I'd love to own one. I remember Duhammel, at Ontario Motor Speedway Ca, 1970something, winding one out, the sound was spectacular. That sound, what more can be said? But right now I have to get the magneto rewound for my '64 Royal Enfield Interceptor.
The 750 twin, not a bullet 350-500 single.
I still own a 1970 H-1. (The 1970 model is mechanically and visually identical to the first model, except for different colors and a redesigned right engine case.)
This is definitely a machine that needs to be treated with respect. It has a close ratio transmission to match its very peaky torque. You can ride around all day at 3000 or 4000 rpm and it's a pussy cat. Get it above 5000 rpm and it's very scary.
First gear is good for 40 mph at the red line, and second gear will take you to 60 mph. If you wind it up in second, shift to third and advance the throttle with any enthusiasm at all the front wheel is going to come up - at 60 mph! I only did this once. I didn't ride it again for a month.
Great motorcycles; I was privileged to be able to work for a Kawasaki dealer during my early working years, 1969 to 1975. The H1 and H2 were the fastest on the street. I never had any Honda 750 hold a candle to them. Simpler days is correct. Crazy days too, there was nothing like riding a wheelie on a full dressed H2 while riding double.
Just got my 69 H1 back in running form. Just like the writers say, it's tame or wild, you choose. The best part is watching heads turn when they hear the sound of it coming!
I still have my 69 model, having acquired it in 1974. It's still a hoot to ride, and hasn't had the engine apart since 1975. Awesome fun.
There was nothing like the sound/smell/feel and looks of the H-1. I would love to own one now, simply for nostalgia.
I had 2 of them; both had worn crank seals, but still ran smooth. Being a kid with not much money, a repair or replacement of the crankshaft to cure the problem was out of the question. I seem to recall the only difference in engine between the 69 and 71, was the 69 had a slightly different intake port that was bridged.
Since I couldn't show off due to lack of power, I turned peoples heads a different way. After a hole burned thru the starboard side piston, I removed that head permanently and continued to use it for commuting.
I will always envy those who have or had a real nice one with a tight crankcase.
I bought my H1 back in the early 80's as a box of bits, which I put back together, plus new crank, oil seals, plus various home made bits etc.
Also needed a new set of pipes, and the forks were actually off a KH250. Mine was the original triple points ignition system, which was fun to set with a DTI.
Anyway, I can just remember what it was like when I first opened it up after running in for as long as I could stand - post rebuild. The experience was simply shattering! I could not believe it! Nothing much happened until approx 6K, then it was like God got hold of you and chucked you down the street. The noise was amazing. Never heard anything quite like the sound of an H1 on the boil.
Unfortunately I sold it many years ago, and often wish I hadn't. What a toy! Had many great times on that bike.
In 1969 I had been looking at and thinking of getting a Kawasaki 350 Avenger or Samurai. I worked at a gas station at a major intersection, and saw a lot of interesting traffic. One day I see a white/blue bike with only 3 mufflers o_O I'm confused because I see KAWASAKI on the tank. It took off from the light like a bat out of hell. It leaves with the front wheel in the air leaving a trail of blue smoke. I was at the Kawi shop the next day. I saw the bikes, told a friend and he ran down and bought one, and I put a deposit down on mine. One month later I had my brand new 1969 H1 Kawasaki... :) I have many unbelievable stories I could tell, but I'm new here and I'll hold off (yell ah I mean spare ya). I had the H1 for 3 years and put 42,000 miles on her. Then I got the H2, that's a whole different story, buahahahaha.
I bought a 1970 (red/white stripes) in Tokyo. Rode it up the gangway of a Navy ship and brought it back to California. I out ran everything in San Diego. Almost crashed in a corner several times from the shakes. But, in a straight line it would fly with the front wheel in the air. At a light I would sit on the front of the tank, rev it up and dump the clutch. One day I didn't give it enough RPM, and the rear wheel bit in and the bike jumped about 2 feet into the air, and came down and stalled. As I was almost sitting on the handle bars when I came down, I walked and talked funny for a week. That was a wild time in my life.
This reviewer has absolutely nailed it. I bought the first H1 in my city up here in Canada back in 1969, just as described. Reading the writer's description of the sound, power and awe of what it was capable of doing when I was 18 and life was all about tempting fate, only scares me now.
Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane.
An interesting article.
I have owned 5 Kawasaki triples, 2 brand new bikes, an H1E, a 350 S2 and 2 KH500s. My recent bike is a blue H1A 1971 model. Overall I have found these bikes reasonably reliable; occasionally they will oil the spark plugs up, but they are quite simple to maintain, unlike today's plastic bullets that are computer controlled, and nearly impossible to maintain. If problems do occur, it means a trip to your local, friendly, very dear dealer.
Generally speaking I find the old bikes more fun to ride and maintain, although they are not as fast and don't handle as well. Give me my old Triple every time.
I bought Sam Arena MC's demonstrator, S/N 495 in late '69. They referenced it as being set-up by a local (San Jose, CA) backyard tuner named Erv Kanemoto. Erv became Kawasaki's head road race mechanic the following season where they dominated (see AMA Hall of Fame).
I belonged to what we'd call a street racing gang today at the time. Their focus was drag racing stroked HDs, so it came to pass the head of the club suggested dumping the clutch at six grand and nailing it was the only way to get H1 out of the hole. It worked and I eventually clocked a 10.25s 125 mph quarter at Lyon's Drag Strip in LA. Her speed rival in the club was a high compression stroked 65 CUI Sportster they built, but they were always short lived, usually breaking a rod in 4-6 weeks.
I owned s/n 495 for 9 years and only suffered a partial seize on the center cylinder once. By then I discovered a Sunnyvale based racing team running H1s at Laguna Seca, and they did all her maintenance for free just for the test ride. In '71 or '72 I acquired the forks off a wrecked new model H1 and went with dual disc. Having brakes that didn't fade to zero when racing in the SF Bay area foothills was a great plus, although she did do a headstand on me one day in traffic and that was pretty unnerving. Throttle only fifth gear wheel stands at 105 were just routine.