Street Dragster: Modernized tribute to the mythic Denco CR90…
The Kawasaki H2 remains one of the most notorious motorcycles in history, a 750cc two-stroke triple that became known as the “Widowmaker” — a moniker that survives to this day. One of the men who helped develop the original 500cc H1 was Tony Nicosia, a famed drag racer destined to become the face of Kawasaki’s ad campaign for their new triple-cylinder machines. In fact, Tony was the man they enlisted to silence the skeptics of the new machine, which was being touted as the quickest production motorcycle ever.
Kawasaki shipped one of the first production H1’s, still in the crate, to Lyon’s Drag Strip in California. There, in front of a crowd of journalists and local racers, Tony ran the industry’s first-ever sub-13 quarter mile on a production bike: 12.96 seconds at 100.7 mph:
“The critics were not silenced but instead converted to believers who pinned Kawasaki’s success in every motorcycle magazine in the world. Over the next several years Tony would amass world and national records all across the country on the H1.” —Drag Bike
In 1972, Kawasaki introduced the 750cc H2 with an ad announcing that Tony had now broken the 11-second barrier on the new 750cc machine:
“For all of Tony’s hard work and dedication to the triple program, Kawasaki gave Tony H2 Serial #00012 after setting the new record of 11.95 at the AHRA Spring Nationals.”
Soon thereafter, Tony left Kawasaki to open Hot Bike Engineering and later Denco with Dennis Dean — shops that offered porting services, chambers, and other go-fast goodies for the Kawasaki triples. In 1975, Tony worked to develop the Denco CR90 kit for Kawasaki, a 90-hp package that included Denco Cobra heads, chrome street chambers, 34mm carbs, exclusive K&N filters, racing clutch, and more — a homologation special intended to qualify for AMA drag racing:
“Price was $2500 in 1975 for a 90-hp bike that could do the 1/4 mile in 11.48 seconds and top 141 MPH. Only 200 were made for racing homologation rules.” —Drivetribe
Reportedly, only five of the CR90 machines were built. Ralf Kraemer, the founder of Triples Klinik GL and owner/builder of the CR90-inspired machine you see here, got in touch with Tony a few years ago to hear the full story:
“There were only 5 made. We had 195 more kits if Kawasaki needed them, if the American Motorcyclist Association asked them to show the rest. Kawasaki needed 200 of them in order to race them in the AMA. Kawasaki had 3 and we had 2. I do not know what happened.” –Tony Nicosia
That leaves the Denco CR90 one of the most mythic specimens of the infamous H2, a factory-backed homologation special built by one of the most famous names in Kawasaki two-stroke lore. Our friend Ralf Kraemer, one of the world’s most avid Kawasaki Triple enthusiasts, decided to build a modernized tribute to this fabled drag-strip monster:
“I was always a great fan of the Kawasaki Denco CR90. So I thought about how a Denco from 2010 would look. With the latest improvements, of course.”
This Denco CR90-inspired restomod boasts ZXR400 forks and wheels, a Suzuki GSX-R swingarm, an original Denco exhaust, 34mm Mikuni carbs, and cylinders and heads from the Swedish triple tuning company Ebos High Performance. Says Ralf of the riding experience:
“Due to the long wheelbase, it has very good straight-line stability. With over 100 hp, it sprints like a rocket. But you can still get around the corners quite easily.”
Below, we get the full story on this modernized tribute to a mythic H2.
Denco CR90 Restomod: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Frame, tank, rear tail, and seat from a Kawasaki H2B, 1974.
• Why was this bike built?
I was a great fan of the Kawasaki Denco CR90. So I thought about how a Denco from 2010 would look. With the latest improvements, of course.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The paint and the design should be exactly like the Kawasaki Denco CR90.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
She got the fork and wheels from the ZXR400. The swingarm is from a Suzuki GSXR. I wanted it to look like a dragster. To ensure the chain alignment, an off-set sprocket was installed.
The exhaust system is original Denco. The carburetors are 34 Mikuni. The cylinders and cylinder heads are from the Swedish triple tuning company EBOS.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Denco CR90 Restomod.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Due to the long wheelbase, it has very good straight-line stability. With over 100 hp, it sprints like a rocket. But you can still get around the corners quite easily.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The tank cap has been replaced with a modern one. And the ZXR400 speedometer was fitted.