The History of the Kawasaki W650

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 Since Turner first designed the 499cc Speed Twin for Triumph Motorcycles in 1937, the vertical twin has been a big hit with motorcyclists all over the world. The brilliance lay in its compact design and its better than average performance. The Japanese manufacturers were very quick to realise this popular concept, and they have all, at one time or another produced bikes which lean very heavily towards the 'British' look. This is the pictorial history of one of them.....................  
 In 1954, a company called Meguro built a 500cc OHV twin, called the Senior. It featured a fully-enclosed rear chain, high-rise style handlebars, a two-level seat, telescopic forks and a full width front hub. It sold well, particularly to the police in Japan. By 1959, it had become known as the K1, and was a definite copy of BSA's A7.

  Another version of the Meguro

 However, Meguro ran into financial difficulties, and in 1960 they became affiliated to Kawasaki Aircraft. Kawasaki had begun motorcycle production in 1949, marketing the bikes under the brand name of Meihatsu. In 1962, the first motorcycles to carry the Kawasaki name began to appear.

In March 1965, the K2 appeared under the Kawasaki name, and in October it was joined by the W1, which was an enlarged 624cc OHV version.

Hugh Jaegar has kindly supplied the opposite information, in correction of some of the above.

The Meguro "Senior" was a 1950's 650cc parallel twin and was not copied from any particular British make. It was launched as the T (known retrospectively as the T1) and later updated as the T2. The heavyweight frame swinging-arm is Meguro's own design and is the same as they used on their single-cylinder 500cc model Z7. Your fuzzy colour photo captioned "Another version of the Meguro" is a T1 or T2.

Meguro's copy of the BSA A7 came later. Around 1960 Meguro replaced its pushrod singles with new overhead cam models and the 650cc T2 twin with a copy of the 500cc BSA A7 called the model K. BSA was about to discontinue the A7 and some sources claim that BSA licenced Meguro to copy it. Your black and white profile photo below the Triumph Speed Twin and above the Meguro T is not a Senior but a 500cc K, retrospectively known as a K1.

The OHC singles were a commercial failure so Meguro replaced them with a 250cc unit-construction single called the SG and sold a stake in the company to Kawasaki. Kawasaki took over Meguro about 1964 and the SG became a Kawasaki. The Meguro K had some oil-circulation problems so it was revised as the Kawasaki K2. the K2 has a larger timing cover and instead of the K's BSA-copy cycle parts it has Japanese-style ones. 

 The W1 came in a choice of 3 colours, and quickly became the top selling large capacity model in Japan. It was, however, a disaster in the States. To attempt to appeal to the American public, a number of variations were produced - such as the W2S, introduced in 1967, as a street scrambler with slightly raised compression, and twin carburettors
There was also the similar W1SS in the same year. 
 This is a W1SS in street scrambler trim 
1968 saw the W1S, an improved version of the W1, the W2P police model, markW2SS and was named the eted in Australia, and the W1SP. The W2TT touring version appeared later that year, with a high-level single silencer. This was basically the Commander. At the end of 1968, the W1 was dropped, and the W2TT was dropped in 1969. The W2SS lasted until 1970, and the W1SS ran into 1971, but sales tailed off considerably.  
The W2TT  
Another W2TT  
  Far from being forgotten though, in 1972 the W3 appeared, sold on the Japanese market as the 650-RS. This kept going until 1975, by which time it was showing its age badly.
When Kawasaki introduced the Zephyr range of 4cylinder 'retro' bikes, it quickly took off, and the company realised there was once again a market for bikes with a more basic appeal. This lead ultimately to the launch of the W650 as we know it.


The old and the new, courtesy of Timo Hermanson in Finland 

some of the colour schemes used over the years........................