Kawasaki 500 H1 (Match III) Prototype


Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the parent company of the motorcycle division, is one of the largest industrial companies in the world making the motorcycle part of the business somewhat of a sideline. The company began as a shipyard 1878 founded by Shozo Kawasaki. Prior to World War I it had branched out to produce locomotives, marine transportation, steel, aircraft and engines.

After World War II, all divisions had work except the aircraft plant which still had skilled workers and production equipment.

The plant began to produce motorcycle parts for other makers but in 1958 they decided to produce their own motorcycle. After much initial success in the Japanese motocross racing circuit, Kawasaki reluctantly chose to export as the Japanese market was flooded with lightweight motorcycles. With small displacement engines and nothing to set them apart from their competition resulted in disappointing sales in North America.

Kawasaki knew that speed was important in the North American market but concluded that acceleration was key. In 1967 they released the twin cylinder two stroke 250cc Samurai and later released the larger twin 350cc Avenger. The later could drag down the 1/4 mile in 15 seconds at 100mph from a standing start.

Kawasaki H1 500 MACH III

In 1969, Kawasaki started to develop a name for itself with bikes boasting barely adequate frames and very high performance, the start of which was the H1 model (500cc) also known as the Mach III.

The H1 was excellent for wheelies due to its backward weight bias and powerful but peaky motor. It gulped a lot of fuel and had a hard-core reputation. Two smaller versions were also released, the S1 (250cc) and the S2 (350cc).

In 1972, a bigger version of the original was produced called H2 or Mach IV (748cc).

Production stopped when emissions rules got too strict in the mid 70’s and four-stroke motorcycles such as the Honda CB750Four and Kawasaki’s own legendary Z1/Z900/Z1000 bikes came to be seen as more socially responsible and sophisticated.

The Grean Meanies were no more. Today however, they have a rather large and rabid cult following.

After the relative success of the A-series twins and the W-series 650, Kawasaki were desperate to capture the world market for high performance motorcycles. After a brief flirtation with a 500 twin two stroke in 1967, they decided instead to go with a three cylinder design. The result, the 500 MACH III H1 model.

The introduction of the H1 in September 1968 was to cause quite a storm in the motorcycle world. This fire breathing, screaming two stroke would produce 60 bhp and reach nearly 120 mph. Kawasaki claimed a standing quarter in 12.4 seconds and were quick to sell the H1 on it’s unbelievable performance. Just as well because this bike was more than a handful in anything but a straight line.

The H1 was soon to become known as the ‘triple with the ripple’.

Were you man enough to tame this bucking bronco? Many riders tried and failed!

What a shot! Amazing that you consider the Kawasaki 500 MachIII was considered a brute, but it looks just like a work of industrial art here.

Kawasaki 500 H1 (Match III) Prototype

The original H1 was also known in Japan as the 500SS. It was available in Midnight White or Peacock Grey, The white option being the most popular. Capacitor Discharge Ignition was fitted along with a twin leading front drum brake.

The front and rear fender were polished stainless steel. The five speed gearbox was strange in the respect that the gears were all up with neutral at the bottom. The gear change shaft was double ended to allow the owner to either have a right or left side gear change. This was to appeal to British bike enthusiasts and perhaps convert them to a ‘rice burner’.

An option of high or low handlebars was offered. The fuel tap was an automatic diaphram type, a first for Kawasaki.

The 1970 model had very few changes except for the colour and markings. It was now available in only one colour option, candy red. The gold piping on the seat cover was changed to black and the rear grab rail was slightly modified.

The 1971 H1-A was different in quite a few departments. The colour was now changed to Candy Blue but the fuel tank was now re-shaped to not include the previous cut out knee grips on the side of the tank. The MACH 111 500 badge was dropped in favour of vinyl decals. This design was used on all 1971 Kawasaki models.

The chain guard was now finished in black instead of chrome. Some models, especially the UK model, were now fitted with conventional points and condensers instead of the CDI system because of problems with radio interference.

The 1972 model was offered in Pearl Candy Orange with the now famous stripped pattern. The petrol cap was now a chrome locking type and the seat cover was now ribbed instead of just a plain cover. The front and rear fender was now colour matched to the rest of the paintwork and the tail light lens shape was modified. A single disk brake was fitted at the front and the front forks, clocks, handlebar controls, footrests and indicators were all re-designed.

The rear brake panel was now finished in black and the outer engine cases were now polished instead of being painted silver grey. In an effort to reduce noise, the mufflers, baffles and air cleaner system were also modified. All the control cables were now finished in black instead of grey.

A hydraulic steering damper was now fitted as well as the previous friction unit in an effort to improve the handling.

Kawasaki 500 H1 (Match III) Prototype
Kawasaki 500 H1 (Match III) Prototype
Kawasaki 500 H1 (Match III) Prototype

  • ZRX1100/1200 FAQ in ZRX Technical Q&A Forum
  • 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS Review
  • Kawasaki Versys Motorbikes
  • Kawasaki Versys KLE650
  • Kawasaki adds Ninja 300R and 400R to its US line up for 2013 – Indian Cars Bikes