Culture – Flashback on the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III – Flashback on the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III

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Flashback on the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III

Culture - Flashback on the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III - Flashback on the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III

When it was marketed in 1969, the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III laid the foundation for the fabulous two-stroke three-cylinder epic at Kawasaki. A look back at this legendary model which left its mark on the early 1970s.

Flashback on the Kawasaki 500 H1 Mach III

If Kawasaki evokes sportiness and daring for many bikers, this flattering notoriety is not due only to the qualities of the current models (as a reminder, the Z 750 and the ER-6n largely dominate French sales) and even less with poor sporting results collected by the Greens for several seasons…

Kawasaki built its reputation at the end of the 1960s, when the manufacturer decided to orient the design of its machines towards performance: in September 1966, for example, the Greens proudly announced the launch of the W1 which, strong of its 650 cc, claims the largest displacement of the production of the archipelago.

Followed by the 250 A1 "Samourai" and the 350 A7, this W1 has the heavy task of overshadowing European competition. Above all, this 4-stroke twin cylinder perfectly symbolizes the turning point in motorcycle production: in addition to reliability, bikers – European but especially American – demand power and performance. That is, 44 years later, values ​​in which many of our current readers will surely find themselves. !

The N100 project

In the meantime, things are seriously thinking in the Kawasaki design and research offices! Ambitious, the Japanese manufacturer has little desire to let the Honda CB450 and other Suzuki T500s cannibalize the international scene and the Greens launch in the summer of 1967 a secret project called N100…

The goal is simple: to design a 500 cc engine capable of spitting out 60 hp and bringing down the 400 meters DA in 13 seconds! Working on both a 2-stroke twin and a new 3-legged in-line (2-stroke too), the team in charge of the project finally chooses to retain the three-cylinder architecture..

An atypical motorization whose soundtrack and personality are still religiously described today with tremolos in the voice by our most experienced readers. Without forgetting the inevitable "it was better before", the systematic and symptomatic reflection of a time when performances rhyme with (dirty) character !

Working hard to finalize this project as quickly as possible, the Kawasaki technical staff then draws on the experience of the brand in competition to adapt the CDI ignition system to this engine called H1 (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) of the factory KR-3.

In the same vein, Dunlop is developing a tire very similar to the models used in racing, the K77, in order to be able to withstand the high speeds (over 190 km / h) reached in 1968 by a prototype very close to the final version, the 500SS . For their part, the chassis engineers reinforce the double cradle frame with three intermediate reinforcements and by connecting the steering column to the saddle via two tubes..

Launched in 1969, the first 500 H1 Mach III appears to be technically very modern with its telescopic fork, its dual rear combination adjustable in three positions (in preload) and its limited wheelbase (1,400 mm). However, despite obvious qualities, the H1 will be a little "fair" in terms of part cycle.

On the road to success

Aesthetically, the H1 is distinguished by the "Eguri" style displayed by its fuel tank and especially the asymmetrical arrangement of its three exhaust silencers. And from its commercial launch at the beginning of the "erotic" year, the 500 H1 Mach III receives an enthusiastic welcome which confirms Kawasaki in its technical choices..

The three-cylinder is praised for its power, sound and vigor, while the clean look of the H1 Mach III hits the mark. Admittedly, the chassis and the brakes (a double cam drum at the front and single cam at the rear) sometimes have a hard time curbing the ardor of the 500 cc 2-stroke, but that in no way hinders its commercial success. : nearly 110,000 copies of the various H1 models have left Kawasaki chains !

And above all the 500 H1 Mach III laid the foundations for the fabulous "three-legged 2-stroke" saga of the manufacturer of Akashi, whose reputation reached its peak in 1972, when Kawasaki launched the mythical 750 H2…

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