In the early 1980s, exotic, one-off factory bikes ruled the motocross world. And few of them were more successful than Jeff Ward’s 1985 KX250 machines.
In fact, in one frenzied eight-day period, Jeff Ward rode works KX250s to clinch not one, but two national championships. And to do that, he had to beat some of the best in the business—of any era.
Ward’s hot streak started one Saturday in August, when he rode his KX250 to victory in the final round of the AMA Supercross Championship in Pasadena to take the title over five-time motocross Champ Broc Glover by 2 points. He also left in his dust riders like Rick Johnson and David Bailey, who would end their careers with a combined 11 motocross and Supercross titles.
Then, the following Sunday, he was back on a green machine at the Washougal, Washington, round of the AMA 250 Motocross Championship. There, he took second place to clinch the title over two-time MX and SX Champ Johnny O’Mara.
Less than a month later, Ward took one of his KX250s to the world stage, joining Ron Lechien and David Bailey on the U.S. Motocross des Nations team. Ward swept the 250 class to help the Americans win the prestigious international event.
But the era of works motocross bikes was coming to a close at the end of that watershed ’85 season. Production-based machines were the way of the future, and by ’86, modifications were strictly controlled—under rules that continue to this day.
That makes this bike, owned by Kawasaki Motors Corporation and on loan to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters, a rarity. It’s one of four Kawasakis ridden by Ward that year—and one of the last works factory machines.
For that era, Ward’s bikes certainly were trick. Each had a hand-made frame with tighter tolerances, works suspension, magnesium hubs, an aluminum tank, a rear disc brake and a sand-cast cylinder head.
Some works innovations did trickle down, of course. You didn’t get ultra-light magnesium hubs on a showroom 1985 KX250, for example, but you did get the Kawasaki Integrated Power-Valve System, the Fresh Air Intake System and a four-way adjustable shock—real-world examples of how racing improves the breed.