No. 191 - SEPTEMBER 2003
Classic Ride - Kawasaki Kr250
A priceless Gem
It may not have been a faithful copy of Kawasaki's world beating tandem two stroke twins, but the rare KR250 delivers all the attributes of a grand prix bike that ruled for four years. Has it converted Bob Berry to small two strokes?
SOUTH African Kork Ballington was world 250cc and 350cc champion on Kawasaki's two stroke 'tandem' twins in 1978 and 1979. After him came Anton Mang who added two further double titles on the all-conquering disc-valve green twins in 1980 and '81.
However, it was England's Mick Grant who gave Kawasaki their first ever grand prix victory at Assen in 1977.
A 'race replica' for the roads was an obvious development but the KR250 production bike was not a true replication of the grand prix racer. It may have looked similar and shared the same engine configuration but, unlike Suzuki's RG500 say, the bike shared no common components with the racer.
Two AR125 watercooled, reed/disc induction engines were united, one behind the other in tandem fashion (said to improve aerodynamics due to its slimness), and bolted into an aluminium chassis - the first Kawasaki road bike to have one.
The KR250 was launched in Japan in 1983 but Kawasaki UK decided not to include it in their model line-up. Thinking there might be a small niche market for the high-tech two stroke, dealers Huddersfield Kawasaki imported a batch of 18 to sell independently. (The first grey imports?)
Trouble was, the price. At £2800 the little KR sat alongside a new GPz600 which cost the same! A year later Kawasaki fitted the bike with their KVSS powervalve system but it's not clear if any of these, the KR250S, made it to the UK.
Little surprise, then, that so few were sold. However, as is the way with such rare machines, a good proportion remain in good hands and one of them is the bike tested here and owned by VJMC stalwart Dougie Perkins of Wellingborough, Northants.
Doug, 50, is the club's Kawasaki triples guru and sold his beloved 1973 350 to a museum in 1991 to fund the purchase of this KR250, with only 58 kilometres on the clock, from Z-Power's Dave Marsden who then worked at Huddersfield Kawasaki and had bought this bike, the last KR of that batch of 18. The price, £2000.
Today the clock shows 7164k, around 4500 miles. What price for it now, I wonder? And it still looks as good as new. All original and totally unrestored.
So of the 18 that were brought in from Japan in 1984, how many have survived? Interestingly, Doug originally reckoned there were probably more around now than when he bought his bike but a call to Dave Marsden put him straight.
"He reckons I'm the only one with a KR250 in this country," he said. "Mind you, my business partner Steve Brookes, has a power valve version in red and black so that makes two." Steve actually bought all of the remaining spares from Huddersfield Kawasaki in 1992 but they're not for sale.
"There's no way we're going to part with anything," said Doug. "We need it all to keep our two going." Manuals are no longer available (Doug has one, of course) but he and Steve have parts lists which are only available to VJMC members and obtained through the club magazine.
Source: Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Magazine