Kawasaki W2TT Commander

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

| November/December 2005

  • With its Y-shaped cover, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander engine looked like the power plant of a BSA A10
    With its Y-shaped cover, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander engine looked like the power plant of a BSA A10. Internally, however, it was much different.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • Despite boasting several improvements over the British bikes that inspired its design, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander never caught on with American buyers
    Despite boasting several improvements over the British bikes that inspired its design, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander never caught on with American buyers.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • Despite boasting several improvements over the British bikes that inspired its design, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander never caught on with American buyers
    Despite boasting several improvements over the British bikes that inspired its design, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander never caught on with American buyers.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • The Kawasaki W2TT Commander steers surprisingly well, and while it revs smoothly to 4,000rpm it vibrates harshly at highway speed
    The Kawasaki W2TT Commander steers surprisingly well, and while it revs smoothly to 4,000rpm it vibrates harshly at highway speed.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • The Kawasaki W2TT Commander steers surprisingly well, and while it revs smoothly to 4,000rpm it vibrates harshly at highway speed
    The Kawasaki W2TT Commander steers surprisingly well, and while it revs smoothly to 4,000rpm it vibrates harshly at highway speed.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • The Kawasaki W2TT Commander
    The Kawasaki W2TT Commander.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • Reliable electrics and easy starting were among the calling cards of the Kawasaki W2TT Commander
    Reliable electrics and easy starting were among the calling cards of the Kawasaki W2TT Commander. The four-speed transmission was controlled by a right-foot shifter.
    Photo by Roland Brown
  • In Japan, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander was the best-selling bike in its class
    In Japan, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander was the best-selling bike in its class.
    Photo by Roland Brown

  • With its Y-shaped cover, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander engine looked like the power plant of a BSA A10
  • Despite boasting several improvements over the British bikes that inspired its design, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander never caught on with American buyers
  • Despite boasting several improvements over the British bikes that inspired its design, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander never caught on with American buyers
  • The Kawasaki W2TT Commander steers surprisingly well, and while it revs smoothly to 4,000rpm it vibrates harshly at highway speed
  • The Kawasaki W2TT Commander steers surprisingly well, and while it revs smoothly to 4,000rpm it vibrates harshly at highway speed
  • The Kawasaki W2TT Commander
  • Reliable electrics and easy starting were among the calling cards of the Kawasaki W2TT Commander
  • In Japan, the Kawasaki W2TT Commander was the best-selling bike in its class

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.






November December Vintage Motorcycle Events

Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet and Vintage Ride


Make plans for the 28th Annual Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet on Saturday, Oct. 27, followed by the Blue Moon Cycle Vintage Ride on Sunday, Oct. 28!

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