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The 1976 Kawasaki KD-400 And The Canadian Connection

    This conversation has been had more than once, and with no proof, couldn't be settled.....until now. Kawasaki had built an open class 450cc enduro machine in the early 1970's, known as the Baja 450. it sported a hand built chassis and various components from both Kawasaki, and the After market world. That bike lived a short life and was never put into production. Then in 1976, Kawasaki built a rumored six of what they called the KD-400. The KD models included versions in 80cc, 100cc, 125cc, and finally in 175cc, all of which were in mass production. 
    The idea was to build a more modern enduro bike but first, how would it perform, and would it sell? A hand full were built, one of which still survives. As the story goes, it was sent to a dealer in the United States for evaluation, and he kept it until recently, when it resurfaced. It has changed hands twice now and apparently, no spare parts are surprise as prototypes are special. 
    At the time this bike was being tested, Suzuki was about to release their  model PE-400, and Yamaha had already began production on their model IT-400, both of which were light years ahead of the KD-400 with the exception of the KD's disk brakes, and hence why it never made it to production. A few years later Kawasaki did produce the model KDX-420, which was much more in line with its competitors. Pics of the KD-400 are below thanks to John Laurent.

The Canadian Connection

    In creating this website, I do my best to keep it interesting, and to give like minded individuals a place to go and hang out. One offs , prototypes, and works bikes have always peaked my interest, and when I can get enough information, you will see it here, on this site. The above article was written a while back, based on a few pictures that turned up and some logic. Then, I get an email from Peter Haynes about four of these prototype KD-400'S being sent to Canada, raced, ect, ect.......which totally floored me, because I rarely hear of anything like this from north of the border. 
    below is the email and pictures to prove that the KD-400 was quite thoroughly least more than I expected, and that including the one pictured above, we know that Kawasaki built at least five of them:

     I rode and raced one of those bikes. In 1977, the Canadian Kawasaki distributor had four of those prototypes and they sold two of them to the dealership I worked at, Ontario Kawasaki. There was a small race at a ski hill in Toronto that I entered with the bike. It was terrible... lol.  I raced it stock the first weekend and then slid a KX450 motor into it for the second weekend and did much better. Lots of motor then but handled like a pig.

    A bit more info about the bike and the race.The bike languished around the shop for a year or two or three after the race  and I think about 1980 one was sold to a fellow in Oshawa, Ontario. I never heard anything about it after that.The motor swap was a bolt in operation so I assume there may have been some KX450 parts in the build of the KD400. Pipe and carb and electrics were all plug ins, the kickstarter of the KX had to be heated and bent to clear.It had a ton more power after the engine swap. The main competition I had was from a 1976 XT500 and it would lead me by several bike lengths every time we hit a straight. After the engine swap, I would lead him by several bike lengths.

    The race was a promotion sponsored by a local radio station and arranged by a local promoter at a ski slope in Toronto. The Don Mills Ski Resort at Don Mills Road and Lawrence in the city of Toronto.
It was to promote the enduro type bikes and generate interest in them. Kawasaki got involved and it was called the Kawasaki Classic 77. It went over two consecutive weekends with individual winners each weekend and an overall winner. The first weekend, Bob Louis on his Yamaha XT 500 won and I came second on the KD400. The second weekend, I won with the KX450 motor in and Bob came second. I ended up with the overall win somehow.

    They arranged for a stuntman to do some ramp to ramp jumps on a KX250. Karel Soucek was his name. He is s one of the fellows to go over the falls in a barrel which is in the Niagara Falls Museum now. He later died doing a stunt in Texas. Nice guy. Anyhow, he came up slightly short on his first jump and hit the edge of the landing ramp. Bent the bike up a bit, wrecked the ramp, crushed the roof of the car he was jumping over and hurt himself as well. The next day he was back with straightened forks, hurt body and did the jumps without a landing ramp.The fellow who actually put on the race turned out to be a scam artist and left without paying my prize money and with a lot of debts behind him.

    The first pic is about 30 feet from the start line after a small jump. You can see how much higher the KD is than the XT behind it. We were both doing about the same speed, just that the suspension on the KD was so bad I was tossed in the air a lot higher and XT's were not known for good suspension. LOL... That pic made the front page of the Toronto Star Sports section and was taken by a Star photographer.The second pic is me leading Bob on his XT. This was the second weekend with the KX450 motor installed. You can see the different pipe there..

Peter Haynes

Dashwood, Ontario


    I would like to thank you for the information and the have put a whole different spin on what would have been a dead end article, and saved a little bit of the history of Kawasaki Canada. My sincere thanks!!!