Kawasaki 500 H1 is a direct
competitor of Honda CB 450 and Suzuki T500. It is marketed for the first
time in January 1969. This machine is classed as sports and at its exit is
THE sport. This machine rivals in terms of power with the 750 4 stroke, or
what is the best at the time.
The engine of this machine is quite particular. It is a 3-cylinder 2 stroke,
which was quite unusual. This concept will be taken to create a version of
750 cm3 in the high-end (the 750 Mach IV) and several versions of 250 (the
250 S1 from 1972 and 250 KH from 1976), 350 (the 350 S2 from 1971) and 400
cm3 (the 400 S3 from 1974 and the 400 KH from 1976) in the mid-range.
If the engine is fabulous, the rest of the machine is flawed. The brakes
(originally a brake drum) and the terms are not not match the performance of
the engine. In the fabulous kind, gasoline consumption is up to the engine
performance, 2 requires time. Always "2 requires time, the machine is always
monitored by a cloud of blue smoke, unthinkable today.
All Kawasaki "3-cylinder 2-stroke" has a particular line with their 3
exhaust pipes (2 right, 1 left), which makes them immediately recognizable.
This line is aesthetic associated with a characteristic noise enough to
recognize immediately this whole line of machine.
The machine is moving steadily throughout his career.
In 1970, the machine changes decoration, without changing reference.
Ignition is electronic.
In 1971, the decoration as every year is new, but the tank takes a more
modern form (obviously not at the knees.
1972 marks an important development with the appearance of the H1B. She
receives the fork and disc brake of the 750 H2. The line is resolutely
modern style gathering of 250 S1 and 350 S2. The road improves.
In 1973, the "drop" makes its appears on the 500 H1D, like the rest of the
range. The engine is "civilized" (the power formally passes to 59 hp).
Despite the decrease in power, the framework is further strengthened. The
exhaust pipes are collected to improve the ground. General finish of the
machine is in progress at the expense net weight.
The H1E of 1974 does vibrate more because the engine is mounted on
silentblocs. much work is done on the engine to limit emissions.
In 1975, the changes are mainly cosmetic.
The machine is marketed until 1975, the anti-pollution standards and the
American oil crisis because of having this machine. In 1976, she was
replaced by the 500 KH. More than 110 000 copies have been produced by
Kawasaki during the seven years of existence. This machine performance
marked his time and still has many fans.
The words of a proud owner (Jean Pierre)
Happy owner in 1974 a 500 H1E (engine mounted on shock and green) because it
was also in garnet. Electronic ignition, a crystalline noise ... and a plume
What about this machine or a real kick in the behind when starting a little
nervous. A gasoline consumption unthinkable today, 17 Litresin town and
candles if I remember 21 candles 3000km.jusqu 'to find the rare pearl NGK
B9HC and most of the problem.
All this proves that a girlfriend is often quite expensive to maintain
SAINT OR SINNER?
Henk Vink, Dutch sprint champion, taking a Mach III through 400 metres in 13.48
seconds with a terminal speed of 104.82mph, and a Mach III motor coming off the
Part 1 The Early Years
Doug Perkins examines the legend of the screaming triple, and what lay behind it
It’s strange how a motorcycle’s character or charisma can change with time. Take
the Kawasaki Mach III. According to most, it was the worst handling, most
ferocious, fuel guzzling projectile ever to be blessed with two wheels, with the
rear normally following a different line from the often airborne front. Well,
here follow a few quotes from early road tests in highly regarded magazines:
1969 Cycle; ‘The frame is unusually strong, frame-flex, if it did exist, was not
apparent. At Yataba test track in Japan the machine could be ridden at 125mph
without shutting off, on the banking the Mach III was as stable as a
thoroughbred road racer. On the flat, lowest lane, however, slight
irregularities caused a slow predictable yawing.’ Also ‘the engine is slightly
1969 Motorcycle Sport; ‘minimum non-scratch speed in top gear proved to he a
mere 1500rpm and a swift response could be obtained at 3000rpm in any gear’. To
be fair this road test also warns of change in traction when winding the power
on, when exiting from a bend.
1970 Motorcycle Sport; ‘I had been warned to have is pointing straight if I was
going to do any gear changing near peak revs. The front end would give a flick
and step sideways about 6in but under perfect control, and easing the grip back,
the Kawasaki goes through as though it’s on rails.’
We then move on a few years to, shall we say, more flamboyant journalism with
the following extracts. ‘The fastest camel in the world’ and ‘Thanatoid’ (which
apparently means creeping death), are a couple more recent comments.
The writer, with 15 years of owning Kawasakis and a Mach III for six years, also
found these comments sometimes confusing and, in the case of pulling power from
3000rpm, I considered this to he a misprint. However, hopefully, as the
development of the Mach Ill is unfolded some light will be shed.
The writer would hazard a guess and say that the Mach III probably started life
in 1967 as, would you believe, a 500cc disc valve two-stroke twin, which, from
photographs, is fairly obviously set in a Samurai twin frame, with the front end
borrowed from the 650cc parallel twin W2, along with a W2 rear wheel, with
combined speedo and rev counter. A second version was also built, with exposed
springing, separate speedo and tacho and different air filter box.
From this point on, no other photographs are available, so it would seem
Kawasaki decided to take the now legendary three cylinder route. The first
version of this had a yellow fuel tank with chrome plated panels, rubber knee
grips and yellow side panels, either yellow or white front guard, stainless rear
and a long, approx 6in diameter air filter housing which ran across the frame
and connected directly onto the carbs. It also sported a 3-into-2 exhaust with
the centre cylinder exhaust splitting underneath the crankcases.
Version number two looked very much like the Mach III as we know it, with a blue
and white fuel tank in pearl candy paint and silver side panels. Ceriani—type
forks were also fitted with stainless steel front and rear mudguards, chrome
plated chain guard, silver headlamp bracket and fork shrouds and what looks like
the final frame with chrome plated grab rail. The exhausts were three-into-three
with one on the right and two on the left and a flat cut off as the baffle
point. The air filter housing was placed near the rear of the fuel tank and
connected to the carbs via a three-piece rubber connector.
Another version of this was built which featured a three-into-four exhaust where
the centre cylinder exhaust port split into two separate exhausts at a manifold
bolted to the cylinder. The exhausts were identical on each side and in the same
position as on the eventual production model, i.e., one very low. These exhausts
also appeared to have a very shallow cone on the ends as on the production
versions. The tank colours on this last pre-production type unit were candy red
with a blue band approx 50mm wide around the edge, and a long Kawasaki emblem in
black and white. There was also a red chrome version with rubber knee grips
inserted and the old style Kawasaki wing badge screwed on. Interestingly, the
speedo face was black, whereas the tacho had a white face, with the ignition
switch located in between them. It is of interest to note that on all of these
pre-production versions, the engine cases were very highly polished, the front
brake drum was black and all the lever mechanisms were on the left of the
machine whereas, apart from a very early press photograph, all drum brake
versions of the machine were as the W2, i.e., the right.
At this point I would like to stress that, in my own personal view, Kawasaki
were caught napping and not for the first time, by Honda and that famous 750,
for on the first production versions of the Mach III we had a standard front
brake, sprayed side casings and the ignition switch identical to the Samurai
sited underneath the fuel tank and not as on the prototype. What also seems
strange is that early production machines featured stainless steel exhausts and
not the normal chrome plated items, as fitted later.
So, that was the Mach III in its pre-production form. When it did finally
appear in 1968 it certainly shook the motorcycle world as Kawasaki were claiming
a top speed of 124mph and a standing start quarter mile in 12.4 secs!
There can be no doubt, though, that the Mach III had been designed by either an
individual or committee who really felt that needs of the new generation of
motorcyclists — yes, I also hate the word ‘biker’ Mr. Eason (see MCe letters
page July 86).
The whole machine seemed to be tigerish in appearance with the sculptured fuel
tank, flat handlebars which raked slightly rearwards, the exhausts were almost a
work of art in themselves with just the right angle of upsweep to give the
impression of power, the large chrome grab rail certainly finished the job off!
But it was a subtle overall impression best likened with, say a Golf GTI as
against an Astra GTE. The only other motorcycles I rate in the same class -
looking as though they do 100mph standing still - were the Vincent 1000 and the
Ducati 900SS, which I still rate as the best looking motorcycles of all time.
There were two colours available for the original ‘69 model. The most common had
a white fuel tank with a broad blue band stretching from the front of the tank
to the knee indents, two smaller bands approximately 6mm wide ran parallel with
Kawasaki in blue letters actually situated inside the knee indents. The side
panel and oil tank were also its white with a cast aluminum badge saying 'Mach
III 500' on the side panel. This badge was available in either white and red or
blue and red. Peacock Grey was the other colour option available but the colour
was, in fact, nearer black than grey with a metallic finish and a black instead
of blue band across she tank. Headlamp bodies differed on both machines with the
Midnight White version supplied with a chrome plated unit, as against black for
the Peacock Grey option.
Kawasaki was making great claims for the power unit with a guaranteed 60hp at
7500rpm from every unit. The other claim was for a revolutionary CDI system and
surface gap spark plugs eliminating fouling with an expected 5000 mile life.
Some problems were encountered with the CDI, mainly the insulation breaking down
on the pick-up due to heat build up. as well as water and oil seeping into the
distributor via the wiring harness where it ran under the carbs. Problems were
also experienced in the UK as the CDI caused havoc with television sets as it
blasted by. At least Kawasaki rapidly came up with the answer by changing to
points ignition on the UK model only. This was a blessing in disguise as those
two little black boxes under the seat now cost £800 (yes, £800) plus VAT, to
replace! The surface gap spark plugs also gave problems and owners quickly
reverted to standard plugs, which normally have a life of 1000—5000 miles
depending on use.
In the second part of this feature, we’ll see just how effectively this
‘performance guarantee’ was realized in the hands of the owners.
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