Well-Preserved Widowmaker: 1974 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV

When you look at the vehicles that get assigned the nickname “The Widowmaker,” you may notice there’s a common link: they’re fast as hell and just as squirrelly, and an experienced pilot is essential for keeping both man and machine in one piece. The Kawasaki H2 Mach IV is a notoriously tricky bike to handle, and is one that is best left in the hands of experienced riders. But for this owner, he’s not worried about lack of use due to the perils of riding, but because he simply doesn’t use the bike, period – and that’s following a multi-year restoration. Find it here on eBay with bids over $15,000 and no reserve.

The two-stroke triple was emblematic of an era wherein motorcycle performance was exceeding the accepted threshold for speed. Of course, there was a bit of an arms race going on, with every major motorcycle manufacturer attempting to push out competition-grade bikes for street use. From Norton to Ducati, bike manufacturers were all playing in the same sandbox of 750 cc, but the Kawasaki seemed to outshine them all. Road test editors were a mixture of impressed and frightened by the bike’s out of the box performance, which could eclipse the quarter mile in roughly 12 seconds.

74 b.h.p. was on tap, and the Mach IV could reach a top speed of 126 miles per hour. Those are still slightly bonkers numbers for today considering you’re strapped to a motorcycle while reaching those speeds, but it was just unworldly for 1974. But here’s the problem: the frame wasn’t up to the task. From twisting to flexing to always being on the verge of lifting the front end, the Mach IV required a very seasoned rider who could manage the shotgun-start powerband that was quite narrow and anything but gradual. Even with two steering dampers, the handling was mediocre at best and certainly not up to the task of making the Mach IV a treat to run at 10/10th.

Perhaps given the seller’s extensive restoration of this example, he’s hesitant to ride it the way nature intended. He does note that the bike remains highly original, and while he has freshened it up with new paint, rims, and tires, the rest of the Mach IV is factory correct. The Kawasaki has been a Connecticut resident since new, and came out of a private collection belonging to the owner of New Haven Power Sports. The seller claims he has waffled a few times in regards to selling it, but this time, he’s committed to sending it along to a new owner. He estimates there’s maybe 300 miles on the engine since a total rebuild, so you’ll be getting a very fresh bike if you take this widowmaker home.


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  1. Superdessucke

    Friend of mine had an ’81 Kawasaki KZ1000 that I actually tried to teach myself to ride on. Ended up going ass over tea kettle in short order. I can imagine this would be even more tricky. Pass.

    Like 8
    • John Lyall

      Original hinge in the middle handling, needed wide bars and the occasional foot down in corners…loved them

      Like 6
    • andymac45

      It’s very tricky. The front end is very light, especially at high speeds with no fairing. The powerband isn’t subtle like the writer said. It’s very much like being shot out of a shotgun

      Like 11
    • Bob

      Bought the 81 750Ltd sat next to the 1000 in dealership, Salesman told me 750 would blow away the 1000 in first quarter mile then top end of 1000 would kick in…still open in mint condition has 2500 miles. I’d ride this b4 I’d take my Harley out.

    • Terri taylor

      I love the phrase ass over tea kettle. I haven’t heard it since my dad died three years ago.

      Like 1
  2. NovaTom

    That unmistakable exhaust sound …..

    Like 28
    • Davepsj

      and the cloud of blue smoke.

      Like 13
  3. PaulR

    I never rode a street bike that pulled so hard, so fast as an H2 750 triple. the factory bars and seat were part of the problem in keeping control of this beast. The ones I rode had the factory bars replaced with drag bars which made big improvement in being able to hang on to them.

    Like 10
  4. Boatman Member

    Great job, Jeff!

    Like 4
  5. Norm Braidwood

    I went through high school riding these! First the 500, then the 750 and finally the 900 4 stroke. Nothing matches the feel of a 3 cylinder 2 stroke Kawi!!!

    I ended up buying a out of the crate 400 in 1978 and it was a lot of fun but not like the 500&750’s!!

    Fond crazy memories!! Glad I survived to ride my Harley now.

    Like 14
  6. Tom W

    I bought a ’72 H2 in 1975 while in college. Didn’t know what I was getting! The 126 mph may be a little low…I hit 120 with two of us on board! Of course the vibrations were so intense and with my eyes concentrating on the road it may not have been exactly 120. Still have it…last registered in 1978 but stories like this make me want to start the restoration!

    Like 15
  7. Keith

    Never had to replace the front tire on these because they were never touching the ground. Rode a friends one time and went to a four stroke bike for reasons’s to live to a be a old age.

    Like 9
  8. Thornton f white

    I loved my Blue Bomb. Upgraded to a Z-1 in ’73. 3 cylinder 2 strokes were great. Never has a problem riding one.

    Like 7
  9. David Brassfield

    I’ve rode a few of those back in the day. Pretty impressive. I ended up getting a Suzuki GT750 triple. If you went W.O.T. you had to put your feet on the back pegs to keep your but on the seat. Fun stuff back in the day. I’m done going fast at my age now I ride a 2001 Victory cruiser.

    Like 5
  10. Chuck Simons

    I’m still alive. I loved mine!!!!

    Like 7
  11. Don Eladio

    Not for the faint of heart.

    Like 5
  12. JoeBob

    I had a 71 H1. It was a flexi-flyer. But it could bring on an adrenaline rush when I hit the fat part of the power band or put its handling to the test. This H2 is beautiful, and $15k might be a good price given the apparent condition. If I owned it I’d show it more respect than I showed my H1, but I’d love to ride it, blue smoke and all.

    Like 6
  13. John

    No one has mentioned it but these had some real rust issues. The frames had issues at the head tube. I always thought they were going to break. I never heard of one doing it but they sure made me uneasy. I never owned one but two of my college roommates had them. My 550 CBR couldn’t even come close to one.

    Like 2
  14. Pacekid

    This bike and it’s younger brother the 500 changed the world forever. If there ever was a widow maker this bike clearly fits that bill. I tip my hat to any and all those who owned these as teenagers and are still on the planet to talk about the experience. Kudos to you!

    Like 8
  15. Ken

    I loved mine! Young and crazy, It wasn’t fast enough though. Went to a 900 and then Suzuki came out with the GS 1000E. Had mine built just like that Vance and Hinds pro stock. Mid 9s. Still love the smell of a two stroke burning Castrol oil. Thin came a VMax now a VRod.

    Like 3
  16. JS

    126 MPH top speed, I think not. My H2 ran 135 MPH up a steep mountain grade where no cop would ever think to set a speed trap.

    Like 7
    • alphasud Member

      Yea and if you went off you would have become an unsolved mystery! Glad you lived to tell about it. Ah the good old days.

      Like 2
  17. chrlsful

    got 1 second hand. Never able to get the oil mix right (seperate tank). The guys made me ride the back, never had the cars tailgait (spittin out the tail pipes). Too buzzy for me. Still got my nxt a KZ750B (the “lowest maintainence” bike). Happy the nxt 40 yrs. Tool around in any gear & still plenty of power up-to speed. Lill more relaxed fora guy in his 4th – end of 6th decades 8^0

    Like 1
  18. Greg Goodwin

    Had a blue one, sold it to a guy in Galveston tx. Dont know what he did with the engine, but the frame and front end were demolished. Glad I wasnt. Went to an 80 Honda CBX after was ready tenerife again. Sold that later in a-1 condition. Wish I’d kept that CBX

    Like 1
  19. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Shelton, Connecticut

    Like 1
  20. Derek

    I loved the triples. My first “big bike” after I’d passed my test was a KH250, which sent me down a path… I still have a triple but, as times have moved on, it’s an NS400 – which is also nuts.

    Like 5
  21. Pacekid

    What do you think about the Vmax compared to a V rod. I have a Vmax and love everything about it.

    Like 2
    • Dave

      I have never seen more V-Maxes outfitted for touring duty than at Thunder in the Valley. Apparently they know something the rest of us don’t.

      Like 1
    • JMB#7

      How did we get onto Vmax? How do you tour on a Vmax, you better plan your route and know where the gas stations are at. Unless you have a bigger fuel tank.

      Like 2
    • Ken

      Pacekid, I had a 94 yellow VMAX awesome bike, fast with Kerker Headers. Have a 2015 VROD muscle. V max was a hair faster but I love my VROD! At 65 this is fast enough for me. Great drag bike.for the street.

  22. Kevin Mcnamara

    Kawasaki triples, I’ve owned several from the S1 250, S2 350, S3/KH400 and H1 500 1969-72. I bought at auction long ago a H2 750 for a buddy, they were heavily into sanctioned hill climbing at the time. They increased the compression ratio, put expansion chambers on it and bolted the engine into a KDX450 frame with extended swingarm. They each rode it up a particularly gnarly cliff at Yankton, SD. And, that was that. They won’t admit that it literally scared the heck out of them. Back to the more sedate stretched red engine ’77 CR250 and ’85 CR500 Honda’s. The H2 quickly went to a buyer in MN. My all time favorite triple was my red ’72 S2 350 w/42 HP out of the box. All are gone now except for a rough ’77 KH400. In my 60’s now I still love power and speed and am quite happy with my Yamaha 2 strokes, DS7 250, RD250 w/350 top end, RD350 and RD400. Two have chambers & some other surprises. Oh yeah, my own hill climbing? The borrowed red engine CR250 and my own unlikely ’72 Rokon 340.

    Like 4
    • Derek

      One of the most hilarious things that I’ve driven was a kart fitted with an aircooled CR500 unit. Mostways sideways always!

      Like 3
      • Dave

        It’s always been a bucket list thing to drive a kart like that around the Mountain Course.

  23. JMB#7

    The following is from a friend of mine who owned & raced may bikes from this era. I trust his response.
    “It’s a beautiful restoration. However, it wasn’t nearly as squirrely to ride as they make it sound. The 500 triple H1 was, but the 750 mH2 was a lot more tractable and handled fairly well out of the box. Handling was actually first rate with the addition of Koni shocks, heavier fork oil and springs , and boxing in the front portion of the swing arm. It had a lot broader torque band and didn’t come on nearly as suddenly as the 500. Actually, it would only pick up the front end in first and if you sat back on the seat maybe second. That being said, opening up the ports a little and putting bigger carbs on it added a lot to its general wildness, with mine topping out right around 150 mph. a great bike if you didn’t let it scare you.”

    Like 6
    • Jay E. Member

      Don’t forget about a set of tuned pipes! Scared the pee out of me on a mod one.

      Like 1
  24. Robert White

    Over-rated Kawi IMHO. High speed wobble is terrible and you need adhesive sprayed onto the seat and your pants if you want to stay on the seat.

    Wheelies are super easy and one can pretty much ride on one wheel if you want to, and your hands can hang on if you glue them to the handlebars with contact cement.

    The size of the bike is too small too.

    Great gift for unruly teens that never want another birthday present in their lives. A good parting gift to anyone that loves to ride themselves into the road or a construction hazard, tree, or just a ten tonne semi.

    FUN for the whole family.


    Like 1
    • Derek

      Oh, you optimist…!

      Like 1
  25. Rweimer

    U old timers r awesome I got a ’81kz(gpz)550 bored to a 610 that’s awesome!! And my pops has an 82 kz(gpz)750 bored to an 810 and it’s awesome up to 90 ish mph…..then it has a deathwobble like bad….. wat can I do to fix that? Plz help I don’t wanna die lol

    Like 2
    • JMB#7

      See my post earlier. It’s an old bike, so you’ll need to evaluate all bushings & Bearings. Other items are mentioned in the earlier post.

      Like 1
    • Jack N Peerson

      Had a 77 KZ1000 always wobbled around 100mph. Put liquid tire balancer in both tires. Problem went away. Just saying.

  26. Pacekid

    Robert White

    YOU ARE RIGHT ON! And very funny. Thanks for making my afternoon chuckle.

    Like 1
  27. Pete

    Back in ’83 I bought a Kawa 900 with a wrecked engine. A few weeks later I was offered a rebuilt and tweaked engine by the brother of a friend for a pittance. On the maiden run I was out with a friend (one of a very few lady riders) tailing me. On returning she said “P, you have to sell that bike!” I was never able to drive defensively, so I sold it and haven’t ridden a bike since. Just as well, I wouldn’t be here to write if I had continued with bikes.

    Like 2
  28. bobhess bobhess Member

    Heard all the stories on this bike. My all time favorite is the Kawasaki Big Horn. Oil can size single bore, lots of power and great fun in the desert.

    Like 5
  29. george mattar

    Boy, for all the negative comments I got from riding my Kawi triples from brain head Harley owners over the years, there sure is plenty of interest in this great motorcycle. The comment here about starting these rocket ships is dead on correct. I have owned five Kawi triples since 1975. Bought a new H1 that year in blue. Turn key one, hold choke, one kick. No stupid starter to break like it does on every Harley. Let smooth clutch out and ride. I rode my triples thousands of miles, never a break down. I sold my last H1, a brown 75 a few years ago for $5,000. Should have waited. It had 7,000 miles. I paid $1,500 for it in 1999 from a Philadelphia guy who had about 20 of them. I am now 65 and a bit friend of plowing into a deer up here in the Poconos, so I am done riding them, but the sound is better than anything else you have ever experienced. Would love to buy this one. These days, I cruise in my old Corvette.

    Like 4
    • On and On On and On Member

      Hey george, Speaking of the Poconos, a beautiful place. You ever go to Smuggler’s Cove in Tannersville?

      Like 3
      • andymac45

        Smuggler’s cove is right up the road from me. Not as good as years ago, but still good food. It’s a shame Tannersville Inn closed

        Like 1
    • Kevin Mcnamara

      Hey George, we’re about the same age. Back in the early 1990’s my group of friends and I had our bikes at the Sturgis Rally, not a Harley in the bunch. We rode all thru the Hills and at every stop, bar or gas station, shockingly my bike got nothing but praise from Harley riders! The one and only snarky remark was downtown Sturgis at a stop sign by a young rent-a-cop on the corner. Weird. My bike was a ’72 Suzuki Titan 500 2 stroke twin. Ultra dependable but not at high altitude which I encountered only once. Also, NOTHING sounds better than a 2 stroke twin or triple, especially with chambers.

      Like 1
  30. Albert Arthur

    I survived. Most ended on there backsides.

  31. Super Glide

    The H2 and the GS1100E both scared me. Both defined the name Wild Child. They were an obvious Commie plot to wreck America.

    Like 2
  32. mrgreenjeans

    I own one identical with 5,000 less miles. Bought it at a garage sale, pristine condition, for less than 450 dollars. It had always been in the back of the garage since the old guy quit riding it, so seat, paint and chrome are as well preserved as the photos present this owner’s ride…….
    It is a straight line rocket, not meant to carve the twisties with. If one is quite well forward in the saddle, there’s not much risk to scraping one’s nape on the asphalt behind when the right throttle grip is cranked wide. Get it all wrong and teeth, skin, and leather jacket will shred on impact.
    WHAT a pant-load of grins tho …… (-;}

    Like 2
  33. Tooyoung4heyday Member

    Lots of great stories to read here. Little curious myself more about the 500’s temperament. My dad still has his H1 500 in blue. Its been apart longer than ive been alive. My brothers and i have always thought it would be cool to get it back to running again. Was the powerband as harsh as the 750? Ive ridden 2 stroke quads before and they had touchy powerbands. Also how bad were those brakes for such a bike?

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      From what I understand, the 500 H1 is more abrupt with the power than the 750 mH2. We have a Yamaha Banshee quad which is a fantastic machine.

    • whmracer99

      The 500s are supremely peaky and will pull the wheel off the ground at wide open throttle in first and second gears once they go “on the pipes” at around 5k rpms. As others have mentioned, as fast as the bike was, the chassis and brakes left some to be desired with a flexy frame and death wobble a common occurrence at higher speeds. There are a couple of Youtube videos with folks running them hard and you can literally see the front end go light as the motors hit the 5k rpm mark. The noise they make when they hit that powerband is something you’ll never forget and an incentive that will keep you looking for places and excuses to exercise the far reaches of the rpm limits.

  34. Pacekid

    Ken, Thanks for the response. I love my V-MAx 1200and its just fast enough for my 69-year-old body.

  35. Dave

    You think this bike is bad? Apparently Kawasaki has created a Ninja H2. I was looking for the English chap that built a1500 CD, six cylinder version of this but found the new version instead.

  36. Howard A Member

    I couldn’t find a video of the H2, ( that wasn’t 10 minutes long) but this of a 500 gives you the idea. I’m not sure “Widowmaker” was the right term, there were lots of bikes that could make the spouse single again. The key to all these monsters, was common sense, something not found in abundance today. These, as the video shows, were straight line machines. They handled poorly, had barely adequate brakes, were uncomfortable, and that steering damper had an actual purpose, death wobble was the worst with these.
    Since these, kind of the pioneer in craziness, many bikes followed that would soil your undergarments, Aside from the CBX, which was also a nightmare, I think the GS 1000 Suzuki was the fastest out of the box and still resembled a decent bike. It’s still the bike of choice for drag racers today. Nice find, and don’t forget the volume, this driver knows what he’s doing. You see above 6grand, it comes alive

    Like 1
    • JoeBob

      Howard, thanks for the link. It brought back some good memories. Especially the wail the H1 would make with the revs up and the carbs opened up.

      Like 1
  37. Nick

    I had a brown 750 I bought new in 77 straight out of the crate. It Shook so bad that it would break weld on the rack I put on it. There was no cruising speed you either needed to be speeding up or slowing down, mine even came with a stabilizer on the handlebars. It was fun and fast but also scary especially over 100 mph. Good memories since I’m still alive.

  38. Wendell Thiessen

    Never owned one but saw many wheelies across the parking lot at the hotel bar after last call and actually most survived. The middle cylinder had a tendency to overheat from reduced air flow and sieze up at high temps and speed…..knew of 2 friends that happened to. Fortunately quick reactions to pull in the clutch saved both of them. Definitely not a bike for the faint of heart lol

    Like 1
  39. Mike Mahler

    I didn’t have an H2 but I did have a ’76 KH400 and with me at 135 lbs at the time that bike didn’t even know I was on it. The sound was very distinct and you knew it was coming. I miss that bike and would love to have another.

    Like 1
  40. Steve

    As a senior in high school I bought a new 73 S2 350 triple and it was a wheelie king and faster than a 750 Honda. Biggest issue for me was the 23 mpg on a 3.5 gallon fuel tank. Oil embargo year had gas stations closed on Sunday’s and I couldn’t get to my girlfriend’s college on the weekends because it which was 98 miles away. Cost $918 out the door that year.

    Like 1
  41. JS

    10 to 13 mpg was pretty normal on a 750 H2 used like was it meant to be. If needed I’d have made a back pack for a jerry can.

  42. Don Williams

    A friend of mine and I bought, fixed and sold wrecked bikes in San Diego in the ’70’s. San Diego has the Navy Recruit Depot. These were popular purchases. There was a never ending supply of crashed Kaw triples. I rode several of these beasts. I got into the “Kawasaki Boogy” once with one. In a turn the damn thing would flex, wrap and unwrap, occalate, and send you across the centerline into oncoming traffic… Terrifying…

  43. Pacekid


    I have only been on this site for about three years. For you older timers, is it just me or is this the longest running tread of any previous vehicle?

    In the era of when these super bikes came to market it was an amazing time for the motorcycle hobby, hospitals, and morgues.

    Kudos to all of us that are still on the planet, in spite of their ferocious power curves and tweaky handling!

    Like 1

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