Tony Nicosia and the Kawasaki H1 "Widowmaker"


Tony Nicosia is a legend, much like the motorcycle he helped develop. The Kawasaki H1 Mach III, AKA "The Widowmaker". With a racing history going back to 1952, Tony's been racing longer than many of us have been alive and believe it or not, he's still at it, having recently purchased the H1 Drag-Bike you see above.

Tony began his racing career in the local sand drags on a Puch 175 Allstate purchased from his local Sears and Roebuck. Joining the Air Force three years later, he was deployed to Japan where he almost immediately snuck off base and placed a down payment on an Abe Star 175cc motorcycle that's design closely resembled that of a Norton Commando but of lesser displacement.

Unsatisfied with the performance of the Abe Star he upgraded to a Hosk, a bike that's design was based off of the Horex 500, and offered performance on par with the state of the art British twins and singles of the day.

Shortly after purchasing the Hosk, Tony took it to the Hosk factory to see if they would help him soup it up. After some convincing Hosk agreed to help him and Tony went on to win the Sportsmans class in his first race on it. That win would lead to Hosk signing Tony as a factory rider, making Hosk his first factory sponsor.

With his deployment soon coming to an end, Tony was looking for something more powerful than what Hosk could provide. He decided to re-enlist for six more years in order to get the re-enlistment bonus money to get himself a genuine Horex. Horex at the time claimed a top speed of 115 mph and promised to buy the bike back if it didn't perform as advertised. That Horex allowed Tony to truly launch his drag racing career.

While still in Japan, Tony took first place or was in the top five from 1957 to 1964 in everything from scrambles,  to flat track, to road races, earning himself the nickname “Tony-San” in the Japanese motorcycle racing scene.

Once his stint with the Air Force was done, Tony moved to Florida and opened a motorcycle shop but that was short lived and he quickly moved cross country to California to be closer the vibrant California racing scene. Once there, he took a position as a service rep for Suzuki and started road racing. From 1966 to 1968 he held the #1 plate in both ACA and AFM 50cc class road racing.

The birth of the H1

In 1968 Darrel Krause, National Sales Manager for Kawasaki, was able to recruit Tony to help in the development of a top-secret project code named N100, later to be know as The H1 500 Mach III. Built using a one of a kind, triple cylinder, 2-stroke, sand cast engine, Tony tested the H1 on the back roads of California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada.

Even before its release, Kawasaki started using Tony's drag racing credentials to advertise the H1. One ad showed Tony sitting on a preproduction unit with “CHAMPION DRAGSTER TONY NICOSA” emblazoned across the top. Other ads referenced Tony's history of setting records at drag strips across the US as well as his records at Bonneville.

At the time of its official release and to much disbelief, the H1 was already being promoted as the worlds fastest production motorcycle. To prove their claim, Kawasaki had a 0 mile, early production model H1 delivered to Lyon's Drag Strip in California where it was assembled, gassed up and given to Tony where he immediately ran a 13.10 pass at 99.66 mph. Unsatisfied, Tony then took the H1 on a 12.96, 100.70 mph quarter mile pass making the H1 the first production bike to break into the 12s.

The motorcycle racing scene and journalists were stunned, and the news of the H1's and Tony's new record spread quickly, cementing them both in motorcycling and drag racing history.

If you would like to see the 1974 Kawasaki H1 Mach III we restored, click here

Here's Tony's H1 drag bike making a slow launch in front of the AMW shop. 

 

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