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Two-Stroke Shed Find: 1976 Kawasaki KH500

There’s nothing like the smell of blue smoke in the morning, to paraphrase a famous movie line. I can’t get enough two-stroke motorcycles and I know that a few of you are fans given the number of them being shown here recently. This 1976 Kawasaki KH500 is listed here on eBay in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and there is an unmet opening bid price of $3,995 and no reserve after that.

The seller doesn’t say if the price is in Canadian or American dollars, any guesses? It’s located three hours from Detroit or two hours from Buffalo in Ontario. It sounds like they’ve listed it before and there must have been a problem with something as they say that it’s being listed for the third and final time. If it doesn’t sell it’s going into the Kawasaki shed to be restored someday. Why does that sound familiar?

There isn’t a photo showing the tail light or the bike from the rear so I used this one from under the seat. That makes no sense at all but you know me by now. We’ve seen several wicked two-stroke Kawasakis here on Barn Finds in the last few years, mainly 500s and 750s. The KH500 came at the end of the run for the 500 triple two-stroke bikes, coming after the 1975 Kawasaki H1F 500 Mach III.

This bike needs a full restoration as you can see, as with many of the other Kawasaki two-stroke triples that we’ve seen. Why is that I wonder? Are they too fast or too extreme to ride and they end up being put away in a shed and forgotten about? This one has been sitting in a shed since the 1980s and I just shivered when I typed that as I have a 750 Yamaha that has been sitting in a shed since 1986. Damn.

The engine was dumbed down just a bit for the last of the H1 series, this one is still a 499 CC two-stroke triple but it has around 50 horsepower and a top speed of 113 mph as opposed to a bit more in each category for the H1F Mach III. The engine turns over but hasn’t run in decades and Mecum Auctions sold a mint condition example for $12,100 a couple of years ago. NADA is worthless, listing an excellent condition example as being worth $2,770. How much would you pay for this one knowing that it needs a full restoration?


  1. Howard A Member

    Junk. I rarely say that, but in this case, junk. The mileage bolsters my claim, these rarely racked up a lot of miles, like most of these, 5K is about it. I speculate, with the bent front brake lever, it was laid down, a common fate. It was a poor motorcycle, and Kawasaki kept the “ring-dings” around, even though the Z1 was head and shoulders above these, no comparison, really, and the only way these are worth anything, is if they look brand new, and with as poor a motorcycle as they were, that won’t be easy, as after they puked, very few kept them.

    Like 6
  2. Cadmanls Member

    Have to agree, many were laid down or even crashed and that was enough for most owners. These lightweights can get away from you and scare an inexperienced rider enough to put them up. Back in the day they weren’t worth a whole lot and the Z1 was the big dog. So many just sat out behind the shed or garage and later disposed of. No doubt the two stoke will produce gobs of torque quick. Won’t be forgotten by the older crowd.

    Like 8
    • Howard A Member

      I don’t mean to take anything away from the Kaw 500, when introduced, it would blow the doors off a Honda 750, one of the fastest bikes for the time. The Z1 put an end to all that. I read, the Z1000 came out in ’77, superior in every way, and these fell out of favor pretty quick. Like I say, if it was like new, there would be an attraction, for sheer novelty, but original parts have to be hard to find for this.

      Like 4
      • Boatman Member

        You were kind of hard on the ole’ KH, Howard.

        Like 1
      • 370zpp 370zpp Member

        Kaw 500 vs. Z1 – apples to oranges.

        Like 1
  3. mike hunt

    They were light, fast two-strokes. Kind of like the Yamaha RT-1’s, RE and RZ 350 and 400, Suzuki Water buffaloes, Yamaha 750 Triples. Under engineered? Perhaps, but the were fast and light.

  4. JS

    I guess everything was dumbed down by 1976. Too bad about that. The 50 hp thing is enough to turn me off.

    Like 3
  5. George Mattar

    Enough negative comments. I owned five Kawi triples in my life starting in 1975. Anvil like reliability and terrible gas mileage. Far better than any Harley junk. Yes these were run hard, couldn’t handle or really stop, but simple to work on. 20 years ago, I bought my last triple, a brown and yellow 75 500 from a collector. Paid $1,500. It had 3,000 actual miles. Everyone said nobody wants those smoky bikes. Well, to you naysayers they are now selling for $10,000 and up. And a recent sale of $40,000 for a 73 H2 is more than any other Japanese bike I know of. I sold that 75 for $4,000 in 2009. Wish I still had it.

  6. Dennis Fitzmorris

    I owned one of these brand new in 1970. I’m amazed I’m still around to have the memories. I was young and wanted the acceleration, but these were so unpredictable. You open the throttle you better be prepared since nothing much happens until you hit 4k rpm. Then you have uncontrolled wheelies since the front end is so light when the power comes on. Mine was one of the last ones with front drum brake and if you applied a little too much brake the front tire would just lock up at highway speeds. I can’t imagine why these are so popular. Money better spent on an early Z1. So much better bike in all ways.

    Like 3
  7. Dan

    I had an early H1 500. Green with some blue. Screamer in a straight line. 1/8 mile king, 1/4 mile oh well. Bought the triple stick carb synchro tool and had fun. It did have a hydraulic steering stabilizer but it was overwhelmed at 80 or 90. When you get the shakes, pull the clutch and hang on tight, ha!

    Like 2
  8. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Scotty, it says “US” just before the seller’s starting price.

  9. Derek

    I loved riding strokers; never fancied a four because they were so wide

    And then along came the VFR 750.

    Still love strokers… got a 350LC and an NS400.

    Never had a KH500, but did have a 250.

  10. Gary

    Ah, the Widowmakers. I never got scared on bikes until I rode one of my buddies Kawi 750 triple. A triple Kawi is definitely not civilized. When the power came on you had better have been holding on very tightly, they were unpredictable. Another buddy had a Kawi 350, another had a Yamaha 350 another had a Suzuki GT380 two stroke, you could push the kick start easily by hand to start it. I had two CB 750’s a KZ1000 and then a 79 CBX but never a two stroke street bike. As crazy as I was on bikes i’m lucky I survived my adolescence.

    Like 1
  11. Bwana

    Years ago a friend had one who let me drive it. I did it once, never again. I am not sure how he drove it for so long and didn’t end up six feet under. These never should have been allowed.

  12. Showbiz

    I was fortunate to have the 69 holy grail a few years back and a red 70 H1 a 76 KH400 all extremely fun bikes as a hobby I went nuts on ebay and bought many parts ,stuff i didnt even need but thought one day i might , most resent
    restored a 75 Z900 . just went though a phase and sold all the bikes years ago and now need to go through the garage attic and get sold all the parts to someone who needs help in restoring this bike…ps still in love with the 2 stroke world and restoring a 73 rd350 as I type this ,It really bring backs memories getting on theses bikes and going for a brisk ride ,they did seamed a lot faster when we were kids but still with the power put a smile on your face. :)

    Like 1
  13. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this one ended with no bids.

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