THE KAWASAKI CENTURION 100
WHEN ONLY DUST AND AIR REMAIN
By Matt Cuddy
Kawasaki, continuing its formula of outrageously fast off-road motorcycles, in 1970 came out with the G31M 100cc Centurion.
The frame employed the usual Kawasaki design of the period, that being horribly under-designed and spindly. Look at the above picture; the swing-arm was made from coat hanger wire obviously, but it does have a nice big cushy seat, along with rubber foot pegs that won’t scratch up your penny loafers, so I guess it had some good features going for it, along with the motor. A 100cc mill that put some 250’s to shame.
The little green bike put out an unheard of 18.5 horse power at 10,500 rpm, and with its open foot long stinger, and whooshing steel rotary valve, made quick work the competition, as no other 100cc racer put out so much horsepower. The bike had zero low end, the midrange non-existant, and naturally it made all its power on top, that just kept going until the power band signed off at around 12,000 revs. It was after all, only one hundred cee cees. Kawasaki had the rotary valve design down, as the little bike pulled like a strong 125 MX bike on nitro.
The Centurion was first billed as a short track bike, like its bigger brother, the Green Streak, and made its way into motocross competition with far better results than its larger sibling. Problems that plagued the 238cc Green Streak didn’t manifest themselves in the Centurion, as the extreme light weight put less strain on things like wheels, hubs and the frame.
The bike even caught the eye of Steve McQueen, who used the Centurion for back-lot duties, and impromptu drag races with security guard golf carts. Of course McQueen painted it to look like a mini-Husqvarna which confused fans to no end, most likely. It sold at auction for $55,575.00 in 1997.
Funny thing is though, a total of only 4490 Centurions were produced in 1970-71, and that was it for the production of the mean little greenie. Was this some freak bike that Kawasaki dropped on the public, only to pull it off the market in two short years? I remember the distinctive noise the bike made with the open stinger, and steel rotary valve, as nothing else sounded like it. Many a 125-250 rider was embarrassed when a little 100cc green bike roosted them through a corner, and disappeared down the straight.
Outrageous it was. Why can’t they make stuff like this anymore? I’d buy one, hell, I’d by three of ‘em. Sad when things seem to de-evolve and all we’re left with are expensive, heavy four strokes that can’t get out of their own way, especially in the tiddler class. Sigh.