Kawasaki K2, then brought out an updated, 650cc version, the Kawasaki W1. Shortly after that came the tuned, twin-carb W2 models that would become Kawasaki’s best-known early roadsters.

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