Back in 1980, a friend’s big brother purchased a brand new Kawasaki Invader LTD 440. He kept this machine in a heated, well-lit shop and it was always shined to perfection. We were in complete awe of this sled. We looked up to this guy like he was dating Cheryl Tiegs. To us, the Invader LTD was possibly the most attractive machine ever built.
Kawasaki Snowmobile History
Back in 1973, Kawasaki’s US subsidiary endeavored to put a line of snowmobiles on the market by 1977. Kawasaki had been providing engines for some Arctic Cat models from 1970 through 1976. They were anxious to get into the fray with their own machines.
To speed up this effort, Kawasaki purchased the troubled Sno-Jet brand in 1976. As a result, they had an instant dealer network and a turn-key product line.
The 1977 models were branded as “Sno-Jet Kawasaki”. These first models were little more than refined 1976 Sno-Jet models. Interestingly, Yamaha engines still powered the 1977 high-performance SST models.
It’s noteworthy that Arctic Cat manufactured Kawasaki’s “family” and entry-level snowmobiles for four model-years. The high-performance models were made at Kawasaki’s Lincoln, Nebraska factory.
For 1978, Kawasaki dropped the Sno-Jet name. Furthermore, they started to make their mark with the release of the aggressive Invader and Intruder models. The futuristic body lines and serious performance certainly made it clear that Kawasaki’s effort was no joke.
Through the 1982 season, Kawasaki made the high-performance arms-race interesting. The formidable Invader and Interceptor models certainly kept the competition on their toes.
But on the eve of the 1983 season model release, the brass at the Japanese headquarters inspected the debt numbers of their North American snowmobile division. They recoiled in horror and consequently pulled the plug on Kawasaki snowmobiles.
Certainly Kawasaki got into the snowmobile manufacturing game at precisely the wrong time. This was due to the late 1970’s and early 80’s being an economic bloodbath for the industry.
But considering that Kawasaki supplied of engines for the likes of Cat and John Deere. Then manufactured their own line of snowmobiles for a brief, but exciting time. Kawasaki certainly left a significant mark on the snowmobile industry.
Specifications For The 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD 440
- Engine: Kawasaki TC440C, liquid-cooled, two-stroke, twin-cylinder, two spark plugs per cylinder
- Displacement: 436cc
- Bore X Stroke 68mm X 60mm
- Carburetor: twin 36mm Mikuni VM36
- Ignition: CDI
- Horsepower: 78
- Top speed: 95-plus mph
- Fuel Capacity: 8 US gallons
- Injector Oil Capacity: 2.5 US quarts
- Weight (dry): 440 lbs.
- Overall Length: 103″
- Width: 40.5″
- Overall Height: 35.5″ (with windshield)
- Ski Stance: 31″
- Suspension Type: Adjustable slide rail
- Ski Suspension Type: Monoleaf with shocks
- Track Length: 121″
- Track Width: 15″
- Brake Type: Caliper disc
- Instrumentation: Speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauges
- Headlight: Pop-up quartz
- Price: $3499 US (approx. $10,950 in today’s dollars)
Remember this Kawasaki Invader commercial from the late 70s?
Here is a Kawasaki snowmobile promotional video for the 1980 season.