What’s going on this year? Just when you think that snowmobile manufacturers have reached the ultimate in ride, handling and performance, along comes a year like 1980 and a sled like the Kawasaki Invader LTD. And Kawasaki isn’t alone, either. Every manufacturer is reaching past the current state of the art into the future.
This 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD is typical of the new “new breed” of snowmobile. It has the fine ride of a plush luxury sled, combines it with overall handling agility, and tops it with power that lies just short of total turbocharging. It, like many of its rivals, has taken the art of snowmobile manufacturing one step beyond the expected. Sleds like the LTD assure that 1980 will be the benchmark for the future.
First of all, ever since the first Invader was introduced at SNOW GOER’s spring shoot-out a few years ago, we’ve come to expect performance. The 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD is no disappointment. It was consistently one of the fastest machines. And like some of the other hot machines at this year’s test session, we hesitate to say unequivocally which sled will be fastest, but know that the LTD will be one of the season’s top performers. If you’ve got a quick trigger for throttle thumb, it won’t be the LTD that lets you down in those drags across the lake.
And it won’t be the LTD that lets you bottom out either. This Kawasaki suspension is all new, not just an update of the previous coil-over- shock bell crank system. The 1 980 “Van-Ride” suspension works on a torsion spring/cam principle. The effectiveness of the long travel Kawasaki suspension has been increased at the end of the system’s travel. Technically speaking, Kawasaki’s engineers have gone away from the linear rate, meaning that five inches of LTD suspension travel may be more effective than six-plus inches of travel from linear based suspension systems. The 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD suspension offers a variable rate in the ride which translates into a soft, comfortable ride under normal conditions, but due to the progression design of the unit, it decreases the level of acceleration to which the driver will be exposed under heavy impact.
So, instead of bottoming out at ‘x” inches of travel, the suspension actually gets more difficult to deflect in the last inches of travel. It doesn’t reach the limit of travel and give you a jolt, but tends to deflect the jolt before reaching the end of its suspension travel.
Kawasaki engineers took this route in suspension design for two major reasons. The first is that it gives a better ride than a straight linear design. Plus, the limit of linear travel can be set lower, meaning that the tunnel design doesn’t need to be deeper, but actual effective travel is equal or better than many competing suspension designs as far as overall comfort and ride under varied trail conditions. Avoiding a deeper tunnel alleviates other problems, like increasing the center of gravity which translates directly into a loss of roll stability, engineering-ese for poor handling.
The handling on the SNOW GOER-tested LTD was another of its high points. SNOW GOER’s test riders, for better or worse, like to hotdog with performance machines and tend to find handling faults almost immediately. The only complaint that arose with the Kawasaki LTD was a “heavy” feeling in steering effort. Understandably enough, since all the liquid-cooled plumbing, etc. is located over the skis. While it makes the sled feel subjectively heavy at low speeds, it is an asset when pushing the throttle down to the retro-rocket stages on the trail. The skis bite into the turns very well and if snow conditions get slushy, you’ve got plenty of instant, near-turbo thrust to kick the tail around and drift through the sharpest turns.
It’s that turbo-like thrust that impressed most of the SNOW GOER staffers. Said test rider Steve Ingram, a veteran snowmobiler and once upon a time snowmobile racer, “Now I know how Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck feels when he kicks in the turbos on his Viper.”
When Kawasaki decided to go for it with the LTD the company’s engineering staff didn’t hold back. Under the wedge-shaped nose lies a newly developed 436cc liquid- cooled twin with more goodies to offer than the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Great Pumpkin combined.
For the performance enthusiast there are: twin Mikuni VM 36 power jet carbs; dual exhausts, power mated to the engine; dual spark plugs per cylinder to make the CD ignition punch the air/fuel mix for better overall performance; and, a four-into-six transfer port design that promotes more efficient scavenging.
For the sophisticated snowmobiler who wants the latest in technology there are: horizontally mounted radiator which combines with an oversized heat exchanger for increased cooling of the more potent performance engine; torsio-Iastic engine mounting design; oil-injection; and, one of the classiest looking under cowl appearances to hit the snowmobile industry.
Looking at some of these features makes you realize the design time and effort that went into this sled. And it also makes you realize why this machine is available in limited (hence, the LTD nameplate) quantities only.
For example, the three point engine mounting is located above or around the centerline of the engine crank. While that’s nice to know from an engineering standpoint, what it means to you and us is that the location reduces the center of gravity, affords better vibration isolation, and also means improved clutching and belt life over flat or mounting plate designs.
While this system aids clutch life, Kawasaki engineers also reworked the clutch itself to further improve performance and longevity. There are large bearing contact areas which make the clutch work easier. The clutch ramps are concave instead of straight or convex at the roller contact point. This reduces peak stress, improves efficiency and extends overall clutch life. All clutch sheave surfaces are machined rather than cast, giving more predictable performance clutching as well as eliminating any diecast imperfections.
And all this underhood assortment of performance features is painted black for a very first rate, clean, finished look.
Getting the power to the track is accomplished through all this Kawasaki wizardry, but not stopped there. The new 15-inch wide involute drive track is one of the most durable tracks in the business.
Continuing on the underside of the 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD is a new reinforced ski of high strength, special alloy steel which permits light weight while insuring durability. This new design features a higher arc and long travel leaf spring. Hydraulic shock absorber and special carbide wear bars give better steering and counteract ski flutter on rough surfaces. The steering geometry has also been reworked.
But, handling isn’t the only method of giving yourself a good ride. As already mentioned, the suspension is completely redesigned, and completing the ride package is a multi-foam seat. This “king-queen” type seat has hi-tack vinyl covering. The seating arrangement, with its elevated passenger position, is an Invader tradition, having been part of the original Invader package at its inception.
Styling-wise, the 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD is very similar in design to its Invader siblings. That’s in overall shape, though. The LTD coloration breaks away from the Kawasaki blue and heads into green. The glacier green LTD is impressively rich looking. Stylists have accented this tonal paint with silver black accents and just the right amount of gold pin- striping.
Further detail orientation in the LTD becomes obvious when you sit behind the handlebars. The instrument panel places the instruments in an excellent sightline good for day or night travel. As befits this technological flagship of the Kawasaki line such things as speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauge, fuel and oil gauges are standard.
About the only option left would be electric start. And that’s available. It just overwhelmed us to think that a sled with the LTD’s performance would have an electric start option, but it makes sense if you think of the 1980 Kawasaki Invader LTD as a luxury sled, too. You best think that way, because that’s what this machine is — one of the first plush performers.
In all honesty, we didn’t know quite what to expect at the SNOW GOER test session this season, because we thought that we’d pretty much seen it all last year. There was the Polaris Centurion with its torque-manic 500cc triple and the Blizzard 9500 with its racing-type looks and high-revving twin. But, after a few quick bursts up the acceleration strip, we knew that 1 980 was the year that all of us snowmobilers had been waiting for. Sleds like this Kawasaki LTD are built to perform. They’re built to ride comfortably. They’re built to give you all the amenities of luxury snowmotoring.
This Kawasaki LTD is the first, honest-to-god grand touring snowmobile. Look for more of this in the years to come. Luxury has come to performance.
1980 KAWASAKI INVADER LTD
-Suggested Retail Price: $3499
-Engine Position: Front
-Horsepower@ RPM: N/A
-Compression Ratio: N/A
-Bore/Stroke: 68mm x 60mm
-Carburetor(s): Twin Mikuni VM36
-Drive Clutch: Kawasaki
-Driven Clutch: Kawasaki
-Exhaust System: Kawasaki
-Intake Silencing: Kawasaki
-Weight (dry): 440 lbs.
-Weight (wet): 502 lbs.
-Fuel Capacity: 8 gallons
-Fuel Tank Location: Center
-Snowmobile Length: 103 in.
-Snowmobile Width: 40.5 in.
-Snowmobile Height: 35.5 in. (with windshield)
-Ski Stance: 31 in.
-Suspension Type: Fully adjustable slide rail
-Suspension Damping: Shock absorbers
-Ski Suspension Type: Monoleaf
-Ski Damping: Shocks
-Track Length: 121 in.
-Track Width: 15 in.
-Track Material: Rubber, flush bar IDL
-Brake Type: Caliper disc
-Brake Mounting: Jackshaft
-Chassis Material: HSLA Steel
-Cowl Material: SMC
-Seat Material: Hi-Tack vinyl
-Ignition Type: CDI
-Instruments: Speedometer. tachometer, temperature gauges; fuel, oil and chaincase oil sight gauges.
-Storage Location: Seat