Who doesn’t need a 500cc, two-stroke, triple-cylinder tracker?
The Kawasaki H1 Mach III — a 500cc, two-stroke, 60-hp wheelie machine that became a legend in its own time. The smoking banshee of a machine did not play well in polite society and was not a favorite of law enforcement. It was also a decidedly impractical bike, with a flexy chassis, poor handling, and weak brakes — but the H1 had one very important strength: it could go like the devil.
For less than $1000, you could buy a machine that would blow the doors off nearly any muscle car you were likely to encounter on the road. Quarter mile times of 12.4 seconds were reported, and the bike quickly earned an outlaw image — a machine that did not play well in polite company. In 1999, the H1 was included in the Guggenheim Museum’s 1999 The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition, where motorcycle historian Clement Salvadori:
“Motorcycle lore has it that very few original owners of the Mach III survived.”
Enter Mark Eddy of Vallantine Motor Works, who graduated top of his class at MMI and spends Seattle’s long rainy months restoring old two-strokes. Back in 1980, when Mark was still riding his BMX bike around his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, his older brother Wayne fell in love with the Kawasaki Triples — a lifelong passion. One of these — the 1970 H1 Mach III you see here — ended up rotting in Mark’s backyard for a few years until the day he tore off the cover and decided revive the once-glorious carcass.
Below, we get the full story of how this Kawasaki Triple street tracker came to its present state, along with some great photos by our friends at Enginenthusiast — some of the very best moto photography in the business. However, Mark is quick to note that he is still at work on the bike:
“It usually takes me a couple variations to get a bike just the way I want it, I think the version I’ll have in a couple months will be it.”
Fortunately for us, Mark has agreed to share the new iteration of the build once he finishes!
Kawasaki H1 Two-Stroke Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Mark Eddy, 46 years old, raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. Always loved motorized vehicles of any kind. Graduated top of my class at MMI, worked for 10 years on Honda’s then 11 years on BMW’s before buying Vallantine Motor Works.
Grew up riding three wheelers, owned too many vehicles to count at this point. Have enjoyed snowmobiling, ice racing, track riding, dirt biking and touring.
Vallantine Motor Works is a small motorcycle repair shop in Seattle that specializes in BMW motorcycle service and repair. In the long rainy months we enjoy restoring old two strokes of our own and whatever else comes along.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Kawasaki H1, 1970
• Why was this bike built?
Personal build, I love bringing classic two strokes back to life. I try to have a project for the slower winter months at the shop, and this thing had been sitting around for decades so I gave it a go.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
At first my main goal was to just get this thing up and running, the condition of the cycle was very poor. As I located bits, and it started coming together I started making little changes and it slowly morphed into a flat tracker replica of sorts.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The original cycle was so damaged from sitting outside for over 30 years that almost nothing was usable. I did source an original 1970 peacock gray tank and the frame and motor were retained but everything has been upgraded. Everything had to be customized right down to the petcock and sidestand. It’s still not done, so the customizing continues i guess.
• How would you classify this bike?
Street tracker would be the closest i suppose.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I had a lot of fun with some of the smaller aspects of the build. The steering stop/steering damper mount and the frame tube tail/stops lights turned out well i think. Overall the H1 platform is so iconic that it’s so satisfying to just own one, it’s a nice cycle just to look at in any trim.
In the Builder’s Words
A 1970 Kawasaki H1 Mach III. Seems like a pretty good project cycle, right? A 500cc, triple cylinder two stroke. It became famous not only for its power, but its poor handling and sub par brakes too! The one I had to start with has an interesting back story, like most of these iconic machines probably do.
Believe it or not, it starts for me back in 1980 in Fairbanks Alaska. At that time I think I was still on BMX bikes but my older brother Wayne had fallen head over heels for the Kawasaki Triples. Wayne started collecting every H1 bit that he came across, no matter the condition. Through the next ten years he amassed quite a pile of bikes and parts. He’s toted these bikes and bits around with him ever since and it just so happens one made it to my back yard for storage. There it sat for several years because it was just too ugly and too far gone to restore…
Well, last year I found myself talking to him about getting his non-running H2 down here from Alaska so I could use it to keep me busy during the slower winter months of motorcycle shop operation. As we pondered the costs of getting the H2 (this is the 750cc version of the H1) here, I started thinking (or my wife reminded me), this could be an expensive carcass that might find itself lying about alongside the other. So I went outside and uncovered the rusty bits of metal that had been propped up against the fence for two (or four…) years. I started with an inventory of usable parts and then an estimate of cost on the missing or just plain un-usable stuff. It turns out the broken-down heap that I rolled my eyes at every time I walked by had quite a lot of usable bits! A quick call to my bother in Alaska and a bunch of the missing parts (including a rare peacock grey fuel tank in surprisingly good condition) were found in his piles there and put in the post — I was off to a good start.
With a glimmer of hope and excitement about the project I began with the motor. There really aren’t too many parts inside a two stroke, and between the two motors I found I had enough usable parts for one to start with. While the engine parts soaked in penetrating oil and degreaser I went through the Washington state lost/missing title process. With any project missing a current registration, it seems like a good idea to make sure one is able to lay claim to the finished project. It’s not that hard really, just a little time consuming jumping through the state’s hoops. That taken care of, I turned my attention to the chassis.
When taking on these types of projects there are tons of little details that must be dealt with along the way and kept in mind so that time and money aren’t wasted going in directions that won’t jive with changes that are made out of necessity rather than choice. I had been researching the pros and cons of the cycle and realized I needed to change a lot. I decided to go with 18 inch front and rear wheels instead of the stock 19 front/18 rear combo. I knew I had to toss the entire front and rear ends as they were way too small and wobbly. Remember the famous ill handling? That had to change if this thing was going to be fun, let alone safe.
I ended up using a Hayabusa front end because the top clamp could be modified to fit standard handle bar clamps and it was gold and looked pretty cool. A bit of scrap metal and a welder and I fashioned the steering stop/steering damper mount. All the while I had been searching for rear end options. Here I got pretty lucky I think — I found that an old FZR rear end had everything I was looking for: a metal swing-arm that could have shock mounts welded on, it wasn’t too long and was narrow enough to fit in an old skinny frame. It also has an 18 inch rear wheel, it all worked out great. The front wheel was a little trickier because there aren’t a lot of modern 18 inch wheels but I did find one off a Honda that could be mated with the Suzuki’s calipers.
The cycle’s engine and drivetrain were pretty much done, so that left the tank, seat, fenders and lights. This always seems to be one of the more difficult parts of a project because it’s hard to visualize until done. This is why I am still messing with it even to this day. When I first “finished” I was using the stock seat and chrome fenders. It was ok but didn’t “flow” like I thought it should. The next variant I removed was the chrome fenders and gave it a scrambler type seat, I liked that but… I find myself now with some time on my hands in the slow season once again and am in the motor massaging some kinks I noticed in the transmission. I’ve decided to make it a scrambler H1. It’s not complete in this phase of it’s transformation, so I don’t know if it’ll stay that way- I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.