Learning to Fly: 1965 Kawasaki B8

The first motorcycle to wear Kawasaki badges, the 125cc 2-stroke Kawasaki B8 was launched in 1962.

| November/December 2014

1965 Kawasaki B8
Claimed power: 11hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 62mph (est.)
Engine: 125cc air-cooled 2-stroke single, 54mm x 54mm bore and stroke, 6.3:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 256lb (116.4kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2.6gal (9.8ltr)/60-80mpg (est.)
Price then/now: $390 (1965 dealer cost)/$750-$10,000 (2013 eBay sale)

Kawasaki had something of an inauspicious start in North America. Well, at least it did in Mobridge, South Dakota. In 1965, Haux Kawasaki of Mobridge ordered two brand new 125cc 2-stroke B8s. Those B8s sat in the Haux showroom until 1969. They were never sold. Instead, the owner filled them both with fluids, and he and his brother rode them.

“The dealership didn’t have a very good start,” says Kawasaki enthusiast Jeff Guthmiller, but things did get better. “Haux went on to sell lots of Kawasakis in the early 1970s,” Jeff adds. Jeff is the owner of the immaculate 1965 Kawasaki B8 seen here, but as far as we know, it’s not one of the Haux B8s. There is, of course, a story as to how it — and Jeff — got here.

Laying the foundation

In 1970, Jeff was 13 years old. Born and raised in Mobridge, Jeff’s neighbor was Kawasaki dealer Jay Haux. Jeff was a shop rat. He’d go and hang out at the shop, and occasionally help assemble a new Kawasaki. But it was unpaid work, and Jeff couldn’t afford to buy a new machine. That is, until he turned 14 and got a job at a local carnival. He made $250 in just a couple of weeks, and he went straight to Haux and bought a used Kawasaki 90 Bushmaster. Jeff was the king of the world. When he turned 16, Jeff sold the Bushmaster and bought a 1973 Kawasaki H2A 750cc triple from a friend for $300. He rode it for a year or two, and then sold it and didn’t get another motorcycle until 1999 when a Harley-Davidson entered his universe.

“A couple of years ago I got an urge to get an old 750 triple like I used to have,” Jeff says. Jeff’s a heavy equipment operator, and he learned that one of his co-workers had cousins who operated a Kawasaki shop. Jeff asked if there were any old Kawasakis on the family farm. They didn’t have a 750 triple, but he discovered a 1975 400 triple and another old machine that everyone thought was a Honda. “We got over there and loaded the 400, and then went to dig out the Honda,” Jeff explains. “It was buried in the back corner of a barn, where it was dark and damp, and plywood had been leaning against it.”

Except it wasn’t a Honda. The machine Jeff found in the barn had Kawasaki Aircraft badges on the gas tank, and it turned out to be a 1965 B8. While the 400 had been free, Jeff had to offer up some cash for the older, and much more rare, B8. While the B8 wasn’t in pristine condition, Jeff initially thought he’d change the tires, clean the tank and carb, add fuel and see if it would run. In the meantime, after some cursory research, he learned the B8 was an important motorcycle.

12/18/2014 4:31:08 AM

Love it.

Mark Matthews
11/29/2014 12:53:19 PM

Seems like a waste of time restoring the bike to running condition and not riding it. Just sayin...

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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