By Eric Peters
Recently divorced guys usually go out and get themselves a young girlfriend. I decided to do something different.
I brought Little Stinker into my office.
Little Stinker is my 1975 Kawasaki S1 250C. It is a type of bike that has not been made in decades for reasons of environmental incorrectness – it’s a two stroke and so burns oil on purpose, along with gas – and which was – at the time it was made – highly unusual because of the strange fact that it was only a 250 but had three cylinders.
It is the smallest displacement triple cylinder motorcycle ever mass-produced and has the power curve of a chainsaw. You have to slip the clutch and use your feet to “walk it out.” The plugs will foul quickly if you don’t keep the revs up.
Below 4,000 RPM not much happens except noise and smoke, both pulsing individually from each of the bike’s three pipes like a land-bound V1 Buzzbomb. At about 6,000 RPM, the bike’s powerband spikes all at once – and even though it is “only” a 250 – the front wheels will get air under them and your sphincter will clench if you’re not ready for it.
The 250 S1 is after all a downsized version of Kawasaki’s notorious H2 750, aka the Widowmaker. Same layout, but three times the displacement and that bike was a sick and evil death trap which hurt the unready and unable. Two-stroke triples were the Hemi ‘Cudas of their time. All engine, no warning – and not much in the way of brakes. It was easy to get in over your head before you even knew it was happening, by which time of course it was already too late.
The S1 was more manageable but only because it had a bit less engine. The brakes were hilariously hopeless mechanically activated drums on both wheels. The polished steel hubs and spoked wheels looked great, though.
And the sound.
Nothing ever made sounds like a Kaw triple. No one else ever dared to make a 250 cc two-stroke triple. Singles and doubles abound. But it’s not the same. A triple has its own odd-ball firing order – and ports instead of valves and thus twice the number of power pulses per cylinder vs. a four stroke (because that’s what two-stroke engines do) you have a bike engine that sounds like three chainsaws wailing away together.
Back off the throttle and the reverbs reverse, the engine spits and pops. Roll on the throttle and the pitch rises to a shrieking banshee fury that can be heard miles away. A Kaw triple fitted with chambered pipes is the only motorcycle than can effortless drown out the sound of a 707 on its take-off roll.
It smokes as much as a 707 on its take-off roll, too. Hence Little Stinker. Hence it and those like it (including the 707, with its four keening turbojets) having been outlawed by environmental fatwa. You don’t see any of them anymore, except maybe at shows – ghosts from another time.
My particular bike was raised from the dead – by me – over the course of about two years, prior to my divorce. When I acquired it, Little Stinker was not running and hadn’t been running since 1983.
It had slept in a barn the next 30, among a bunch of antique Hondas owned by a friend of mine who is queer for them and felt no particular affection for the solitary old Kaw that he had somehow acquired along the way.
Both wheels were locked – but the engine was not, which meant it could live again. The main thing with old two-strokes is that the engine isn’t seized up from lack of oil in the pre-mix or because the oil injector system stopped working – which you’d get no warning of via light or otherwise in time to save the thing. Instead, the engine would just melt into a single fused block of scrap aluminum.
But this S1’s engine could be turned over. It would live again.
He said fifty bucks.
Over the next several years, I went over everything. I had the bike disassembled on the floor of my garage like Richard Leaky’s Lucy, each part meticulously ID’d and documented prior to a just-as-meticulous restoration to as-new. Including, of course, the correct Halibut Blue factory paint job and decals. Completed, it was mechanical porn, sure to get a rise out of any man still in possession of a pulse.
Obviously it deserved a place indoors. Inside the house.
This was not possible when married. Most women do not appreciate a motorcycle in the house any more than they appreciate another woman in the bed. Particularly, a fully operational motorcycle – with a full tank of gas and a full tank of two-stroke oil, too.
Including the front door.
The pursuit of young girlfriends has its pleasures, I suppose. But they are not as gratifying as figuring out a way to get a restored Kawasaki triple up three flights of steep stairs, in one piece, without toppling it over and scuffing the chrome.
And having managed that, the pleasure of seeing it just feet away from your work station, key in the switch, happy in the knowledge that at any moment you please, you could get up, walk over there, kick the beast to life and banzai! it right out the front door.
Divorce isn’t for everyone – but it does have its perks.
Eric Peters is the automotive columnist for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Visit his website for all things automotive AND motorcycling at ericpetersautos.com.
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