The ex-works prototype, Kurt Nicoll 1983 Kawasaki KX500 Moto-Crosser Frame no. 012
Kawasaki's legendary KX500 moto-crosser was first introduced, in air-cooled form, in 1983. Water-cooling arrived in 1985 and the KX500 became the fastest machine in its class, an honour it would contest for several years with Honda's even more aggressive CR500. The Honda challenge eventually faded, as did that of KTM, leaving the big Kwacker as the only 500cc two-stroke moto-crosser in production by the Century's end. When manufacture finally ceased at the end of 2004, this exceptional competition motorcycle had been in production for more than 20 years. But in all that time a KX500 never won a World Championship, although GB's Kurt Nicoll managed a 2nd place in 1988 and won the British Championship that same year. In the USA the KX500 won several AMA National Moto-Cross Championships but it was as a desert racer that the big Kawasaki really excelled, dominating a sport where its combination of unmatched power and amazing high-speed stability made it all but unbeatable.
Dating from 1983, this KX500 is a very rare factory prototype and unlike the contemporary customer version has a water-cooled engine, making it Kawasaki's first 500cc moto-crosser with this feature. Boasting magnesium crankcases and a works-only piston, it shares few features with the air-cooled model. Only four of these works 500s were built for the 1983 season, two going to the USA and two to Europe for 'Team Green' factory riders Dave Watson and Kurt Nicoll. They were true 'tool-room specials', incorporating lightweight materials and a host of hand-fabricated parts not found on the production versions that followed in 1985. Noteworthy features include works Kayaba suspension front/rear, and special frame, swingarm, Uni-Track links, radiators, air box, exhaust system, bodywork, etc. The current owner purchased the ex-Nicoll KX500 from an Italian motorcycle dealer in November 2011. That same year the machine featured in VMX magazine (issue 48, copy available) together with Kurt's 1987 and 1989 works Kawasakis.