Kawasaki H1 Mach III 500

Kawasaki H1 Mach III 500
I dropped into my local garage the other day to find a stunning Kawasaki H1 being serviced. The machine was wheeled outside and fired up, splitting the air with the most insane bark I’ve ever heard from a motorcycle. The 500 cc motor of the H1 is a two-stroke triple, pumping out a remarkable 60 bhp: in 1969, it gave the Kawasaki one of the best power-to-weight ratios money could buy, enabling it to run rings around Honda’s CB750. Unfortunately, the handling didn’t live up to the standard of the engine. But the overall package was good enough to ensure a place for the H1 in motorcycling’s hall of fame. [Image by Flickr member Optikal.]

  • Ian K Howell

    Can you get the sound of the Hi/KH for your phone like the Honda?

  • Mike Baltusis

    The memories of country highway flights I can still hear the sound of what I describe as an airplane engine between my feet. My triple that I restored in 1976 was a lime green 1972 h1. The styling was balanced and oh how I took slack from those who were into modification. For me stock was the whole reason to restore. Polish that chrome and a hand lettered tank right from the factory was remarkable. And why modify when you can wake the beast and toy with any bike at that time. Your article had me digging thru the collection of my restoration pictures reliving the days of dumping unburned fuel right out the back with out a care and a power band that has not been seen since those days.

  • Garry Davidson

    Ah, the old Kaw triples! I had a 500 back in 1972 that was ungodly quick, supposedly designed and rushed into production in order try and steal the “fastest production motorcycle” away from what I believe was the Royal Enfield Interceptor at the time, which it did. It had a fatal flaw, however. While it was truly a stoplight rocket, handling was suspect, in that when it was taken into a high-speed sweeper at about eighty, it felt like the rear end was about to step out on you, even to the point of squealing the rubber.

    Since the speed was so addictive, I knew that eventually it would probably kill me because I couldn’t keep my hands off of the throttle. I traded it for a GMC Handi-van and moved to Colorado. Later I heard that in order to handle the vicious torque from the fast-revving two stroke triple, Kawasaki had actually offset the rear wheel and sprockets about a half inch to keep it tracking straight. Worked for the problem, but as indicated made it very squirrely in the curves.

    Kawasaki actually made several versions of the triple in 350 and 400cc sizes (H3 & H4), and I walked by a sweet used 350 setting in a motorcycle shop window for weeks before I had to go in and try it one more time. It was set up as a beautiful cafe racer with a full faring swooping down from a bullet nose down over the engine and done up in bright red. It had low bars kind of like clip-ons, and with that ever practical seat tailpiece (you could keep tools and a can of soda in it!) it truly looked like a racer. Expecting the worst I took it out on the back roads and wrung it out on the turns, looking for the flaw but could not find it, They had fixed the offset issue, and the little 350 was every bit as quick as the old 500 was, up until about 90 or so.

    Needless to say I bought it. I put on a set of Denco pipes and it did sound like three chainsaws in a mating ritual when I racked it up. My biggest surprise was when I hauled it back to Indiana from Colorado in the van. Being used to riding at 6-to-8000 ft above sea level, it about came over backwards on me when I fired it up in South Bend, about 800 ft asl. It was so quick I could hardly grab gears fast enough, and I immediately went out hunting for Harleys. Took them well until about eighty or so, and then of course they rolled on by me, but what fun. Later in Houston it was a daily runner as well. Thanks for the old memories.

  • Ken

    Why post this, the Bike in your photo is in ” Barber” Mus. Not your Bike.

  • Noel Woodroffe

    There was also a 250 available too (in the UK at any rate)……….a friend let me try his. Bit like the Bismark…….Make smoke number one. You could hide anywhere in that white mist.

  • Spoke

    I purchased my H1 lime green(Kaw Green) bought when i came back when i came home from Vietnam in 72 had the HD superglide night train also boy was it a slug 1200cc against a 500 cc what a difference, but the little H1 stood it’s ground, those were the days.
    American Motorcycles of Chattanooga

  • Spoke

    And then there was the H2 Kaw 750 cctriple what a beast, the Triumph 3 500 cc was no competition back then.Purchasing this mate for my H1 was great, i had a pr of thunderbolts that were straining to be free the massive 750 had a blast wot that was unbelievable the rpm tightened it sounded like large chain saws on steroids boy would she run, seemed she knew when to release her power, nice
    Keep the rubber side down

  • Steven keffer

    My first bike was a red 1970 500 Mach III that had been ported and bored out twice because of seized pistons. When I finally got everthing working right on the oil system and using Klotz oil in the injectors to cut down on the smokeit was a wild ride. At 6,000 it felt like you had a second engine and wanted to pull your arms out of socket. I out ran so many 750 4 strokes that i thought they were a joke. When a local bought a 750 H2 that was supposedly built to Denco specs and a 13 tooth front cog. That is when I realized how special my 500 was. I had 11.70 quarter mile to his 11:30 but his top end was 110. my bike would hit 110 in 3rd gear and 128 in the quarter mile. Hole shots were a juggling act between lighting the tire up and standing the bike up. The perfect hole shot would spin the rear tire while carrying the front wheel 6-8″ off the ground through ist and 2nd gear.

  • Fred Aleguas

    Actually, the 250 was the S1, the 350 was the S2, and the 400 successor was the S3. I had a beautiful ’74 S3, bought new, my first bike.Kawasaki had cured the evil handling and this was arguably the best handling triple they made. Succeeded by the KH series, they were awesome. I did everything with mine, starting off with a sissy bar and the standard bars, then the cafe route with low-rise bars and rearsets, to production road-racing with clubmans. Pretty good competition with the RD’s at the time, hampered by the pipes and ground clearance. Could be cured by hangin’ off, and a great bike. I vintage race a RD-400 now, and wish I could find my old S3! Oh, the memories!

  • pingping

    stop guys memorys flooding back making my mouth water.

  • joe momma

    …late 70’s one pal had a 500 kaw and the other had brand new triumph triple……they were dead even match drag racing…..both wheelied and spun…..great fun…..

  • What is Ken stressing about. This Kwak is an awesome bike, who cares who he thinks owns it.