2012-08-16 15:20:38+0000
  • Make:
  • Kawasaki
  • Model:
  • H1 Mach III
  • Year:
  • 1969

A Japanese made high performance road bike, the Kawasaki H1 Mach III was in production from 1969 to 1975. It has an air cooled, 2 stroke 3 cylinder 499cc engine and a top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h).

During the mid 1960s, USA had become the largest motorcycle market and American riders were demanding bikes with more horsepower and higher maximum speeds. Kawasaki already had the first 650cc (Kawasaki W series) but it did not fit the niche that Kawasaki was aiming for.

With Honda introducing its Honda CB450 and the Suzuki introducing T500 1 Cobra, Kawasaki began work on the top secret ‟N100 Plan” in 1967. The goal was to produce a motorcycle with 500cc displacement that was able to develop 60hp and lay down 13-second quarter-mile times (back then it was considered over the achievable limit for a road bike). The Mach III came to the U.S. in 1969 with a white sculpted fuel tank and blue racing stripes along the lower part of the tank, Dunlop K77 tires, and a retail price of $999.

The Mach III was an extremely successful motorcycle in its time and its speed attracted many owners. It had a standing 1/4 mile (400m) run under 13 seconds and a top speed of 115+ mph. Its power-to-weight ratio was 1:6 which translates to 2.72 kg (6.0 lb) to every 1 horsepower, so good in fact that in May 1969, editors of Motorcyclist Magazine called the Mach III's power-to- weight ratio the best "ever produced in a motorcycle meant to sell to anyone who has the money to purchase it." Kawasaki Mach III racer Ginger Molloy aboard his "Green Meanie" finished 2nd just behind Giacomo Agostini's MV Agusta in the 1970 500cc World Championship.

Despite the great engine the handling characteristics were not favorable according to many riders. The Kawasaki H1Mach III's gearbox was odd, with neutral below first gear, the brakes were very questionable and the handling was marginal in every situation. The engine was just too quick for handling. Sports riders back then were possibly more forgiving, or maybe its spectacular performance simply ceded any criticisms that should have been directed at it.

Whatever riders may have thought, the majority would usually smile. A motorcycle survey recorded some unusual nicknames for the Mach III such as the "Flexible Flyer", "Widow Maker", "Kamikaze 500", "Triple with a Ripple" and "Grenade Launcher." It had outstanding performance, and it was the best ride at the time. For riders that liked to go fast, especially on a 500cc motor this Mach III was the one to buy.

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