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Remember Kawasaki's legendary two-stroke triples? How about a 1000cc two-stroke four!
DON BRISTOL’s love affair with Kawasaki two-stroke triples began a few years ago, when he spied a dinky little three cylinder 250cc standing lost and forlorn at the back of a Durban motorcycle scrapyard. “It had Free State number plates and crashbars with spotlights - I later found out that it had been the Fouriesburg traffic cop’s bike” says the Pinetown swimming-pool company owner. “One cylinder was missing - barrel and head - but I found what I needed at another dealer so I bought the bike and got on with it.” Soon after the 250 was completed Don came across a 1969 H1 500 Mach III triple advertised in Gauteng for R600, so he hopped into his bakkie and set of on the 1200 km round trip to pick it up.
Don does just about all of the work in restoring his bikes himself, and his collection is stunning. It now includes 250, 350 (two of them), 400, 500 and all three variants of the 750cc Kawasaki triples. In addition he has Suzuki 380 and 550cc triples, and two of the three-cylinder water-cooled GT 750s that came out in the early 70’s. Then there’s a Triton, a Suzuki 500 twin, Yamaha TZ 250 and TD1-C racers - the latter an ex-Bossie bike - two Honda NS 400s, a 1950s DKW 175, a 1980’s Suzuki RG 400 square-four two-stroke race replica, a Yamaha RZ 350 and a home-built 1960’s Honda 500 Hailwood GP replica. Work-in-progress includes a 35 year old Yamaha RD 200 (anybody out there got spares?) and a ‘70s 50cc Kreidler Florett that would have been finished six months ago if the spares that were bought and paid for had all been delivered as promised. Are you reading this, Bill Moir?
All of Don’s bikes are very tidy and collectable, but the most unusual is his 1000cc four cylinder two-stroke Kawasaki. The 750cc H2 triple was the biggest two stroke to leave the Japanese factory, but Don read about a British engineer called Allen Millyard who cut and welded Kawasaki triple crankcases together to create four and five cylinder versions of the bikes. “I read about Millyard’s conversions one day and thought about all the Kawasaki bits and pieces I had left over from my restorations, and that night I couldn’t go to sleep before I burrowed into my pile of spares to see if I had enough to work with,” says Don. “At about the same time somebody phoned and offered me a Z750 four-stroke that he had lying around, so with a bit of machining I fitted the front and back ends from that to an H2 frame I already had. It worked out very well because I didn’t have to destroy any good bikes for the project ”
Don couldn’t cut the crankcases between cylinders because that would have meant cutting through the steel inserts that house the main bearings, so he lopped ½ a cylinder’s worth of crankcase off one motor and grafted 1½ cylinders off the other onto the left hand side of the engine. “That was quite a job,” says Don. “You have to work it out very carefully because you don’t get a second chance.” The casings then went to aluminium welding fundi Clive Gee who did a superb job of joining them together. Two and a half plus one and a half equal four, so the 750 triple crankcases suddenly found themselves blessed with space for a fourth pot, giving a capacity of 1000cc. “The gearbox remained unaltered, except that when I re-centred the motor in the frame the front sprocket no longer lined up with the rear, so I had the output shaft extended to fix that.” Building the crankshaft was a major mission, involving 70 separate parts. “I had new crank pins made and assembled the crankshaft in my workshop, centring it by setting it up on V blocks with a dial gauge, then whacking it bloody hard to get everything in line. I had to change the crank throw from 120 degrees to 90 degrees. I also needed to make a cam to drive the points off the end of the crankshaft. I did that by hand with lots of experimentation to get the dwell right.”
Although Don normally does his own respraying, this bike is so special that he farmed the job out to wizard craftsman Fazal Raffie of Custom Kraft in Pinetown. “The top of the tank had been squashed in and it was full of rust, so I cut it open and cured all of that before giving it to Fazal for spraying” says Don.
Don has loads of experience in working on two-strokes - he prepared the motorcycles that took his two sons, Danny and Warren, to two South African and four Natal championships in the eighties. Warren died tragically while racing at East London in 1990, but Danny now works with his father in their swimming pool business, and gets roped in to lend a hand with the bikes now and again.
Don’s run his Kawasaki 1000 in the workshop but says it’s not ready to ride yet - he wants everything to be 100% before he does so. He’s having aluminium bell mouths made up for the carburettors and has ordered a one-off electronic ignition system to replace the points. He’d also like to replace the carburettor needles because the existing ones are not in great nick. Anybody who has any good carbs or spares for a Kawasaki H2 can contact him on 031- 7084540.
ARTICLE BY GAVIN FOSTER PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN BIKE SA - 2005