Reader restoration: Kawasaki 750 H2
Dave Thompson is a certifiable Kawasaki nutcase. But this H2 resto had the potential to drive anyone properly insane. Here’s how it played out
One of the more popular resto choices these days – and it’s only too easy to see why these big strokers appeal
BRAND LOYALTY is one thing but the level of devotion shown to all things Kawasaki by Dave Thompson is quite another. Like the metaphorical stick of rock, Dave is indelibly stamped with the mark of the Big K.
Before our eyes even alight on the object of today’s attentions – Dave’s 1972 Usmarket Kawasaki H2 750cc two-stroke triple, the mighty and foreboding Mach IV – we’re distracted by just a few of the other Kwaks in the retired British Steel transport manager’s collection.there’s an S1, an S2 and an H1 in view as well as an S3 currently undergoing restoration.those are just the two-stroke triples representing all the capacity classes Kawasaki offered for its early blue-smoke threes.then there’s a 250 Samurai twostroke twin, a Z1A and a ZRX1200.
“It’s all about the Kawasakis for me,” says Dave, just in case we hadn’t guessed. “It always has been since a lad in the village I grew up in got a 250 Samurai in 1970 when I was 12 years old. It blew me away.”
Five years later and Dave got his first Kawasaki of his own, the first of many. “It was a brand-new S1C bought from the long-gone Kawasakiworld in South Shields. I had it for just five weeks before I wrote it off breaking my ankle and my wrist in the process,” says Dave. Plainly undeterred, now aged 59 and seven years into his retirement, Dave is perfectly placed to grow and enjoy his collection. “I went to British Steel on a three-month contract and stayed for 23 years. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to take early retirement,” he says.when not embarking on European tours on the ZRX, he’s working on restos, the latest to be completed being the H2 we’re here to ride today.
“The barrels were not just seized to the pistons but the crankcases too”
The story starts as so many of today’s restorations do, with digital pics on the internet. “A guy in Nottingham had it up for sale. It had been painted in gold but I knew I was going to refinish it in blue which is the other colour for 1972,” says Dave. “I paid £6400 for it which was a good price even then back in 2012.”
A picture might paint a thousand words but doesn’t always tell the whole story. “The seller wasn’t hiding anything,” says Dave. “But the one thing neither he nor I could tell were that the barrels were seized on; not just to the pistons but to the crankcases themselves. I’ve dealt with seized up triple engines before but nothing like this one.”
Dave tried all the usual tricks involving heat and every penetrant known to man. “I cooked them, I soaked them then when all failed I sent them to Pitstop Motorcycles in Warrington.they said they wouldn’t have touched them if they’d known how much aggravation it was going to be.the barrels are held down by captive bolts and every single one had to be drilled out,” says Dave.with everything apart it became apparent that there were cracks in the casings so these required remedial work too in the form of ally welding.
While all that was going on the crank went off to SEP for a rebuild. Inspection of the barrels revealed that these would require a rebore and they had to be taken to the maximum oversize of 3mm over so there will be no more rebores for this H2, at least on these liners.
There were still a couple more tricky little issues to sort out.the slides in the Mikuni VM30SC carbs had seized to the bodies although eventually these did relinquish their grip but not before one of the slides became irretrievably damaged. Kawasaki triples guru Rick Brett loaned Dave a boxful of slides to pick out a suitable match. Some consternation followed when a suitable duplicate could not be found among this selection. Rick then figured out that the carbs on Dave’s bike had somehow escaped a manufacturer’s recall to have the slides changed, making them some very rare items indeed. However Rick was able to find one in his cache of spares which he generously donated to Dave. On Rick’s recommendation, Dave fitted H2B pilot jets to the carbs to mitigate hunting issues at low engine speeds. Z Power supplied the carb rubbers, as well as various other bits and pieces. With the petrol tap ultrasonically cleaned and its host of pipes attached like so many octopus’s legs, everything was all set to go in the fuel supply chain.
The final issue in the engine department came from the generator casting that carries the ignition plate.the stud bosses were missing on the one that came with the bike and a spare that Dave had simply
would not offer the correct range of mounting adjustment to give correct timing. That meant ally welding and shaping the original to refit it to the bike.again Pitstop stepped in to sort the job out.
At least all was well as far as the gearbox cogs went so all that was deemed necessary was a fresh set of bearings.
Original pipes were present but a long way off correct. Heavily dented and pitted, seizedin baffles were the final stumbling block that ruled out their refurbishment. Instead Dave opted for the spannies that have rightly become the default choice of Kawasaki triples fans – a set of Higgspeeds.
The frame was powdercoated by Romax UK in Stockton while Quality Chrome in Hull took care of the bright stuff. Dave was particularly impressed with Quality Chrome’s work on the gear linkage with its myriad small parts as well as the job they did stripping the chrome from the front mudguard so it could be painted as is correct for the year.the reference books will tell you that the US models should have a plastic rear guard and the Euro ones stainless, but this one is stainless and we’ve seen pics of American market bikes with either type.the previous owner had taken care of the wheels, right down to fitting the oversized tyres Dave has left on the bike for now. He had also recovered the seat using the original and unrestored base but without the trim strips.
That left the main cosmetic issue that Dave had known he wanted to deal with before he even got the bike – the switch from gold to blue paintwork. Dream Machine undertook the job but when the now externally pristine tank was refitted, Dave discovered a problem. “There were a couple of little pinholes in the base where the tank had rusted through from the inside,” he says. I had no idea they were there until fuel started to leak through, lifting the paint in a couple of small areas. I could have kicked myself. Having restored one of every other Kawasaki two-stroke triple of the era, I was really confident that I knew what I was doing.”
To Dave’s irritation the tank issue was compounded slightly when he repaired it using POR15 and spilled a couple of drips of the resin onto the tank paint.
“It’s always the little things, isn’t it?” says Dave. “I still need all the parts to complete the friction damper but I can’t really say I miss it when I’m riding it. I haven’t fitted a hydraulic damper either.the shocks are aftermarket.things like the horn and indicators aren’t originals but they’re good enough in the way they look.” Equally importantly, they work so the H2 was deemed finished and ready for the MOT ministrations of Damien Hornby at Geoff Towers Motorcycles in Guisborough.
All of which means that we can take Dave’s H2 for a ride, an opportunity any serious motorcycle connoisseur would be crazy to pass up, even if the triple’s fearsome reputation instead suggests you’d be crazy to take it up.whatever.we’re here now.
Dave was extremely patient with Alan
Dave impresses Alan with his speed on the draw
Blue wins over gold every time. Good choice