One Owner Widow Maker: 1974 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV

When it comes to performance cars and bikes, anything nicknamed “Widow Maker” should get your attention. Two vehicles that immediately come to mind: the turobocharged Porsche 930, and the Kawasaki H2 750 Mark IV. These bikes were part of an arms race of sorts where power came first and handling capabilities were an afterthought. Many of major bike manufacturers wanted to take the crown as the builder of the baddest, most brutal sport bike available, and Kawasaki delivered with the H2. This one is a claimed original owner example with numbers matching drivetrain and original paint. Find it here on eBay with no reserve and bids to $7,500 at the moment.

Journalists at the time had their pick of 750 superbikes available from the likes of Norton and Ducati, but Kawasaki had yet to enter the ring. The company had set the benchmark earlier with the high-performance H1, but at 500cc, it was becoming old hat in this new era of superbike performance. Once again, Kawasaki stepped up with the introduction of the H2, which featured 74 b.h.p. and weighed around 450 pounds. That power-to-weight ratio resulted in blistering performance, and while it was a monster in the hands of a capable driver, it was a dangerous appliance for less skilled riders – hence the nickname.

This example apparently had an owner that was either a capable operator or simply too scared to ever open it up to its full potential. Nothing wrong with that, especially if the bike proved intimidating once in their garage. The seller highlights the original condition, which is particularly significant in light of how many of these were likely damaged or wrecked when new. The tank is said to be in good shape and has been cleaned out as the bike was sitting prior to the seller acquiring it. The tank does have a small dent which he has confirmed can be removed with paintless dent removal. The seat will also likely need some upholstery work.

 

The seller states that the engine does have compression and turns freely. If I’m reading the description correctly, the seller acquired it as a project that had been sitting, but he has gotten no further than cleaning out the tank and the bike has continued to stay parked. The good news here is you’re starting with a very clean, unmolested baseline and original paint is a rarity on bikes of this age. Throw in the fact that the seller has confirmed just one longtime owner before himself and you likely have a specimen that rarely turns up with that kind of provenance. If you know how to ride, it’s an awesome choice for a vintage bike with the stones to keep up with modern traffic.

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Comments

  1. ACB

    That’s a fair summary. I never rode a H2 but I tried a friend’s H1 which I rode fairly slowly around quiet suburban streets; even at those speeds it was twitchy but the big Kawasaki triples are still among the most charismatic of their era.

    Like 4
    • patrick

      There was a reason when new the H2 came without a master link in the back chain? Once over 3500 on the tach it got warp drive and would lift the front wheel about 6 inches thru the gears. I owned a 1974 H2 with danko chambers on it. I still miss even today.

      Like 8
    • kiteflier

      Only got beat once. Coming back from a party and got stopped at a light at 3am. Sitting there waiting for the light to change and a 65 Nova pulls up next to me with the four headers on the right side thumping the air in my direction. He’s completely illegal, big slicks, straight front axle, must have just finished the build and couldn’t wait til Sunday. Light changes, we both hit it and he was gone. Only time.

      Like 13
    • Dave

      The angriest chainsaw you ever rode!

      Like 11
  2. JWK

    Last of the big 2 stroke bikes

    Like 4
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      These, along with the 750 “Water Buffalo”, were the last of street monsters for their time. One of the HS guys had one of the very first H2’s in the area and that weekend raced against his friends Pro Chevy II.
      6 car lengths ahead of the Chevy when that Mach IV screamed across the 1/4 mile line.
      Amazing to think most of us survived HS…

      Like 18
  3. SirLurxaLot

    I had a ’72, which was the prettiest (IMHO) and the most lethal. Kawasaki lengthened the swingarm for ’73 (and maybe again in ’74) in an effort to keep the bike from wheelie-ing so easy. These bikes were very quick (12-flat 1/4-mile) for their time and the sound of a two-stroke triple is unmistakable. Super-fun bikes until you had to stop and/or turn.

    Like 8
  4. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Well written, Jeff. Another machine too that earned the Widow Maker moniker through careless &/or less skilled pilots comes to mind, the early model Beech Bonanza V-tail.
    Just proves what those ‘80’s(?) Honda bandaid stickers said-“Stupid Hurts”.

    Like 5
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Your comment about the V-tail Bonanza got my attention. The local IHC dealer sold his Piper Comanche and bought a V-tail. He never kept it very long and replaced the plane with one that had a conventional tail, which he flew for a good 30 years. He said the V-tail was twitchy and landing in a crosswind gave some anxious moments. Maybe some designer from Beechcraft, with a flair for the dangerous ended up working for Kawasaki…

      Like 5
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        I’ll bet so, geomechs- same “on the edge” ideology,

        With that,I wonder if the seat in your local IHC owners Bonanza matched the one on this (and MANY other) H2’s-torn at the seat edge as if it’d been sucked up by someone during an anxious moment…

        Like 3
      • Rob M.

        You are correct about the crosswind Howard. My best bud had a v-tail and I can speak from experience, it’s very “twitchy”. He’s had many planes and out of all of them that one is the only one I had reservations about flying in. Even at altitude it would swing back and forth. He wasn’t fazed, but I was hanging on for dear life. He sold it and now has a Cessna P210, which I really like to fly in. Unfortunately it’s currently under teardown as an eagle flew through the windshield and hit him in the face @ 2500 ft. He just turned around and returned to the airport and landed safely. No biggie.:P

        Like 1
      • Rob M.

        Sorry, Geo. Got you and Howard mixed up. lol

        Like 1
  5. jeffro

    Having ridden one of these, death on 2 wheels if you’re not an experienced rider.

    Like 6
  6. mikethetractorguy

    I fail to understand how this is a “one owner” bike.

    • Gaspumpchas

      Yea Mikethetractorguy, I’m a zero at math, but orig owner, that’s 1–sold it to a flipper, that’s 2. Not Knocking BF or Jeff, for sure, just busting b@lls!
      stay safe
      Cheers
      GPC

      Like 5
  7. Chuck

    I walked into Proffer’s Kawasaki in the spring of ’74, with all intentions of walking out with an H2. They also had a used ’73 Z-1 with just over 4000 mi, and both bikes were the same price, $1950. I bought the Z-1 and was never sorry at all! The first thing I did, was change the chain sprocket on the engine. I dropped it by 2 teeth. It didn’t seem to make much difference in top end, however, from a standing start, there was a big improvement in acceleration! I sold the bike in the early ’90s, a big mistake!!!

    Like 4
  8. Car39

    First time I went to kick start one, it backfired and tossed me over the handlebars. A beast!

    Like 7
    • Chuck

      In ’74 I had a Yamaha dirt bike, the SC-500, which was a single cylinder 2 stroke thumper. The bad thing about it was that it had electronic ignition which was VERY prone to making the engine backfire when you were starting it. I was launched in the air more than once during starting! I always thought that the ’73 Kawasaki paint scheme was nicer than the ’74.

      Like 1
  9. JS

    I had a ’72 with chambers, clip ons, rear sets, over-sized fiberglass tank and single seat. Climbing a steep mountain at 135 mph using all three lanes on the interstate was a blast. (Cops never look for speeders on steep inclines ha ha). Pushed hard on an entrance ramp it would wobble so bad it felt like you were atop a shark. Fell in with a semi and a Toyota once at 110 mph. A cop in a Cessna started tailing us. I peeled off to get gas and the cop was circling me at the gas station. I filled up and then waited inside until he was headed away. Ran out and headed away from him and never saw him again. The only thing badder was a RG500 or an RZ500, but those were yet to come and generally grey market items. This looks like a great example.

    Like 7
  10. Christopher

    Some bikes of that era, you needed big cajones to ride them. You rode them with the respect that at any time it would jump out and bite you. Some bikes you bought for handling and other you bought because they were just stupidly fast.
    A close friend of mine had an MV Agusta from South Africa. He was a very experienced rider having been a test driver for Harley-Davidson back before WWII. He said the MV was the fastest bike he had ever ridden. He changed the sprockets to slow it down as he said it turned on over 100 mph.

    Like 2
  11. bry593

    The original widowmaker: https://www.enginebuildermag.com/2014/01/the-michigan-madman-meets-the-widowmaker/

    The first few builds were direct coupled off the crank to the wheels, no clutch. He would spin up the transverse mounted chevy and kick it off the stand. That be some crazy s**t right there.

    Like 2
    • Snotty Member

      Did American pickers, come across these bikes? Really enjoy all the comments, had a 750 Bonne and an 850 Eldorado, Husky trials bike which I thought was quick. Kind a glad I never had the opportunity to ride one of these, i think that’s a good thing.

      Like 1
  12. PaulR

    I never rode a street bike that came on so brutally hard as an H2. One of the biggest issue with control was the factory handle bars. Swapping those out for a set of flat bars made a huge difference in being able to hang on to it and keep control.

    Like 3
  13. Howard A Member

    Great find. It was fast, I believe the 1st production bike to dip into the 11’s ( 11.94) but it didn’t take long. I think the GS 1000 did better, and the all time winner, the CBX, but I believe this is the fastest 750 ever. I remember, the center cylinder ran hot on these, and many stuck, but while they ran, what a ride. Another bike you never Armor All the seat. In case some never heard of this bike, here’s a short video ( shortest I could find) of a ride along. They had explosive power bands above 5,000 rpms and a sound all their own. When this guy “let’s ‘er go”,( at 2:41) the front wheel comes up, and shifts into 5th at well over 100. Not for the faint of heart.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nYZHeP6Gcs

    Like 9
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Cool video, Howard-thanks!!!

      Like 8
  14. xrotaryguy

    My dad’s Wasp motocross sidecar used a Kawasaki 750 triple.

    It used one of two sets of custom expansion chambers. One set was for low RPM and higher torque for tighter courses. The other set was for high RPM on fast courses like Riverside with it’s long straight.

    The bike probably made about 100-ish hp. It was impossible to dyno since the thing would simply smoke it’s one knobby tire no matter how tightly you strapped it down.

    Big bore Husqvarnas of the era were no match!

    My dad finally shattered a knee in 1981 and called it quits.

    Like 3
  15. xrotaryguy

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10219821835210526&id=1659259743?sfnsn=mo

    Here’s a pic for ya. Pete as the pilot, Dad as the Monkey!

    Like 2
  16. whmracer99

    Had the “pleasure” of riding the brother-in-laws H1 after he scared himself so badly on it he refused to ride it. First time out I turned left out of a side street and squeezed the throttle and half way through the turn it picked the front wheel off the ground. I learned quickly that these were ruthlessly fast but smart folks used that in a straight line only as the handling and brakes were a couple generations of development behind the powerplant. There are several youtube videos of folks riding the H1s and H2s and the absolute bonkers torque boost and noise it makes when they “climb on the pipes” at 5500 +/- rpms. Can still make the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I hear it on the videos. Widow-maker moniker is honestly earned.

    Like 4
  17. Robert White

    The H2 Widowmaker was far too easy to pop wheelies in first gear & second gear. I never had enough road to take my H2 ride out of second gear before I had to turn around so I don’t know what the other gears did.

    I do know that it was deduced not to Armorall the seat after my test drive. All in all I would never own one due to the hyper-reactive throttle & wheelie conundrum.

    H2 is not as good as the Z-1.

    And the Z-1 is not as good as the GS-1100.

    Crotch rockets are deadly machines not for the faint of heart.

    Bob

    Like 2
  18. Chuck

    I loved mine. And I got experienced real quick on one. Haven’t been on one in over 30 years now. (Had kids and she said no! Her dad got damaged on a Triumph)

    Like 2
  19. Christopher A. Junker

    I was just into bikes and a Buffalo NY lady had her husband’s H2 to sell. It wasn’t running and she wanted $200 in 1975. Maybe I was lucky from what I’m reading that she wouldn’t budge to $150. I lived near I390E near Victor NY and in the summer you could hear the bikes being run out hard. There is no mistaking the sound of an H2 when it comes on the pipes.

    Like 2
  20. SMS

    My cool cousin had one. He was a drag racer and introduced me to my first v-gate shifter. I rode motocross so he let me take it for a spin. When I figured out how to roll it on and keep the front wheel down it flew. Was heavy, poor brakes, frame flexed in every direction and the forks were terrible. Aside from that I love it. Best way I can describe it is like riding a TZ700 with all but two of the motor mount bolts missing and leather brake pads.

    Cousin Stanley was killed on the bike two weeks after he let me ride it. Still miss him.

    Like 4
  21. Kenneth Kaste

    Had a 70 yamaha r5 350 only these could pass me raced a kz 900 almost killed myself laffin

    Like 1
  22. PeterfromOZ

    There was a 350cc version also.

    Like 1
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      And a 250 cc triple as well! Pistons reminded you of pencil erasers

      Like 1
  23. Ed VT

    I had to ride an almost brand new one of these from Maine to Vermont at night on secondary roads for a friend who had injured his ankle and had to take my car. I survived.

    Like 1
  24. Comet

    I’m old enough to remember when 12 sec quarter mile times were unheard of fast.

    Like 2
    • Chuck

      In ’68, I turned the 1/4 in 12.34 with a ’65 Honda Super Hawk that I had built all through the previous winter. I had a lot of fun with that bike, because it looked completely stock from the outside. I still have the trophies and the time ticket!

  25. chrlsful

    all the Japs made em, 250 – 900 (wasn;t that the end at 1 point?)
    I hada baby blue H1. Only enjoyed it on the turnplke as then U could wind it out,
    Matured a lill and just couldm’t enjoy the buzzyness (of a 2 stroke), nennenenen, renenennnen. Usualy sprayed any 1’s windshield w/oil that followed too close (never adjusted it properly). Still have its replacement a 2 cyl ’78 KZ 750B, the “least demanding maintainence bike”, set it’n forget it…

    I’ll pass on thisun.

  26. Chuck

    The nice thing about a Z-1 at the time, was the power came on gradually, and was a lot more controllable. Yes the bike was heavier, about 540#, but it was civilized (?) when you twisted the wick up, but still ran in the lower 12’s, and you didn’t need ear protection!

    Like 2
  27. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Nice bike looks like the owner had fun – is that mileage about – 15991.2 – lots a fun if it was.
    Current flipper is asking to much for a non-runner – does it even turn over ?

    We got crazy and had them all the 250-350 even found a nice 400 triple that was actually a nice smooth bike and the 500’s/750’s. Sold my pair of 500’s about a year ago for less – when he heard those Denco’s he gave me what I wanted.

    • JS

      This is an auction with no reserve. The seller can’t possibly be asking too much. I expect this offering will go $10K+.

      Sorry, if you sold your 500s for less than you could have.

      Back in the day, one friend of mine (An owner of a Honda CB400 Super Sport, four cylinders 75′-76′) commented to another friend (who owned a Kawasaki H1) about how bad the H1’s handling was. The response was “Yeah, but I could get off the bike, walk it through the corners, and still beat you”.

      Like 1
  28. 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    My uncle has one in the very late 80s,he would see my friends and I (14-15 yrs old) walking the small town sidewalks,he would stand that thing up from one end to the other, just shy of a 1/4 mile. Is kids would talk about that for days,and still do when the younger days come up in conversations.

  29. JS

    Storage conditions where the stored object crosses the condensation temperature and gets condensate on it can be a problem. That is the only problem I see here. And it will likely buff out.

    I would be a bidder, but my ’85 RZ350 gets about 3X the gas mileage, handles and brakes way better and is almost as fast.

    Good luck to the winner. Don’t try this bike all at once. It is a hand-full that one needs to gain an understanding of over time.

  30. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Got what I was asking – over 5 times what I paid for it and the drag bike I had no money in – I was happy as I hadn’t really been riding it that much – think it sat in the garage over 5 yrs without seeing the street with starting it up just to piss the neighbors off with their leaf blowers. I have some RD400’s and R5’s to make me happy.

    There is a motorcycle collector auction coming up in a few months – he has a lot of triples in it – showroom stuff.

  31. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Finally had to look at the ad….not really bad – but have never seen matching #’s on triple and this one doesn’t have it as well – no biggie but I wouldn’t make the claim. Good luck if your bidding !

  32. Ron L.

    Rode on the back of one with a friend at 18 years old. We were doing over 120mph on a two lane road. Scariest ride of my life!!

    Like 1

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