Kawasaki Team Red...The 1960's

    The first motocross model I could find for Kawasaki is the model B8M. It dates between 1963 and 1965, which pre dates Kawasaki in North America. This model was a 125cc two stroke, piston port engine, with a four speed gear box. the tank was red, with a black, pressed steel chassis, and chrome front fender. There is limited information available on this model, but my thoughts are that it was raced in Japan, and likely never made it to our shores. Some pictures of the B8M are below.

    The next model which shows up in the Kawasaki identification guide is the model G1M. It was a stripped down, modified model based on the model G1 motorcycle. It appeared for one year which was 1967, although some sources quote 1966. The specifications for this model are below:
Engine: 90cc, two stroke, rotary disc valve, with four speed rotary shift gear box, 16 horsepower @ 9000 rpm.
wheels: f - 2.50 x 17, r - 2.75 x 17
fuel tank: red
serial number range : engine: 400001, chassis: g1-400001

    The next model that shows up is the model F21m which was in production from 1968 to 1970. Originally the bike sported a red fuel tank, but that was changed for the second year of production to lime green, or what has become known as Kawasaki racing green. With the change in colour came a new name, the green streak. The bike sported a 238cc rotary disc valve, two stroke engine, and a four speed gear box. It was meant as a tt or flat track racing model, but was more often than not, modified for mx. Because of this, a need for after market performance parts was created on a big scale. During its short production changes were made to the carburetor, and to the location of the ignition coil, this apparently due to electric shock of the rider if touched with the leg. The F21M is pictured below.

    Most of these early models were stripped down, modified versions of other production models. The F21M was their first purpose built racing model, but either way, they were offering motocross machinery earlier than others, and for a company who was late to the party, that was quite a feat. 

The 1970's, Trying to build a better bike...

    The fact that Kawasaki was late to the party didn't stop them from producing motocross bikes. Suzuki had started their motocross development program in the mid 1960's with their RH-65 model. By 1968 they had released their TM-250 production model, in limited quantities, to the general public. Yamaha had experimented with machinery based on the DT-1 chassis, as well as some one offs. Around 1971 their motocross development program had begun under the direction of Torsten Hallman. With Honda, they had been developing a bike in Japan since 1971. Their CR models were released in 1973. When taken into account what other manufacturer's world wide were producing, Kawasaki had their work cut out if they expected to produce a bike good enough to grab a share of the market. 
    To do this would require r&d facilities, and some development riders to ride and help refine the product. This would turn into the works racing program, and what was learned from racing would be incorporated into a production motorcycle. It appears that Kawasaki was running three seperate development programs, one in Japan, Europe, and a new r&d facility in the United States. 
    At this point in time, I don't have any information on the Japanese program with the exception of the three pictures below.

       As for the European program, there are some photo's of works Kawasaki motocross bikes, sporting a red and white colour scheme, most of factory rider Peter Lamppu at the controls. These pictures are below.

                                  1972 hang ten nationals.

    While all this development work was being carried out, Kawasaki needed something to replace the F-21m, which was released in 1968, and concluded production in 1970. The follow up model was the F-81m, which was a stripped down, modified version of their F-8 enduro model. This was the offering in the  250cc class as pictured below. It sported a rotary valve induction two stroke engine, Hatta forks and shocks, steel gas tank, and aluminium fenders. 

    Then, in 1972, at the new r&d facility in the United States, a totally new design was developed and extensively tested by John DeSoto and Brad Lackey. These Bikes were hand built but some of the components were outsourced, such as the fuel tank and plastic fenders. They were open class models at around 450cc in displacement. Several pictures below are of those bikes with thanks to Jerry Friedrich.

    The following four pages are courtesy of John Laurent. The story deals with the then new American kawasaki r&d center, and John DeSotos' works 450.

        The next year, 1973, brought two totally new models to the dealers delight, the f-11m and f-12m. The f-11m was a 250cc with the 12m being open class. No doubt all of the r&d work put forth by Lackey and DeSoto played a big role in these models....which were short lived, as in one year production, and in limited numbers. 
    The first photo is from the cover page of the manual for these models. Notice the pic of Lackeys' bike....obviously a works model, but also a transitional version as compared to the pics of the 1972 450cc works bike pictured above.

    Below are photo's of another transitional prototype/works bike than in my opinion came after the Lackey/Desoto 450's but before the F11/F12-M'S.

    The following pictures are of the production F-11M and F-12M bikes.

    Kawasaki F-11M

    Kawasaki F-12M

    A distinction between prototype, works, and, production motorcycles must be made. When a manufacturer has no product but is breaking into a new market, prototypes are built and modified until they are developed enough to be put into mass production. Once a motorcycle goes into mass production, a manufacturer may choose to build a special, hand built, highly modified version of their production machine, for the use of their top racers. This would be known as a works motorcycle. For North America, works motorcycles were banned from competition in the mid 1980 as they were considered too far advanced compared to the productions they were to compete against, giving them an unfair advantage. In Europe this rule didn't apply. 
    Kawasaki, after years of prototypes, and some limited production runs, introduced their KX line of motocross motorcycles in 1974. Campaigned by many superb riders including Jimmy Weinert, Brad Lackey, and later in time, Jeff Ward, the Kx models were successful and continued to be top shelf motorcycles. Weinert, Lackey, and many other factory riders raced Kawasaki works bikes, as described above, and will be the subject of another article. 

    All those years of prototypes and years of racing technology to produce the KX series of production motocross motorcycles, as pictured in the following Kawasaki advert from Japan.