Mr. Big Stuff: 1973 Kawasaki 350 Bighorn

It’s not that I didn’t believe KB-Zed’s postulate (with endorsements from E-i-C Vince and Co-Founder CFlo) that the SF Bay Area Craigslist has the best listings, but still I have to do my President Reagan “Trust but verify”. So when it came time to find a bike for this weeks edition of Two Stroke Tuesday, I thought I’d test the theory and use the Bay Area CL instead of my local CL, and damn, if KBZ wasn’t right.  Find this 1973 Kawasaki 350 Bighorn for sale in Woodside, CA for $3,500 via craigslist.

The Bighorn was Kawasaki’s answer to the big displacement enduro Yamaha RT-360.  Displacing 350cc’s, it was powered by a rotary valve two-stroke good for 28 hp, featuring oil injection (no premix) and had an early form of a capacitive discharge ignition.  It was also equipped with adjustable Hatta forks to suit different riding off-road situations, but in reality it turned out to be a horrible off-roader and the Bighorn became known as the “Pighorn”.

The one thing the Pighorn Bighorn had going for it was its engine.  The large displacement and rotary valve vs. reed value two stroke is said to be faster than a four stroke bike of twice the displacement. The Bighorn may have been a mediocre dual sport in its day, but now is a popular platform for creating a vintage production road racer or “street fighter” bikes.  Klemm Vintage in Fort Mohave, Arizona will take your Bighorn and rebuild it into a 120+ mph WERA 500 GP Vintage class road racer.

This Bighorn is a 3,100 mile survivor that I think shouldn’t be chopped up into some sort of Franken-Bike vintage racer.  However if it was mine, I would have a two stroke specialist like Klemm address the known weak spots of the Bighorn like replacing its heavy piston and addressing it reputation for detonation with a redesigned head so it would be good for another 40 years.  Otherwise I’d leave it stock looking on the outside and enjoy screaming around my neighborhood in a cloud of blue smoke.

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Gianni is Daily Turismo’s Pacific Northwest correspondent.  He spent many an hour in his youth in the 1970’s staring at a Kawasaki Bighorn brochure from the local Kawasaki Dealer.