The Classic Motorcycle

Kawasaki W1


I must have walked past this motorcycle five times before realising it was a Japanese machine – the engine and general look was so British, I passed it off as a BSA A10. The Kawasaki W1 wasn't the firm’s first motorcycle but it was one of their first ventures in the large capacity twin market. Meguro, another Japanese Marque, had been producing vertical twins based on British designs since the 1950s when it acquired a BSA A7 which became the basis for their K-series 'Stamina' model. The quality of the engineerin­g in the Stamina was highly praised by ace British engine designer Edward Turner, quite something coming from the designer of the Triumph Speed Twin. Due to Meguro's experience in developing these British-based engines, Kawasaki partnered with and absorbed the company in 1964. Whilst the K-series production was continued under the Kawasaki name, the W-series was the first twin produced under this new partnershi­p. On its release in 1966, the W1 was the largest capacity Japanese motorcycle on the market at 650cc. Kawasaki's venture outside of the Japanese trend for smaller capacity and two-stroke machines was made in the hope that they would get noticed in the American market, which had been lapping up British twins since the 1950s. The W1 was only produced for two years before it was superseded by a twin carburetto­r version, the W2, which was available in three configurat­ions, including a scrambler model with high exhaust pipes aimed at the wannabe desert racer in the States. While these higher capacity, four-stroke machines were quite capable with decent top speeds and achieved some recognitio­n from the west, it wasn’t until Kawasaki concentrat­ed on faster, multi cylinder two-strokes that they fully broke into the American market in the 1970s. With more popular successors taking the limelight, the W-series would only see production until 1974.

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