For the Kawasaki company motorcycles are more or less a by-product, addition to airplanes, helicopters, satellites, railcars, high seas cargo ships, oil platforms, power plants, bridges, tunnel boring machines, gas turbines, waste incineration plants, construction equipment and industrial robots. And there is not only a company of that name. In the meantime, one also operates under the name 'Meihatsu'.
The first company is founded by Shozo Kawasaki near Tokyo as a shipyard in 1878. The shipbuilding industry is expanding continuously and is complemented by the construction of steam locomotives around the turn of the century. Starting 1937, aircrafts will be produced, too.
The aerospace division is connected already before the Second World War with the automobile production. It carries then the main burden in this sector by the construction ban for aircrafts and the lost manufacturing plants as reparations. Somehow the many skilled workers have to be kept busy.
Getting into the car market still takes place very cautious. As Japan mainly needs two-wheelers in the bad periods one moved to the production of transmissions and also produces a 150-cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine since 1950.
Obviously during the long industrial tradition one is superior to the countless competitors in the Japanese market, a 100 cc larger aggregate follows as early as 1952, supported by a very successful small two-strokes. At times this appears even in vehicles equipped with the own emblem.
But the production remains on a modest scale until one takes over the since more than 30 years motorcycle manufacturing company Meguro in 1960. The offers a fairly complete choice and fit for Kawasaki's skills in marketing and production.
Overall, the motorcycle industry in Japan has been borrowed relatively unabashed from Western producers like Harley, DKW, and especially British manufacturers in those years. In Europe, the downswing has begun of the motorcycle production. One can rather afford a car.
The Japanese already recognize the value of the motorcycle as a commercial vehicle less than a recreational vehicle also and especially in the western world. But first one remains still at home with a program that ranges from 50 to 500 cc and contains not only two-stroke machines.
Although the company is extensively and meanwhile also the aircraft industry again started, the construction of two-wheelers slowly begins to play an important role. Of course one does not even try to trump the absolute market leader Honda.
First, we ignore the four-strokes, in principle assumed from Meguro. We immerse into the world Kawasaki thanks its reputation, the world of small two-strokes. These are also the machines with which Kawasaki can score in USA starting 1964.
First there is the B8, an inconspicuous two-stroke motorcycle with just 6 kW (8 hp), four-speeds and the gear changing on the left. But the company is particularly competent in the customization of products.
Again and again the short type designations have to be supplemented by numbers and additional letters. Almost exactly the way the bikes are modified continuously, this happens even with each producing part of the company.
We will try to confine ourselves to the main lines and not get bogged down. At the beginning of Kawasaki's own production is certainly important, the commitment in the field motocross which is challenged with a 125 cc variant of the B8 first only in Japan.
The enormous success in Japan with many the factory with many factory-owned motorbikes at the top of the Championship in 1963 may have contributed to the export activities. Sun Kawasaki appears at the U.S. west coast a year later and offers motorcycles with 125 cc and 55 cc two-stroke engine, the latter with centrifugal clutch.
However, there begins the real success with the production of two-and three-cylinder two-stroke engines.