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STOP IT! Don't tell anybody how cool the old bikes were! You're just driving the price up.



Seriously cool article, though. I've always wanted a '74 HI since I rode my neighbor's bike when I was a kid, but my RD/RZ/SR obsession hasn't left me time to pursue one.



Keep it up.

 

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As a vintage motocross fanatic(you have to be to race these thangs)Im excited to see you trying to branch out into the vintage scene....keep some more coming please.I can vouch for the fact that restoration is never cheap and the necessity of the internet.I have bought one of my current 4 vintage racers on ebay and many of my parts are bought through internet sitesAs a suggestion for a future article,there are 2 AHRMA Motocross Nationals this fall in CALI....check it out,youll be amazed at some of the machinery....would you believe a Cotton banging bars with a Ducati?!
 

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A good buddy of mine has a modified H2 750 that is an ex drag bike. It has Fast By Gast porting, larger round slide dirt bike carbs, FBG expansion chambers, Ceriani forks, wider Akront spoked wheel in back with screw holes to go into the tire bead(!), etc, etc. It is painted lime green with black striping and it is immaculate.



If Satan rides, he has one of these in his collection. Loud, smoky and the on/off powerband has all the subtlety of a whack to the head with a baseball bat. He geared it up quite a bit to smooth out the transition. It was rather unrideable on the street with the 1/4 mile gearing it came with. Always on the needles and herky jerky whammo power delivery. I would not want to try to corner carve on that thing :)



It is quite fast but really any modern sportbike is faster in a straight line. The sensation of speed is there on the old triple though.



I love that machine...
 

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Vintage or New?

I have a yin/yang thing with vintage. On one hand, modern bikes are just better. Period. Better braking, power, handling, everything.

But, on the other hand, I race an '82 Ascot, and somehow I go faster on the track with it than I do with an SV650! What's up with that?

I think maybe that we shouldn't look at different technologies as being "better" or "worse". Just different. Stone-ground corn tastes good, machine-processed corn is pretty tasty, as well. We just do different things with them.

There's a guy with my race club that goes pretty fast on a Kawi triple, like faster than more than half of the guys on modern 250 two-stroke machines! Horrible frame, bias-ply tires, single-piston brakes!

But one hassle is finding parts. Even Honda is not making some parts for the Ascot (mainshaft third gear, anybody?), and the internet is making some parts-hoarders greedy- one guy wanted $200 for a used XR tranny! And e-bay is ridiculous- I saw a rusty F2 swingarm go for $80!

More satisfiying than having a replica bike from your youth (and that won't happen to me- everything from the 80's is butt-ugly, except maybe the SRX-6) is getting a vintage bike to go fast- and some of these bikes, especially if they are super-light like the Ascot (mine weighs 290 pounds!) can embarrass riders on newer bikes on the race track. And that is fun!

(If you don't believe me, come and do a ZoomZoom Racing trackday August 19 at Thunderhill in California. Vintage bikes get a discount! www.zoomzoomracing.com)
 

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What I loved about the triples (and that included the Suzuki 2 stroke triples as well) was the glorious sound they made. It was like no other kind of bike. Back in those days I wouldn't have minded an H2 but as a poor student I only managed to sample a Suz GT380 and a Kawi SIIA which was the later model 350 just before the 400 was launched. I watched with envy the guys that road raced the H2s - they were the superbikes of their day as far as production racing went in NZ. The Z1 didn't beat them straight after launch except in the endurance races. Even in this small country with no big distances between gas stations, the Kawi triples were a pain in that respect doing about 10 or 15 to the gallon. We thought they were monsters but the H2's 74 horses looks pretty puny these days against the latest GSXR750. Thank goodness the frames and tires have improved too. NZ's claim to fame is that our man Ginger Molloy was second in the world 500cc championship to Agostini campaigning an H1R against Ago's MV. No one else managed that as far as I can remember.



Cheers

Merv.
 

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Re: Vintage or New?

Not -every- bike from the 80's is butt-ugly :)

I have an old RZ350 (yellow/black) that I find pretty nifty compared to most of the 80's drek!

But yes, in large part, the 80's bikes are pretty funky :) To me, a lot of it is the crazy 2.5 x 18 wheels and so on. That just looks odd by today's standards. Put fat, modern wheels + rubber on those bikes and they don't look -too- weird anymore.

E-bay -definitely- gets out of hand. I chalk a lot of that up to the folks stuffed off in some remote part of the country with no other hope of getting parts, or just the pshycho-collectors. It seems every time I'm bid-sniped or just flat out-spent on e-bay, it's either some guy with 1000+ feedbacks (E-bay's super-heros, no doubt), or with zero feedback, the little shades icon, and a user-id like "fred_in_outter_mongolia" :)

-James
 

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Wow, does that article bring back the memories: same year, same color, light switch power hit at 6k, noisy (ringdingding), smokey, smelly, oil leaking, freddy flintstone brakes, frame w the backbone of a wet noodle, no cornering clearance and truly a maintenance nightmare. But gawd, did i luv dat bike.

>>>

Your article hits the target bullseye, but I do take exception to the one sentence 'On the other hand, the triples' legendary poor handling is pretty much exaggerated, I've found, but then I'm not about to push my bike hard into a corner to find out.' If you did push the bike into a corner (I did, once (18 yr old mentality of i'm invincible, no harm can come to me)) you would experience the same eyes wide open, slack jaw, adreline pumping and heart rate racing reaction. Only street bike I ever wadded up. Cornering clearance (lackthereof), flexing frame and tire grip made this thing a death machine in anything other than a straight line or a medium-pace curve.

>>>

I owned and driven many bikes over the years since i was 10 years old, but w/o doubt, this one had the most character. Great read!
 

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I really enjoyed this article. It would be nice if we could see more of this type. Maybe, if people wrote about their favorite vintage bike and submitted it. I had a Honda 1974 CB350G that I loved. But I couldn't write a readable piece about it.



On another subject, El_Flaco, Minime, JB, or anyone else in charge around here, what would the possiblity be of reviewing the Royal Enfield Bullet as made currently in India? I find it to be a really pretty bike at rock bottom prices but can't find a good review written about it.



Take care,

Dave
 

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Very nicely done: both the writing and the restoration. It's amazing how many dollars slide through your fingers when putting one of those old buggers back in running condition. I've found that it is always cheaper to buy the best example you can, even at a primium price, than it is to get an old $400 special and try to resuscitate it. Still, there is something nobel about keeping the old memories (junk?) alive and available. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your next project.



For those of you who are being bitten by the restoration bug for the first time, get a copy of Walneck's Classic Cycle Trader magazine. You'll go nuts. Have your wife (or keeper or what ever) hide your wallet first.
 

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well .... ????

what does it run in the quarter? inquiring minds want to know.

i have early recollections of riding the mach iii (500 cc) triple back in the 70s. i can remember it trying to tear my arms from their sockets, then giving me REAL big eyes when it got to the end of the straight and had to negotiate a turn. the most obscene combo of speed, wobbly steering ever built, IMHO.
 

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I'm in agony here. I love stories like this and I admire vintage bikes, but after two pretty negative experiences buying old Japanese iron on eBay, I'll leave it to those more adventurous or well-heeled. Both bikes were shipped from out of state, and neither one was as advertised. Both ads/owners said the bikes ran well, for example, but one didn't run at all, and the other ran but the compression was shot, making the bike essentially worthless.



I like Jason's approach, though - have a lot of money and pay someone who really knows what they're doing to do the restoration. Someday, maybe....
 

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Boy, does this bring back memories! I bought one of the 1st H1s in 1969 for $995 - Those were the days. The colors described are interesting, but to me, there'll only be one scheme forever, dark blue on white. But then I'm just a purist. I took more chances and had more fun on that bike than should be allowed in 3 lifetimes. I was just back from 'Nam, and a bit fatalistic, I suppose.

Last year, I got back into bikes after a 30 year hiatus since my H1. I now ride a V-Max. I know, It's old hat, but I think a classic is a classic, and, to me, that's more than half the fun of motorcycles.

Not that I'm unpatriotice, but both of these bikes were chosen to be amongst the 100 greatest of all time in the Gugenheim's "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit which has been showing this past year at the Venetian in Vegas. I think it's still there, but it was one of the most interesting shows I've ever seen - Well worth the detour if you're anywhere within 1000 miles of sin city. One of their 12 GREAT posters is an H1, still available at their website - http://www.guggenheim.org/store/.

Guess what colors their H1 sported?
 

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Are you nuts? As one of those guys from the "pre-plastic bike" crowd, I can tell these things had all the quality control of a cheap Chinese friction toy from Hong Kong, circa 1950!

Bad handling exagerated!? The noodle soft frames, over sprung & under damped suspension, combined with on/off horsepower (& plenty of it) always guaranteed an exiting ride!

At Laguna Seca (the pre-modified course) in the early 70's, I had a chance to watch the late Cal Rayborn on his HD vs Yvon DuHamel on one of these beasts. Coming up the back of the hill toward the corkscrew, the Harley was quick & deliberate with very little drama. Cal would brake, then left/right, gone. Then came DuHamel coming up the hill sounding like the banshee from hell- brake, bounce, slither, buck, left (near highside), right (near highside), throttle (banshee scream) wheelie, bounce, buck & gone (and 2 seconds a lap slower the undramatic Harley). What a show! Watching DuHamel was like watching the bronc riding event at a rodeo.

I was riding both Hondas and Yamahas at the time, the quality and engineering of these two makes, was setting new standards (at that time) for motorcyles.
 

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Re: well .... ????

That is what I remember from the two (1969 and 1970) 350s that I owned...instant-on speed and wobbly steering! I wrecked them both, as they had dramatic over-steer and would literally run you off the inside of the fast sweeper if you were not careful. Actually, one wreck was caused by leaving the side kickstand down after a gas stop on my way to Florida (from KY). It simply refused to go around the curve with the stand digging into the pavement, and then slamming us both into a bridge abutement. Those two stands were confusing at times. Dem were da' daze!
 

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I think you can expect to have to go through any bike of this vintage, unless it is being sold as "restored". Low compression doesn't make a bike worthless, it just means that it needs rings and the cylinders honed. Two cycle rings do not last nearly as long as four cycle, but they are so easy to rebuild. In fact, 125 and 250GP racers often rebuild their top ends after each race. Maybe these bikes weren't in as bad of shape as you thought?
 

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whatever blows your skirt up, i say.....personally these two stroke kaws never did a thng for me and a restored one leaves me cold too.....maybe i'm just a 4 stroke kind of guy...last year at the auburn auction i saw a restored honda hawk that looked so perfect it just brought tears to my eyes. that was the first time i seriously considered that old japanese iron might be worth the restoration effort. now if i can just find one of those super sexy early katanas i might be ready to jump in the deep end.
 

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Man, does that bring back memories.



Back in my pre-teen years of the early 70's, buying a magazine with an Kaw triple review in it was like Christmas. Riding my bicycle to the dealer to see one of these beasts in person... well, there was nothing better in life.



Oddly, i don't remember seeing many on the street, except for one time, which remains etched in memory. While riding my bicycle, a guy came around a corner on a blue H2, stood it on the back wheel and rode the wheelie for a city block.



Whoever you are, I want to say thanks. I still remember the rush of that moment 30+ years ago.

 

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This is an excellent article. I admire the time, resources and effort it took to restore the bike. The results are fantastic. Being a younger guy, I had no idea that Kawasaki produced these things. This is a great history lesson to us younger motorcycle aficionados. As a fan of the simplicity and power of two strokes, the article was thoroughly entertaining to me. Thanks!
 
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