Up this month, Art’s 1974 Kawasaki H1
The Kawasaki H1 was made in Japan between 1969 and 1975 and then in 1976 as the KH500. It is a 498cc two stroke, having a three cylinder, air cooled, triple carbureted engine with 12 volt electrics and a five speed gearbox. The engine was rated at 60hp in early models – it was de-tuned to 52 hp in 1976. As with other large displacement two stroke bikes, it was phased out due to environmental regulations in the USA.
Q: Perhaps a bit of background to begin with?
A: I bought the bike from an owner in Ontario. It was originally the red/brown colour, and was advertised as a 1974 Kawasaki H1E. The photo’s looked great and he said he just put in new pistons and did the top end (sandblasting etc.).
When the bike arrived I realized the pictures were only taken on the “good side”. There was extensive pitting on the chrome, exposed metal and rust on the body work, and it only ran on 2 cylinders and very poorly at that. I consider this one of my worst “internet purchases” to date.
Q: Why this bike?
A: I got bit with the ‘two stroke’ bug by other RMS members. I remember riding the 500 as a teenager in 1974 and getting scared out of my wits. This was my chance for a ‘do over’.
Q: What’s the bike’s history?
A: The bike came from Ontario. It became clear to me after removing the tank and other body parts that this bike had been outside for a long time before the previous owner got it.
Q: What have you done so far?
A: Well it’s finished and on the road now.
When I received the bike I was disappointed. I took it to Universal Cycle and Donnie got all three cylinders working in unison. At that point I decided to clean it up properly. Removed 11 pieces for re-chroming (Alberta Plating). Removed body parts for painting (PowerChief Autobody). Disassembled down to frame and made a list for parts to replace: gas cap, numerous rubber parts, chain, sprockets, fork seals, signals, hand controls, serviced cables, wheel bearings, shocks. Lots of cleaning and rust removal. I had the kick stand and centre stand powder coated. New rubbers for the kick starter and gear changer, new “500” emblems for the side covers. The rear wheel was in bad shape so I got a new rim, spokes and had the hub blasted and polished by Reproduction Decals. New tires and tubes.
Q: What about parts availability for old Kawasaki’s?
A: I eventually found most of what I needed on EBay and CyclePartsNation (USA). Be careful ordering from the USA as freight can be expensive.
On the advice of Ian Sandy I set up an account with At the Border Storage.These guys function as a local post office at the US/Canada border here in Alberta. Ship your US orders to them for low cost and then drive down to Sweetgrass, Montana to bring them across the border yourself. This can be less costly than shipping FedEx or UPS to your house.
Q: Paint and bodywork?
A: I used a new guy Dion at “PowerChief Autobody” in the NE of Calgary (403)-277-3838. The decals and pin stripping were challenging but he got it done. Really nice guys over there.
Some Links Art Found Useful:
http://triplescanada.proboards.com – a good forum for Kawasaki triples.
http://www.cyclepartsnation.com – one of several places in the US for old Japanese parts.
http://www.reproductiondecals.com – good place for hard to find parts and decals.