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CJMG Profile: 1970 Kawasaki 500 "H1R" Cafe Racer

19 January 2014


 January 19, 2014
Category Bike Profiles, News

“Best in Show” – 2013 Classic Japanese Motorcycle Show

Traditionally, the title of CJMG “Best In Show” has gone to a fully restored classic that is in a (possibly better than) factory-original state. However for 2013, the voting public overwhelmingly chose a beautifully turned out machine that reflects the race heritage of Japanese motorcycles. The above bike provided the owner/creator with two awards – Best Kawasaki and Best In Show.

The inspiration for this machine came from the 1970 World Championship for 500cc machines. This was the year that New Zealand’s own Ginger Molloy rode his H1R to second place in the World Championship behind the MV Augusta-riding Giacomo Agostini. Molloy entered the championship as a privateer but ran a factory purchased Kawasaki H1R. This model was developed for the racetrack after the commercial success of the acclaimed (and much mythologised) 1969 H1. The year 1970 proved to be Molloy’s most successful as he rode his H1R to 2nd place in four Grand Prix races and then overall 2nd place in the 500cc World Championship.

The builder and owner of this show winning bike (Bevan) has a passion for restoring classic Jappas and Kawasakis in particular. He has a long standing love affair with the Triples and owns beautiful examples of the S2, S3 and 1970 H1. This passion led to a desire to do something a bit different with a triple and Bevan’s appreciation of Molloy’s feats on the H1R resulted in the current project. The bike is an amalgamation of two H1As – the frame from one and the motor from a second donor bike. Interestingly, both were bought off TradeMe with the frame coming from someone who subsequently went on to join the CJMG. The powerplant came from a southern machine that was bought with frame, motor and most of the trimmings as well as another parts motor. The owner of the second donor had entrusted his wife to list that bike at a certain (pretty cheap) starting price but she mistakenly listed it as the “Buy Now” price which resulted in quite a coup for our bike builder!

As with any project, sourcing the required bits was more than half the fun. Bevan notes that once he was underway, relevant pieces seemed to pop up on auction sites or he came across them when out doing other tasks. Walking into a bike shop, on an unrelated matter, threw up the chambers for the bike. These needed some panel work plus welding (done by another CJMG member) and then a good coat of heat resistant paint. The motor is pretty much stock with a new set of pistons/rings and the necessary rebore. Bevan added some after-market air filters to help with the chamber’s demands but the rest is pretty much standard early 70’s triple.

Bevan is quite handy with tools and not afraid to adapt and manufacture as necessary. The frame had to be chopped and adjusted to fit the specs for the new machine. He built the linkages/lever for the gearchange which required careful measuring plus a bit of trial and error to obtain the precise fit with the rearsets. This process was described as one of the hardest parts of the whole project. In addition, he handcrafted the sidecovers by beating the steel into shape whilst watching T.V. in the evenings! If you look at the pictures below, I think you will agree these two parts alone show quite a degree of skill and attention to detail. Bevan also had to make the brackets for the seat and tank plus mountings for the rearsets.

One of the “must haves” from the outset was a set of flat sided aluminium rims to capture the period correct look and feel. This was perhaps the most painful part of the project (finance wise) with the specialist rims (Akront Morad) manufactured in Spain but sourced from England. They cost a pretty penny and then some – after the spokes were added and lacing done. It is rumoured that as soon as the box containing these lightweight beauties was deposited on the doorstep by the courier, our intrepid builder whisked them out to the motorcycle shed to be blended anonymously into the general bits and pieces sitting around the shed LOL! To complete the picture for the front end, Bevan wanted a four leading shoe brake set up. After initially looking at Waterbus drums, he settled on a beautiful Grimeca (Italian) piece of kit. This was originally seen on ebay for the princely sum of 800 English Pounds but, as luck would have it, a never-used set appeared on Trademe for half that price. However, they needed a good polish to bring them up to Bevan’s standards and this added another $250 to the ever increasing build cost. He made the brackets, spacers and linkages for this setup by himself. A glance at the front of the bike shows what a lovely outfit this is and it certainly adds an air of serious business to the bike. All this was framed by a front guard that Bevan cut to shape.

To complete the picture and the easily identifiable silhouette of the bike, Bevan sourced a suitable tank, fairing and tailpiece from abroad and within NZ. The beautiful paintwork (obligatory green and white, of course) was done locally by a guy who has painted a number of bikes for CJMG members over the years.

This bike was never intended to be a replica or exact copy of the original H1R. Rather, it is one man’s take on a machine that holds special memories for him and is a nod to his favourite marque of Japanese motorcycle. It encapsulates Bevan’s enjoyment at the accomplishments of a Kiwi battler on the international bike racing scene and is his homage to an awesome sounding, spine tingling yet fickle machine from the early 70’s.

Taking “Best in Show” is no mean feat and if you browse this website, you will see the quality of bikes Bevan’s was up against. He is a bit shy about his achievements but having conceived of the idea, manufactured the necessary pieces, scoured the world for bits and then spent 18 months building the beast, it is clearly a well deserved honour. This may not be his last creative project either. Bevan has quietly indicated that another idea may be slowly taking shape. Without giving much away, he has hinted that it may relate to another 1970’s, successful race bike that is smaller in capacity… but no doubt you can expect it to be a Kawasaki!