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Whilst England were knocking about a football in the pomp and glory of 1966 sunny afternoon, undoubtedly heralding years of success and many future World Cup trinkets and baubles, the Japanese were setting their sights on conquering US wallets. In the famed ‘N100’ plan, America had a thirst for more power (not much has changed), but this time directed lustfully at anything with two wheels and some serious oooomphh – that’s the scientific name for it, we’ve checked. "<Ed - ermm...like the Spiderman Multiverse?">
With past name profferings of The Plodder and Snail Speed testing popularly with the aging Japanese crowd, something new and enthusiastic was needed to attract the American market. Anything citing mach level speeds on a motorcycle has to be fast, right? That’s what Kawasaki were going for in a little artistic licence in the 1960s when lauding the rather ambitious claim of "the fastest and best accelerating road machine ever produced, being capable of 124 mph and 12.4 sec for the standing start quarter mile" There was a minor issue that no one could actually ratify this, or indeed get it under 13 seconds, but none of that mattered. Never let facts get in the way of a good story!
It wasn’t all sunshine and skittles though. There were oddities. One of which was having neutral at the bottom, with five speeds all up. It also adopted a James Bond esque smokescreen on start-up, smothering you in secrecy and the rarefied eau de parfum of expensive burnt oil <Ed - like a eau de purghhh fumes?>. Look out ladies! No seriously, can’t see a thing. And sure, it rode terribly and frightened the bejaysus out of anyone within biting distance, but that feather-weight look, tapered tank with its sexy blue racing stripe, shining spoke wheels with gleaming drum brakes and gorgeous triple pipes made the H1 an instant hit. Kawasaki sold thousands of these lean air-cooled three-cylinder iron steeds in the US. The competition was rife at the time – Harley Sportsters, BSA Super rocket and Honda’s CB450 were all plying their trade – but the future lay with the two stroke.
Sixty horses may not sound a lot these days, but compared to other peers such as the Ducati 450 Desmo (30HP) and 500c Triumph Tiger (40HP), taking a quick draught of the H1 was like suicide juice. Additionally, the Kawasaki bought something new to the party: reliability. It was almost like those at the motorcycle plant in Kobe, Japan, spent time on build quality – we know, what the hell, ammarite?! If ever there was a bike born into nostalgia, the H1 Mach iii would be it – and since plenty were produced, you don’t have to look tenderly at your organs, trying to weigh up your least favourite kidney, to buy one. There are a few being modified and updated, and the team at Shepsters Towers are definitely fans!
Kawasaki H1 Mach III - Wikipedia
A Classic Motorcycle You Should Know; Kawasaki H1 | Blogpost | EatSleepRIDE
Classic Cars Kawasaki h1 For Sale | Car and Classic
1969-70 Kawasaki Mach III H1 500: Killer Kawasaki (autoweek.com)
Road Test: Kawasaki H1 500 - Road Tests - Classic Bike Hub
When The 1969 Kawasaki H1 500cc Triple Was King | Cycle World