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Review of the 1968 Kawasaki A7 Avenger:
Kawasaki´s A7 Avenger Avenged
Author: Rodger Burkley, 2016-11-26|
In the mid to late 60s, I can unequivocally claim that Kawasaki´s 350cc A7 Avenger was the King...and the Terror...of the streets and roads in Tokyo. But it was often overshadowed by the W1/W2 650 twins and later completely eclipsed by the famous and infamous H1 Mach III Triples.
I happen to own a mint two-owner 68 A7. I also have an early mint 69 Mach III (#000685) as well as a 67 W2. At 42 HP or so, the A7 was, and still is, a very strong 2-stroke middleweight twin. Even for a two-stroke...which were always quicker and more powerful back then compared to four-strokes...and even with a 100cc or more disadvantage against bigger bikes it beat. Yes, A7s could run all day long with 450s and 650 4-strokes. (There were no 750s in Japan till the CB750 K0´s debut in 69 domestically.)|
VERY quick for it´s day, and memorable...for any displacement or class. Scary in fact. The factory A1 Samurai track racer A1R was Kawasaki´s first race bike...and set the stage for the A7. I´m telling you, A1s were fast and A7s were even faster.
I remember a fellow high schooler leather jacket biker nut´s blue 67 or 68 A7 that would fly by us school bound pedestrians walking to ASIJ campus in Tokyo from the local train station..in a blue streak and haze of blue smoke and fierce-some low growl of a loud two-stroke howl ´on the pipe´ going through gears. Scary indeed...considering how narrow and crowded those streets were. Impressive. Impressionable. (You had to be there though as he´d whip past my shoulder less than a foot or so away).
At the time (circa 68/69), the only other ´large bike´ choices in Japan were the CB450 Black Bomber, aforementioned W1/W2 650 Meguro/BSA derived four stroke twin...an occasional Rikyou wannabe Harley and the A7s Baby Brother A1 Samurai 250. And yes, the rare Bridgestone GTR 350 two-stroke twin (also rotary valved) and Suzuki´s X6 Hustler (T20) really were the only other two-strokes that gave the A7 any street grief. Got both of those too. Yamaha Big Bear 305 two-stroke twins were somewhat lethargic in comparison. The A7 ruled the day. (remember, this was in Tokyo and there weren´t a lot of Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons, BMWs or Italian bikes imported at the time).
Seriously folks, this was all BEFORE 69 when Honda´s groundbreaking CB750 four came out (that changed everything)...and Kawasaki´s own N100 project inspired H1 500cc Triple ... that was THE first superbike to come out from Japan right before the CB750 usurped it´s short reign 6 months later. I know....I was there in Tokyo. Quick acceleration trumped high max top speeds in the narrow, crowded and 80 kph national max speed limited streets and two-lane roads of Japan back then. It was all about how fast you could shred street light to street light sprints and dashes.
But back to the A7. Basically, an up-rated (cylinder displacement) 250cc A1 Samurai, the A7 Avenger had about ten more HPs when just a few more heavier pounds. One of Japan Inc´s first 100MPH + bike for a 350...beaten only by the finicky (and heavy) CB450. All in a small light frame, dual 18-inch wheel compact, small package built totally around that amazing engine...which was in turn built around the rotary valve induction system and trick Injecto lube system (both oil/gas and oil/channel lubrication).
Other than the engine, standard mid-60s Japanese bike fare. No disc brakes, trick frames or amenity comforts here. Just raw, unadulterated two-stroke rotary valve power with nice low-end torque (for a two-stroke), brisk/steady quick acceleration and a broad power band. All courtesy of those rotary valves. Result¿ Loud, Fast and Red (or Blue) Tokyo backstreet bomber and ´Hikari Express´ (Bullet train). Only Honda´s CB/CL77s sounded ´better´ or were more ubiquitous in Japan back then. (well...maybe Honda´s Super Cub too).
Initial 67 and 68 or so styling was staid and ´post war Japanese´ tidy. (I loved the tank chrome panels and rubber pads...along with that integrated speedo/tach) One color -- solid blue or solid red paint livery - with lots of chrome and bright work.
Later A7s in 69/70 got a facelift in styling and look/feel. Standard ´modern´ dual instruments...with some strobish graphics, paint and sheet work reminiscent of early 70s ´Put something exciting between your legs´ hipster mod ´Good Times´ Kawasaki young marketing appeal tailored for the American bike boom. Personally, I love the ´classic´ styling of the 67 or 68 A7 (or A1). Similar to the early W1s/W2s..and even the Suzuki T20 Hustler, Yami Big Bear, CB72/77s and/or CB450s. Banzai!
Those were heady days back then for us bike crazy kids living in Tokyo and watching in amazement as each year newer and better Japanese bikes got developed and consumed by eager riders. Glad to see, that the A7 legacy endures and - along with the A1 - and is finally getting its just recognition in the States and worldwide.
It´s a classic. Not just a two-stroke classic either. But a real classic among all vintage bikes of that era. It cemented Kawasaki´s reputation for building high performance, powerful (if not THE most powerful) powerplants - again, even before the pavement shredding H1 Mach III.
So I view it as a significant ´milestone´ vintage bike...that holds up power, performance and handling wise quite well even for today´s back road scratching, round town excursions and commuting. Only Bridgestone´s GTR 350cc was quicker...or at least was an equal in the A7s class (also a rotary valve twin). Stand-outs even today. And rare/rare...and ´different´.
Kids today still can´t get over the fact ´they actually made two cylinder two strokes(?) back then´...or how quick (and smallish) the A7 (and other mid to late 60s middleweight two-stoke twins) was and is. So the A7 is Avenged...as it finally gets some credit squeezed out till now by the Meguro legacy W1/W2 650 4-stroke twins and ´Buck Rogers´ H1 Mach III (and later IV) Tripe two-strokes.
Right on! Good A7s (and A1s) are rare beasts. Hard to find complete or under molested. Parts aren´t easy either. The A1 Samurai may be ´worth more´, but the A7 is the better, more powerful and tractable bike IMHO. Unique bikes...due to their rotary valve induction/carb set-up.
Fun and relatively simple to fix up and maintain though. So if you happen to be into vintage Japanese bikes, two-strokes, legendary performers and ´pure´ old school riding, consider an A7. May be funky at first, but it won´t disappoint you over a short timeframe. They grow on you... :-) A7 Avenged!
This review of the 1968 Kawasaki A7 Avenger was posted by a visitor on Bikez.com and does not necessarily reflect facts, truth or Bikez.com's opinions.
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