An 800cc, 120+ hp Triple from Ralf Kraemer…
In the late 1960s, Kawasaki wanted to create a 500cc two-stroke motorcycle that could boast 60 horsepower and a 1/4-mile time below the 13-second mark. The result would be one of the most notorious motorcycles of all time, the Kawasaki H1 triple. It was one of the most uncompromising sporting machines ever devised, disregarding noise, pollution, and handling concerns in favor of blazing down the drag strip in the fastest time possible.
“The fastest and best accelerating road machine ever produced, being capable of 124 mph and 12.4 sec. for the standing start quarter mile.” –Kawasaki factory claim
A mystique would quickly develop around the Kawasaki triple, known as the “Widowmaker” for its flexible chassis, questionable brakes, and eagerness to wheelie — blow on the throttle and the front wheel would lift. By the mid-1970s, however, the oil crisis and new anti-pollution standards — the same forces that sounded the death knell of the American muscle car — were knocking on the Widowmaker’s door. In 1976, the world would get its final H1 triple, renamed the KH500 to conform with the company’s model-naming conventions.
“It was still the same wicked-hearted machine, just with styling changed slightly to reflect Kawasaki’s Z1, a model that was currently the company’s biggest seller.” —Mecum
The bike was actually down on power slightly, making just 52 bhp, but it was still a formidable machine. What’s more, there was no 750cc H2 model that year — only the KH250, KH400, and KH500.
Enter our friend Ralf Kraemer of Triples Klinik GL who had one of these bikes when he was 22. In fact, this is the actual bike that Ralf owned! More than 30 years after he first purchased the bike, Ralf wondered what, in an alternative universe, the 750cc version would have been like:
“If Kawasaki had built a 750 Kawasaki in 1977, what would a KH750 have looked like?”
The bike is now running an 800cc H2 engine with Jim Lomas pipes and 34mm Mikuni carbs that makes a reported 120 horsepower. What’s more, the bike has been lowered four centimeters front and rear, outfitted with modern rubber, and it’s sporting Dunstall rear sets for a more aggressive riding position.
One of the best parts of this 55-year-old Triple is that it’s a sleeper — a vintage machine capable of surprising the latest two-wheeled weaponry. Says Ralf:
“It’s fun to leave some modern bikes at the traffic lights.”
Below, we get the full story on this 800cc Widowmaker!
Kawasaki “KH750” Triple: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
This was my first triple Kawasaki KH500. I was 22 years old. Now 59 years young.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Kawasaki KH500 from 1976.
• Why was this bike built?
If Kawasaki had built a 750 Kawasaki in 1977, what would a KH750 have looked like? There were only the Kawasaki KH250, KH400 and KH500.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
It should look like the Kawasaki KH series in terms of design. Based on a dragster.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The motorcycle is my motorcycle and not for sale. 800cc and more than 120HP. Spacer for the cylinder, special pipes from Jim Lomas. Carbs 34mm from Mikuni. Lowered 40mm at the front and back. RAMAIR airfilter, Dunstall relocated footpegs, 40mm handlebar riser and NGK spark plug connector. Front tyre 100/80-18 and rear 140/70-18 Bridgestone.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Despite the lowering, you can still get around the corners very well. It’s fun to leave some modern bikes at the traffic lights.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
It’s nice that my first motorcycle is back on the road with a lot of power.