All Original 1976 Kawasaki JS400 Jet Ski

Summer’s almost here for most of us in the northern climates at the same time when those of you in the southern climates are heading inside for the next six months because it’s too hot outside. And then there’s Adam Clarke who is probably shoveling snow right now in the southern hemisphere. This 1976 Kawasaki JS400 Jet Ski is listed here on eBay in Jasper, Georgia with a buy-it-now price of $2,300 or you can make an offer.

I grew up next to the biggest freshwater lake on the planet (surface area-wise) and I have never owned or ridden/driven a Jet Ski. How is that possible? I guess that’s like saying that you grew up next to an airport and yet have never flown a plane, the two aren’t necessarily related. Still, I bet that a lot of you have owned a Jet Ski. Here’s one buzzing around on a lake here on YouTube. Making neighboring lakefront property owners mad since 1976… The 4:50 point in the video is probably what most lakeshore homeowners dream about. Still, for the rider, it has to be fun.

Kawasaki’s Jet Ski is the Kleenex of personal watercraft, it’s the name that you think of when you think of facial tissue… er.. you know what I mean. Bombardier’s Sea-Doo is another big name in personal watercraft and they were introduced a few years prior to the Jet Ski. We saw an early Sea-Doo a few years ago here on Barn Finds. For stand-up fun, there aren’t many others that offer the same experience as the Jet Ski does. We’ve seen the James Bond version, the Wetbike, and also an Arctic Cat Wetbike, but they aren’t the same as they have seats.

The Jet Ski can actually be tied to the Sea-Doo in that its creator was also the creator of the Sea-Doo. After the licensing agreement with Bombardier ran out, the Jet Ski was introduced in 1972 and they made several models and they still do today, for four times the price as this vintage model.

This engine is Kawasaki’s 400 cc two-cylinder two-stroke and the seller says that it’s in excellent condition. It starts right up, runs perfectly, and has no leaks, cracks, or other issues. It looks like a nice one and having an early Jet Ski would be pretty fun for vintage watercraft shows or just for plain ol’ having fun on the water. Have any of you owned a Jet Ski?


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  1. Howard A Member

    One of them “Polish Jets”,,,get it, Jetski?,,, aw, forget it. Before they were “Personal Water Crafts”, or PWC’s, all these crafts were called “Jet Ski’s” as the author mentions. My old man bought 2 Yamahas of similar vintage. I think they were early sit down types, and for what they were, they were a blast to ride. As an old man, I have this fear of being stranded, and on the water, you can’t walk home. Standing is a PITA, and will get old pretty fast, but sit down PWC’s are a lot of fun, like snowmobiling in the summer. Not many lakes here in Colorado, and the ones here are just big round lakes, but in the north, with a million lakes with islands and rivers to weave around,, they are an absolute blast. These are tippy, easy to swamp, and again, standing is no fun, but like all these “toys”, you had to start somewhere. Cool find.

    Like 10
  2. Jay E.

    Sit down PWC;’s ruined the industry. I was involved with Jet Skis almost from the beginning. I still have my 400 Jet Ski that is identical to this one. They were quiet, relatively slow and did require some skill to ride which somehow kept them in a more considerate limited clientele. Then faster, noisier sit downs came along and any idiot could run tank after tank in front of the same property owner, enraging them, the boaters and just about everyone else. After sit downs became prevalent, the lake I was on for 20 years couldn’t ban them fast enough and that was the end of my business.
    This is a very nice Jet Ski and there aren’t many left like it. They have some issues, and require some mods (like a handlepole pad) and really perk up if a 550 engine is dropped in. I’m 64 and still ride mine with a 550 in it pretty often, it is my time machine. I can still do tricks and submarines form back in my racing days. The price is top of the mark, but for vintage its probably worth it. Great unusual post, keep them coming

    Like 17
    • Dangerous Dave

      Not only did the sit down PWC ruin the industry, they ruined racing. The manufacturers used racing to promote the sale of sit down skis and it soon evolved into a game only the factories could win. It was to the point that factory riders were using carbon fiber hulls who’s bottoms didn’t remotely resemble the stock hull & one off engines with special factory parts. The stand ups had heavily modified engines that anyone could build from aftermarket parts , but the hulls had to be relatively stock. There was a bidding war for the best pro racers & even the privateer pros got a little factory support if they could afford it. All the racing ads worked and they sold a ton of sit downs for the wanna be racers to piss people off on the lake with their loud pipes. There was a flood of laws and ordinances banning skis that lead to a major drop in sales that caused the factories to pull out of racing to clean up their image. It took years for racing to come back.

      Like 7
      • Jay E.

        I would give you multiple thumbs up on this. I loved to race at local, regional and Lake Havasu. The skis were pretty even and rider skill was paramount. The skill level rose dramatically once racing really got going. I aspired to beat the Ripenkrougers and Fishetties, but never did. I did set a world record on a sanctioned race on a Jet Ski, at 55 mph on a stand up. Now any bozo on a sit down will blow right past that, but back in the day that was flying…

        Like 8
    • Howard A Member

      I’m sorry you guys feel that way, seems a tad selfish. Stand-up PWC’s had a limited following, mostly because, you normally got wet riding one. The sit down PWC’s opened up a huge industry in the north, where water( and cool air) temps limit ones want to get wet, but still want the freedom of a PWC. It opened up an industry that families can enjoy, and it brings a slew of tourism money to the north, something, as bigger boats get priced out of a families budget, the folks up north desperately need. PWC’s just make a world of sense today, as mini-boats that you basically stay dry.

      Like 5
      • Jay E.

        Howard, I agree that it opened up a market. There was a rider market and a driver market. Some segment of the sit down market wound up ruining what was a peaceful co-existence with lake and property owners.
        The same is happening right now with side by side UTE’s like the Razor. When an ATV had one rider we never had any property owner pushback from riding on trails. Now properties and roads are being closed to everyone because of the tremendous irresponsibility of some segment of Razor style drivers. The damage that is being caused to roads and adjoining hills and streams is hard to comprehend, it is so extreme. Now the only way to stop it seems to be total exclusion by property owners.

  3. Will Irby

    I’m looking at an August 1968 issue of Popular Mechanics that includes a test of the new Bombardier Sea-Doo; 320cc Rotax 2-stroke, 18.5 hp, 25 mph top speed, $995. I have lately ridden Sea-Doo’s 300 hp GTX; it’s a wee bit quicker! It also costs almost 20 times as much as that first Sea-Doo. Kawasaki was the first manufacturer to use the jet ski moniker when they released the stand-up models like this one; I rode the original red model in ’75, and immediately wanted one, but college funding was more important. I know a couple of people who still race the stand-up models, and I would still like to have one.

    Like 6
  4. Ian C

    My first jetski was a used Kawasaki 440 stand-up. I had never ridden one before. My buddy said to just lay down and drift behind it, and once you are moving pull yourself up. He failed to mention that I should take off easy. Long story short, I nailed the gas, blew my shorts off, and beat my nards to death on what I believe was my ankles. One of the more embarrassing/painful moments of my teen years. Good times. lol (I sold it shortly thereafter and bought a new 750SS sit-down model.)

    Like 13
  5. Mike

    I remember that there was a Seattle radio DJ that did a stand up Jet ski stunt of riding from Alaska to Seattle. Had to be in the 80’s.

    Ok, Googled it. It was Bob Hardwick from KVI-AM. He did a run from Ketchikan to Seattle in 4 days.

    Like 6
  6. John Oliveri

    I owned a 750 two seater sit down ski, about 20 yrs ago, when I was still in my 30s, it was a blast, had it docked at a marina on a floatation device, now I’m pushing 60 and the thought of my backside smashing into that seat, my back hurts thinking about it, getting old sucks

  7. chrlsful

    hate ’em same reason I hate the Wheelers in da woods – bash ya around so U need a kidney belt and all that noise.
    When these 1st came out I remember them stand on the back and that handle bar part came way out horrizontal to the water, guy’n ski verticle in the water. Arms out like the ape hanagrs on achopper street side.The 1st guy here (the vid) seemed to have it, not our camera man…
    Newer ones different (just like sno sleds) quiter motors, more luxo…
    Still – out on the water, sail power, or on ur board, part of the elements’n one of these comes along – rennnnnnn ninnn, ninnn

  8. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: the seller relisted this Jet Ski and it sold for $1,950.

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