Summer of ’69: Fast Bikes & Ray Bans

Merrill Vanderslice and his 500 Kawi …

Merrill and old
Ex-Team Roberts mechanic Merrill Vanderslice with his 1969 Kawasaki 500–in 1969. He was able to find his old bike, buy it and restore it. TITO VANDERSLICE

If there is one motorcycle that achieved legendary status the summer it debuted it has to be the 1969 Kawasaki H1 500. Its details and accomplishments are well known: a raging 500cc three cylinder engine slipped into possibly the most woefully inadequate chassis in motorcycle history. The result was a bike that was cheap, fun and very very fast.

Ex-Team Roberts mechanic and former AMA Racing department manager Merrill Vanderslice owned a 1969 500 as his first streetbike in 1969. Vanderslice has the typical period memories of people who owned that bike: basically being near ecstasy-level thrilled (when you were not so terrified because you were possibly going to die). Time marched on and Merrill sold the 500 and lost track of it.

Vanderslice has owned a great many cool bikes since 1969, including a beautiful TZ750, and a very trick RZ500 that he used as a streetbike when he worked at the AMA. But he always wondered what had happened to his old ’69 500.

About five years ago Merrill was able to track down his 1969 Kawasaki 500 and he was also able to buy it, or what was left of the machine he last saw roughly forty years ago. He rolled it into his garage and performed a full-on, ground-up restoration of the bike.

He was able to finish that project a few months ago and now proudly rides his first street bike around the neighborhood.

Note: Merrill is now retired and on to other projects. Old friends who want to reach him can do so via email.

Nearly 50 years later, Vanderslice stands with his old street steed. Fast bikes and Ray Bans ...
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