If you were of motorcycle riding age in the early 1970s and had a penchant for speed, you'll be well aware of the H2 750. Whether or not you had the money or cojones to climb aboard is another matter entirely. The iconic bike possessed personality that is rarely seen in some of the modern bikes of today. A personality with attitude, and an uncompromising one.
It was a different scene back then, and one the younger riders of today might find difficult to comprehend. The motorcycle world was frequently breaking new ground with engineering feats that would leave you in a quivering heap of unfinished sentences. These days the focus is on safety, comfort, handling (would you believe!) and the all-important carbon footprint. Back then life was simpler. The only thing that mattered was speed. And that’s what the 'Mach IV' H2 750 was all about.
Back in the 1960s, the big 4 Japanese motorcycle manufacturers had different profiles. Honda was by far the biggest producer. At the other end of the scale was Kawasaki, noted for its aircraft and shipbuilding activities, but it had aspirations to be a major player in the motorcycle market.
Last to the market perhaps, but by 1966, work was underway on a radical performance machine designed to blow the opposition out of the water. This was the H1. A 500cc 2 stroke 3-cylinder bike, capable of close to 120 mph in standard form. Launched at the end of 1968, it could outperform virtually anything else on the road. It's frame, suspension & brakes, however, were not capable of coping with the power on tap. Kawasaki weren’t resting on their laurels; they were already developing a 750cc 2 stroke 3-cylinder machine which they called the H2. This debuted in 1971 and was a sensation from the word go. The American market was what Kawasaki were aiming at, and the H2 was an immediate success. Stories of H2s being taken out of their crates and being taken straight to the drag strip abounded. This was a serious straight line performance machine, hitting the quarter mile mark on the strip in under 12 seconds. In addition, the overall handling and braking were a big improvement over the H1.
With an engine like this, you were unlikely to save any money on fuel consumption, but you weren’t likely to have to change the front tyre very often given how frequently it left the road in 1st and 2nd gear. Some said it would do it in 3rd too, but they were probably 19-year-olds built like Jockey’s.
This level of performance in a road machine was unheard of, and the bike quickly became notorious. Word spread almost as fast as the bike itself, and in the UK, Insurance companies refused to quote for them, further fuelling bikers’ interest.
Over the next 5 years, Kawasaki produced three further versions of the H2 named H2A, H2B & H2C; but the world was moving on. New emission restrictions in California were killing sales of 2 stroke machines with their heavy smoke emissions; Kawasaki tried to rectify this by detuning the subsequent H2s but by 1975 production had ceased and the H2 had been consigned to history.
The H2 was the first, and it quickly developed a cult following, which still remains today.
Kawasaki didn’t have an official presence in the UK back in 1972. However, 112 machines did make it onto the market through independent sales channels. By 1974 there were still only 400 or so. There was also a gold paint scheme but they didn’t make it to the UK that first year. Most made their way to the US (where straight-line performance is everything), and that’s where this one is from. Imported 3 years ago it has been restored to as close to the original as can be, making this a great investment opportunity.
Unlike the Suzuki’s and Yamaha’s of the day, the chassis numbers and engine numbers rarely matched. Rick Brett, Kawasaki Triple Guru, reckoned only 5 in a 1000 of them ever did. Given the rise in value of these triples, many have fallen into the trap of buying two different bikes in one, but these numbers (H2F 22122 and H2E 22318) indicate these parts were the original bike. If they’re not, it can reduce the value significantly.
The engine and gearbox have been completely rebuilt, and the engine tuned by 2-stroke development specialists Chapman Tyrrell Racing of Evesham. The Crankshaft was rebuilt by Gary Clark, Kawasaki triple specialist and Rick Brett decals were used on the paintwork, which was colour matched from one of the original panels. Original Takasago rims and stainless spokes were fitted for ease of cleaning/maintenance and the battery is sealed to protect the chrome on the exhaust pipes.
The mileage reads 16,057 but can’t be verified as there’s no history of its life in the US. Since rebuild it’s done 320 miles so is technically still being run-in. This will climb slightly as the bike is still in use.
Being a US import there are a handful of minor differences to those few that were for made for the UK market. The US model didn’t have the rear chrome mudguard, no seat strap and circular side reflectors.
The seller is currently hoping to start work on a new restoration project and as such, this one needs to go to make room in the garage.
Includes V5 certificate and an array of paperwork detailing the work carried out as part of the restoration. Many of the parts have been sourced from Z1 Parts in America including exhaust, seat, engine cover. All receipts from Chapman Tyrrell Racing of Evesham have are also here. The bike is MOT and VED exempt.
‘Original’ is an overused word for something that all-too-often really needs serious restoration. ‘Fully restored’ doesn’t necessarily mean correctly. The restorer of this H2 wanted it ‘correct’ as correct could be, and as you can see, it’s hard to argue. A three-year restoration project has even allowed the right Kawasaki numbered bolts to be sourced to give this example the edge, bringing it as close as possible to how it looked when it left the factory.
Nearly fifty years on, its simply not possible to get many of the original parts from Kawasaki, they typically stopped making them a few years after the bike was discontinued. However, if they could be sourced, they were. This bike has been stripped down to the bare frame, the last nut and bolt taken off and reassembled by experts in their field. Everything has been either renewed, re-zinced, re-chromed and put back together again.
Once kicked into life, the reassuring and characteristic rattle and burble melody, synonymous with multi-cylinder air cooled two-strokes, escapes from the triple exhausts. Unlike Yamaha who fitted rubber dampers to the head and barrel fins on their air-cooled two-strokes to reduce ringing, Kawasaki only put dampers between the fins on the cylinder head, which meant any engine noise leaving the barrel fins was significantly amplified. Its raw power beautifully audible.
The first H2’s are the most sought after and command a premium with collectors. It’s not so much the joy and exhilaration that comes with the bike that is the appeal here. Approaching its 50-year anniversary, this bike is a symbol of something truly special. One of speed, freedom, power, made at a time when sensible considerations simply didn’t have to be….well, considered.
Two-strokes differ from four strokes in the way the power is delivered and now you can have one of the bikes that made the 70s such an exciting time for motorcycling development where anything went. Whether you stick in your home office and stare at it all day or take it out to get the adrenaline flowing, this is a significant slice of history right here, and it has been restored with painstaking love and attention to detail.
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