UPDATE (January 26, 2011): Kawasaki releases photos of new W800 Café Racer Special Edition! See below for pics...
November 13, 2010 - Kawasaki has a surprise release in store for 2011, the W800, which I guess could be called a revival of a revived retro...or something like that.
The W800 can trace its ancestry to the Kawasaki W650, a retro twin produced in the early 2000's, if memory serves me correctly.
At the time, Kawasaki claimed the W650 was an homage to the company's own W-series twins from the late 1960's, a motorcycle which I can say I distinctly remember because one of the older teenagers in the neighborhood owned one.
But the modern W650 was more of a nod to the ever-popular 1960's Triumph Bonneville and/or other vintage British twins. In fact, it looked more like a Bonneville than the new Bonnie that the Hinckley Triumph factory released in 2001.
The W650 wasn't all that popular at the time but is now somewhat of a collector's item, so it's a bit surprising -- at least to me -- that Kawasaki would recreate it (to a certain extent anyway) with the new W800.
I'm a big fan of Kawasaki -- my favorite Japanese motorcycle manufacturer -- for a number of reasons. They always seemed like the underdog to me, but the company seems to have a passion for the sport that contrasts with what I see as a more businesslike approach of the other brands of Japanese bikes, at least when it comes to filling the showroom.
Having seen the original Kawasaki Mach III on a showroom floor in 1968 rather cemented my fondness for Kawasaki also. It's strange then that I never owned a Kawi, but when I found a tiny photo of the prototype W800 in a British motorcycle magazine a few months ago, I thought my time had come.
January 26, 2011 - Kawasaki released photos of a customized café racer version of the W800 for the Japanese domestic market. It is unknown at this point whether the W800 Café Racer and/or the accessory parts will be available in other markets, but let's hope so!
Here are the photos of the W800 Café Racer in three colorways:
So I eventually pushed my way to the Kawasaki display last week at the EICMA show to find what I'd guess was a 5,000 sq. ft. cavern with black walls and the worst lighting that could be imagined for displaying motorcycles. It was like being inside a motorcycle dealer at night during a blackout, with only a few candles on the wall to enlighten the scene.
Thus, my photos of the W800 aren't very good and needed some serious Photoshop work to make them viewable, but I hope you get the idea.
To be honest, I was a bit dismayed at the W800; it has been tarted up quite a bit with what I think is way too much chrome, even on the otherwise nicely molded Kawasaki logo on the fuel tank. Perhaps the chrome was the only thing flashing in the dim spotlighting, thus making the bike look like it ran headlong into the Kawasaki accessory catalog, but apparently some of the bits, like the chromed cam covers and the tank badging, come standard on the bike.
The front tire also looks just like those old Dunlops of the past -- was it the famous K81 I think? That was back when motorcycle tires came in any size and shape you wanted, as long as what you wanted was black, round and 3.25" across.
As I found in the Honda booth and several others, there was no one on hand to answer technical questions. The manufacturers seemed more interested in the "show" than the "go", staffing their booths and information tables with locally hired models who knew less than I did about the products.
No brochures, no information, no press kits. Makes me wonder why they'd spend what must have been a few hundred thousand dollars to come to EICMA and have no information to share. Here's the Kawasaki W800 information page from their European website however, along with a downloadable .pdf spec sheet.
Anyway, here are the photos -- hopefully we can get a W800 for a review in 2011!
Kawasaki W800 Specifications (in Italian):
Here are a couple of rescued photos of the new Kawasaki Z750R: