Photo ou archives : F-M. Dumas
650 W1 - 1968
Japanese giant with an English accent
Up to the 1960s, Japan relied on copying the leading foreign marques. Kawasaki built its first motorcycle in 1951 and, ironically for a marque which became famous for its two-strokes, was the sole Japanese maker with serious four-stroke know-how. It had absorbed Meguro, which had specialized in this field since the 1930s. The first Kawasakis were simply rebadged Meguros with a very British 650 twin.
Japan's Biggest Bike
Meguro's first twin had been the 650 T1 of 1955, a sort of patchwork of various British designs of the period, though its engine dimensions of 72x80mm were less "long-stroke" than was normal in England. It developed 23.5 hp @ 5200 rpm, could reach over 80 mph, weighed 503 lb and was for a long time the biggest Japanese bike along with the Cabton 600 twin and Rikuo 750.
A Dominant Design
In 1960, Meguro launched its 500 Tl, with the same engine dimensions (66x72mm) as the Norton Dominator; it was more potent than the 650, with 33 hp @ 6000 rpm and was good for 90 mph. In 1956 the 650 gained a new engine inspired by the BSA A10. After the 650 appeared for the last time as a Meguro, the Kawasaki W1 launched a new look; it scarcely changed until 1968. It was offered in three versions, including a scrambler with a high-level exhaust. In 1971 these models were fitted with a cross-shaft to move the gear selector to the left and, from 1973, with a disc front brake.
Engine: 624cc (74x72.6mm) air-cooled twin-cylinder four-stroke
Power Rating: 53 hp @ 7000 rpm
Fuel System: two carburetors
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Suspension: telescopic forks (front); swinging fork (rear)
Brakes: two-leading-shoe drum (front); drum (rear)
Wheels: wire; 3.25x19 inch (front); 4.00x18 inch (rear)
Weight: 440 lb
Maximumum Speed: 115 mph
Original Kawasaki W1s are highly sought after; the current vogue for nostalgia has recently persuaded the company to issue a replica!