Steve “Brewdude” Garn builds a 500cc two-stroke triple landspeed bike!
In 1968, Kawasaki unleashed the H1 Mach III, a 500cc two-stroke triple that would quickly earn a reputation as “The Widowmaker.” The 415-pound, 60-bhp smoker could rip down the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds — fast enough to beat any mass-produced machine on the market. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson perhaps captured the evil allure of the Triple best:
“I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a picture of a Vincent Black Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple…”
Of course, this was an era when chassis, brakes, and tires were often inadequate for a bike’s power output, and the H1 was perhaps the epitome of that — another reason the “Widowmaker” moniker was so apt. Then there was the H1’s weight-bias and price, both of which drew speed-hungry riders like moths to flame:
“As if the slime frame wasn’t thrilling enough the H1 was a rear-heavy motorcycle. The weight distribution was 57% towards the back meaning wheelies were a prerequisite to moving forward. Any stop-light racing, power hungry American could own for only $999.” —Eat, Sleep, Ride
Enter Steve “Brewdude” Garn, one of America’s most interesting, experienced two-wheeled builders. Steve started building engines at the tender age of 12 and went on to race motocross at the national level, ranking 3rd in the NML (National Motorcycle League) 125cc class. In the mid-70s, he also started modifying motorcycle frames/engines and building BMX frames, and in 1983, he opened his workshop, BREW (Blue Ridge Electric & Welding).
By the 1990s, BREW’s frames had become a fixture at the most elite levels of bicycle racing:
“In 1991, 6 out of 10 of the Triathletes on the National team were riding BREW frames. In 1992, Carl Sundquist won the National Championship in track racing and went to Barcelona for the Olympics…. For 2000 and 2001 a racer on a BREW won the National Championship and placed 2nd at World’s.”
But bicycles weren’t Brewdude’s only love. Steve has been a tech writer for many of the most well-known motorcycle magazines, including American Iron and The Horse Backstreet Choppers. He’s placed 2nd at the AMD World Championships and been inducted into the International Master Bike Builders Association (IMBBA). He’s also active in land speed racing.
The land speed racer you see here started life as a ’74 Kawasaki H1 Mach III 500cc triple two-stroke, but every last part of the machine is custom-fabricated or heavily modified. Of course, Brewdude took care of the frame, building it with 4130 Promoly tubing from Charlotte’s Stock Car Steel & Aluminum, and the engine is a 515cc unit with Wiseco pistons, Lectron carbs, and BREW boring, balancing, and portwork. Overall, it weighs 278 pounds.
While Covid postponed racing last year, the “Purple People Eater” will be at Bonneville in 2021, where Steve hopes to top 150 mph in the 500cc naked class. Below, we get all the nitty-gritty details on the build.
Who is BREW?
- Builds sweet road, mountain, singlespeed, track, touring. cx, bmx and other custom bicycle frames.
- Offer bicycle and TIG welding classes.
- Offers bicycle and fork jigs.
- 2008 Easyrider Ol Skool Builder of the Year,
- Offers powder and ceramic coatings.
- Built Pee-wee Herman’s Sturgis bike in 2010
- 5 time #1 AMA National Land Speed record holder.
- 2 FIM World Record in Land Speed Racing.
- IMBBA Hall of Fame
- Builds custom motorcycles.
- Over 200 published tech articles.
Kawasaki H1 Mach III Land Speeder: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Started building engines at 12 and racing motocross, was ranked 3rd in the 125 class. I also started SG Cycleworks as a legit shop in 1974 building motorcycle engines, doing portwork and suspension mods. SG Cycle works was also the start to building bicycle frames, which peaked in the early 2000’s at 250 frames per week (BREW).
Was a tech writer for over 10 years for American Iron and The Horse Backstreet Choppers magazines. I hold five #1 National Land Speed Records in the AMA and two FIM World Land Speed Records.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1974 Kawasaki H1 500cc triple two-stroke.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The design was strictly for land speed racing. I always loved the charm of vintage drag bikes.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
1974 Kawasaki H1 500cc triple 2 stroke
Builder: BREW Bikes
Crankshaft: Rebuilt by TripleCranks H1 with Mac connecting rods with Worldwide Bearings
Cylinder Portwork: BREW Bikes
Cylinder Boring: BREW Bikes
Pistons: Wiseco with anodized coating.
Balancing: BREW Bikes
Heads: Modified H1 by BREW Bikes
Carbs: LECTRON 34mm with Power Jets
Exhaust: Chamber cones by Walmsley, fabrication/welding by BREW Bikes
Exhaust Coating: Thermal heat barrier applied by BREW Bikes
Ignition: HPI electronic
Clutch: BREW modified stock with EBC plates
Frame: BREW Bikes built 4130 Promoly tubing by Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
Overall frame height: 27.3″
Weight: 278 lbs
Front Forks: Heavily modified Yamaha R5
Triple Trees: Heavily Modified Yamaha RD350
• The bike’s known as the “Purple People Eater” — how’d you decide on that nickname?
The Kawasaki two-stroke triples in the 70’s were nicknamed “The Widow Maker.” With that in mind, it reminded me of the song, “Purple People Eater.”
• How fast have you been on this two-stroke monster?
All racing was postponed due to Covid. But this year we’ll race at Bonneville.
• Have you got a target speed, and what class will it be racing in?
Speed, minimum 150mph I am hoping for and after dialing it in, maybe 160? Will be the 500cc naked class.
• Was there anything done during this build that you’re particularly proud of?
I was really happy it came out better than in my thoughts. All my bikes I just build with no drawings or sketches and let them evolve during the build process.
- Spectro Oil
- Wiseco Performance
- Bell Helmet
- Worldwide Bearings
- Lectron Fuel Systems
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