The Triple Threat
A 750 KAWASAKI H-2...
The "Triple Threat" is based on a 1972 Kawasaki H-2 750 triple.
By Joe Caswell
We live in an age of mass production. Goods are stamped out in huge quantities. As a result, they are relatively inexpensive and available to everyone. Motorcycles are no exception. Unfortunately, today's motorcyclist may be put in the position of sacrificing individuality for the sake of meeting with current high levels of function and design.
For the true connoisseur of motorcycling exotica, and for the motorcyclist who wants that bike that expresses his or her individuality, there is but one hope, to build that special bike. A bike that is, perhaps, radically unique and greatly removed from the everyday commonness of mainstream motorcycle planes.
This month's exotica is the “Triple Threat.” What is “Triple Threat?” Simply put, it is a pet name affectionately bestowed upon what is quite possibly the trickiest and most potent three-cylinder bike ever to have a license plate bolted to it.
The Threat is based on an old 1972 Kawasaki H-2 750 two-stroke. Yes, it's sixteen years old (or at least some of the parts are), but The Threat doesn't show its age thanks to the extensive efforts of owner Hugo Wendt.
Hugo recently purchased Moto-Sport Accessories in Thousand Oaks and has been a big fan of two-stroke power since 1975. This is the year he bought his first H-l 500 Kawasaki for transportation during his service in the Navy. Since then, Hugo has accumulated a total of four H-2 750s and five H-2 motors. All but one have given their proverbial lives to help create what is now The Triple Threat in final product form. To get a complete, accurate picture of the extent of modification to this machine, you must examine the features split into three categories: handling, motor and bodywork.
The original frame has been utilized for the Threat. Besides its powder-coated black finish, it has been gusseted in strategic areas for extra strength and rigidity.
The bike is equipped with a front end fresh off a Kawasaki 600 Ninja. The forks are loaded with Progressive springs for improved handling.
A beautiful custom-built Cal Fab swingarm graces the back end of the bike. It's longer (three inches over stock), stronger, lighter and more rigid than the original tube-type arm.
Connecting this piece of structural art to the frame is a pair of ELR (Eddie Lawson Replica) Works Performance shocks. The gold and blue painted shocks add an unbelievable combination of function and style to the bike.
Stopping power is provided by a triple disk set up. The two Ninja calipers up front clamp on a set of Hole-E rotors. These disks are giant, gold trimmed, and, as the name implies, filled with holes. In back, a similar rotor is used with help from a KZ1000 master cylinder and a Honda VFR caliper. Of course, practically everything (including brake and fuel lines) is steel braided.
Keeping the bike rolling is a pair of white tester maq wheels. These wheels were originally intended for use with a KZ1000 and measure eighteen inches front and back. Appropriately, a set of nicely scrubbed Michelin Hi-Sports can be found wrapped around the rims. The Telefix clip-on bars add to the overall styling on The Threat. They also feature total adjustability.
Hugo created rearset foot pegs through a somewhat involved custom fabrication effort. Raask rearset mounts had been modified to accept Tarrozi linkages. The footpegs themselves are completely unique.
Based on the infamous H-2 750 two stoke triple, the bike gets its power to the ground by means of an H-2R close ratio road racing five speed transmission. The gears have been undercut and magna-fluxed. As I learned, magna-fluxing is a process of closely inspecting the work at hand.
The crankshaft is made by Falicon and provides excellent strength and durability for the engine at any rev range. The Triple Threat is also equipped with Toomey cylinders and chambers, and features stage three porting. Wiseco pistons glide through the slightly bored cylinders, and the heads have been o-ringed. No blowouts here!
The motor is aspirated by means of three Mikuni 36mm flat slide carbs, which in turn breathe through modified manifolds taken from a snowmobile!
Covering the mechanicals is a Tracy H-2 one-piece body, and an H-2R factory full fairing. The whole motorcycle bares a stunning Honda pearl white and candy apple green paint scheme.
Setting off the colors is a custom day-glow green. Zero Gravity
The Threat Goes to Willow
It's 6 a.m. as we pull into the pit area at Willow Springs Raceway. The early morning desert air is quite nippy, and peculiarly still. As it turns out, I am one of the trio of riders destined to serve as the Triple Threat dial-in crew. Objective: to evaluate The Threat's performance under the grueling, fault finding conditions only a racetrack can provide. The other two members of Team Threat are Hugo "yes, it's mine" Wendt, and John "Butch" Killian.
We pull into a vacant space along the pit wall, right beside a row of other racers, street riders, and canyon squids. We're all here for the same reason; to shed the strangling tentacles of the law for a day of riding as fast and cornering as hard as we damn well please. In short, it's an "open day" at Willow, organized and supervised by Rinard Fiscus' Track Riders Association.
The Triple Threat arrives in John's pine green monster pick-up truck. Earlier it was decided that The Threat would be run without its fanciful, expensive full fairing. Still, the throngs of riders swarm around The Threat. A steady commotion gives way to an occasional expression of enthusiastic praise and favorable critique. Like a proud father, Hugo emerges from the truck and with John's help, begins to unload the bike. As The Threat rolls into plain, non-obstructed view, an almost comical level of "oooo's and aaah's" projects from the crowd. Hugo grins ear-to-ear as The Triple aces its first test of the day, public appreciation.
The bike leans dormant against John's truck as the collective group is called to the mandatory rider’s meeting. During this crash course (if you'll excuse the expression) of on-track etiquette, it becomes evident that Hugo is getting a little anxious. When the session ends, we head for the bikes.
Early signs of trouble sprout from The Triple as we hurriedly prep it for tech inspection. A discouraging stream of gas pours from beneath the fiberglass fuel cell. A burr from the frame had carved a hole in the tank causing the unsightly leak. A strictly temporary, on-the-spot repair is initiated and John (our first rider) is on his way. Rocketing by the pits on its first lap, the screaming, big-bore two-stroke is hastily on its way to catch up with the rest of the pack, already half a lap ahead.
As the main group blasts down the front straight John has, in one lap, caught up and passed a rider! Around they go again. Jubilantly, we witness John negotiating around two more riders, and working on the fourth. The Triple Threat is sucking them up! This time John is in mid-pack and about to blast past a whole string of bikes.
The Triple Threat is quite a force, brutally overpowering even larger, newer machines. Hugo and I are absolutely elated, giggling and cheering over our teammate's progress. Then trouble strikes. Our mood suddenly turns serious. We are soberly concerned. John slows al most to a stop, then limps the bike back into the pits.
The *&*@?@! thing's stuck in third! In the same breath, John lists some possibilities for correcting the problem. After a short, but intense trouble-shooting session, the problem is determined to be in the linkages buried deep behind the clutch cover. Luckily John (also the master mechanic of our group) brought a healthy assortment of tools and supplies. The prognosis is good.
In a fury of flying tools and scattered parts, The Threat is reduced al most to its skeletal frame. a team effort includes practically everyone in the pits, all joining forces to get The Threat back into fighting form. A fiberglass kit is located, and in minutes the previously ruptured fuel cell is permanently repaired. Meanwhile, Hugo is adjusting the rearsets for better action, and I'm tracking down some 20w50 motor oil for the transmission.
Finally, it's finished and we're ready to roll. Aside from a couple of very minor details The Threat is free from fault. And so it remains for the rest of the day. On the track, The Triple provides power from 4,000 rpm up, reaching a climactic boost around 6,500 to 8,000. Hitting the power-band on this 750 is like, being rear-ended by a bus! The power hits hard, often lofting the front end and intimidating the pilot. One second you're wrestling the tortuously stiff throttle spring trying to keep the bike from vibrating you off, and the next you're in hyperspace.
Despite all the work and high-tech hardware, handling characteristics are, to say the least interesting. This is undoubtedly the result of over-kill horsepower mated to a relatively elastic frame. One thing you must realize is that this chassis is just over sixteen years old. With this in mind, one can conclude that the bike handles and performs miraculously well under the circumstances. Be sides, once you get used to the bike's unique character, keeping up with the "fast bikes" is no problem.
Eventually, our day at the track comes to an end. The Triple Threat saga is just about concluded. As we leave Willow, we take with us a better machine than that which we brought The Threat is dialed-in, and we all have a good, solid understanding of the motorcycle - inside and out. What we leave behind is the popular assumption that "old" necessarily means outdated. Undoubtedly, The Triple also leaves something behind. It leaves behind fear deep in the hearts of some superbike owners that one day they'll glance back and see a big-bore, two-stroke closing in for the kill. And for some, that's a real threat.
Windscreen; It had been formed to order by connecting two GSXS molds so that one large bubble would result.
An impressive trick list to be sure, but after all if s just a list. The real question is what possesses a man to spend a year and a half creating such a machine? What could possibly justify all the expense and effort? When I first saw The Threat, like a bolt of lightening, I was struck by the novelty...the mechanical splendor...the sheer poetry of style and personal expression incarnated into a single vehicular form. Besides, it's fast! Real fast! The Toomey dynamometer measures its potent Brae mill at right around an almost supernatural 130 horsepower!
Figure in a wet weight of about four hundred pounds, and you've got a liter class performer in 750 form.
Hugo offers to fire it up and I was just dying to hear the sound of those three formula style pipes attached to that motor when Hugo swung his leg over The Threat and hurriedly flick-ed into view the only chrome part on the whole bike-the kick-starter; Still straddling the bike, Hugo anxiously worked the throttle and ripped on two unsuccessful kicks. Upon the completion of his second try. Hugo glanced up at me, chuckled and with childlike glee, sent the kick-starter sharply toward -the floor in one swift motion. In a fury of violent revolutions, the big triple burst to life. It sent sizable puffs of blue smoke from its exhaust pipes for a few seconds while emitting a sound that can only be described by comparison to three "uncorked" RZ 250s revving in unison. The ground buzzed from the unleashed mechanical ferocity: Suddenly, Hugo cut the motor and let The Triple Threat slip back into its dormant state.
He is anxious to hear my opinion of his handiwork, but I'm so overwhelmed by it all, that I can only blurt out "It's great!" "Great" doesn't even scratch the surface, but that's all the diction I can spare. Still standing in • the Moto-Sport showroom, Hugo and I are joined by two individuals seeking to make a purchase, but who are also about to fall victim to the green rapture.
Exotic project bikes are like people magnets. Done right they draw crowds wherever they go. Done wrong they repel onlookers as though the poles had been reversed. The Triple Threat is a shining example of a successful project bike. It performs, it's undeniably unique, and much more importantly, serves as an extension of Hugo's personality. And, when your mount does that for you, that's motorcycling at its best.