THE KAWASAKI 900
Z1 SUPER FOUR.
Originally destined to be a 750, the Z1 was beaten to the market
place by the HONDA CB750 in 1968. Kawasaki engineers, horrified at this
well kept secret launch, returned to the drawing board and redesigned the
bike to be bigger and better. In late 1972 the Z1 was introduced to the
world and instantly became a best seller.
MODELS CIRCA 1971
The 750 Z2 followed a few months later mainly sold in the Japanese
home market, due to their agreed 750cc limit. The Z1 went on to become
the basis of most of Kawasaki's models for many more years, changing the
face of motorcycling forever. Never before had the average man had the
chance to own the fastest, biggest, most technically advanced motorcycle
in the world for so little money. The true age of affordable SUPERBIKES
FRAME NUMBER: Z1F-000001 >
ENGINE NUMBER: Z1E-000001 >
COLOUR: CANDY ORANGE/BROWN OR CANDY YELLOW/GREEN FOUR CYLINDER, FOUR
STROKE, FOUR EXHAUSTS, FOUR CARBS, DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAMSHAFT, FIVE SPEED
GEARBOX, 903 CC PRODUCING 82 BHP
This was the first of the Z-range, the first true SUPERBIKE of the
seventies. The biggest and best ever motorcycle that the Japanese had
produced. THE KING OF THE ROAD.
FRAME NUMBER: Z1F-020001 >
ENGINE NUMBER: Z1E-020001 >
COLOUR: CANDYTONE BROWN/ORANGE OR CANDYTONE GREEN/YELLOW
Major changes for this model were the silver engine finish, redesigned
tank and tailpiece markings and a stop lamp failure light in the
tachometer. The idiot light cover was also changed, the warning lights
were now placed in a different order. The best gets better.
FRAME NUMBER: Z1F-047500 >
ENGINE NUMBER: Z1E- 047500 >
COLOUR: CANDY SUPER BLUE OR CANDY SUPER RED
Major changes for this model were paintwork and markings, larger side
panel badges and the adoption of an 'O' ring chain instead of the
previous built in chain oiler. The switchgear was slightly cosmetically
changed and the Speedo was now in 20-mph increments. The fuel tap was
changed from black to silver and the carbs were modified to improve
FRAME NUMBER: Z1F-085701 >
ENGINE NUMBER: Z1E-086001 >
COLOUR: DIAMOND DARK GREEN OR DIAMOND BROWN
Major changes for this model included colour and marking, different side
panels and badges, airbox, twin front brakes, locking fuel cap, three way
fuse system, hazard warning lights, audible flasher indicator, square
tail light, improved instrument cluster and a change to smaller 26 mm
carbs. Power was down to 81 bhp but the Z900 was a much better bike to
ride. A few extra models
rolled off the American production line in Lincoln in 1977 known as the
1976 KZ900-B1 LTD
FRAME NUMBER: KZ900B-500011 >
ENGINE NUMBER: Z1E- 108503 >
COLOUR: CLASSIC RED
This was the first Japanese custom cruiser. Assembled in the states in
limited numbers for the disconcerting motorcyclist. An abundance of
chrome and bolt on goodies made this Kawasaki a 'RICE BURNER WITH
ATTITUDE'. The rear wheel was a fat sixteen-inch item.
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00A-000001 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00AE-000001 >
COLOUR: DIAMOND WINE RED OR DIAMOND SKY BLUE
This was the natural successor to the 900 range. Bored out to 1015 cc and
producing 83 bhp, the biggest difference to the Z1 was the four into two
exhaust system and the use of a disc brake at the rear instead of the
previous drum brake. "The king is dead, long live the king!'
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00A-027501 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00AE-042501 >
COLOUR: LUMINOUS GREEN OR LUMINOUS RED
Major changes to the A2 were paint and decals, the repositioning of the
front brake calipers to behind the fork leg and the use of lower
handlebars on the UK model. The front brake master cylinder was changed
from round to triangular and a diaphragm fuel tap was used for the first
time on a Z. The United States got another colour option of black/gold
and a special edition model, in white and fitted out with a fairing and
panniers called the A2A to commemorate the Americanisation of Kawasaki.
1978 Z1000-D1 Z1R
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00D-000001 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00DE-000001 >
COLOUR: METALLIC STARDUST SILVER.
The Z1R was the first Japanese custom 'cafe racer'. The angular styling
was not to everybody's taste. Major changes were the four into one
exhaust, a cockpit fairing, solid wheels, drilled discs and
self-cancelling indicators. The front wheel was reduced to an eighteen
inch one and the engine was once again painted in black. The kick-start
pedal was considered redundant and fitted as an emergency measure under
the seat. A move back to 28-mm carbs increased the power to 90 bhp making
this the most powerful Z yet. Poor sales resulted in Kawasaki producing a
larger 20-litre fuel tank and a sintered metal brake kit in an effort to
increase sales. UK dealers were still selling this model four years
1979 Z1000-D2 Z1R
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00D-017501 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00DE-017501 >
COLOUR: EBONY OR LUMINOUS DARK RED
For 1979 the Z1R was fitted with the MK11 engine and all it's
improvements. A four into two exhaust system was fitted and there was a
move back to a nineteen inch front wheel. It was known as the Z1R-II but
was not sold in the UK due to poor sales of the D1. Power was up to 94
1980 Z1000-D3 Z1R
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00D-017801 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZTOODE-017616 >
The only changes worth while mentioning on this model was the graphics
and side panel badges. The UK still went without this bike.
1979/1980 Z1000-A3/A4 MKII
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00A-038427 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00AE-081566 >
COLOUR: LUMINOUS NAVY BLUE OR LUMINOUS DARK RED
The MKII was modified greatly from the previous models in all
departments. Power was up to 93 bhp, helped by the return to 28-mm carbs
and the use of transistorised ignition. Modified exhaust and angular
bodywork give the MKII a completely different look. The traditional round
cam end covers was changed to a square design and the motor was once
again finished in black. A class act but not everybody's favourite.
1979/1980 Z1000-E1/E2 ST
FRAME NUMBER:KZT00E-000101 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00EE-000101 >
COLOUR: LUMINOUS DARK RED OR LUMINOUS GREEN
The E-models or ST (SHAFT TRANSMISSION) was Kawasaki's first shaftie. It
was basically a MKII with minor modifications including tubeless tyres, a
fuel gauge, thicker leading axle forks and a larger fuel tank. Basically
maintenance free Kawasaki. It should have sold well, unfortunately it
didn't. The United States got an extra colour option, black pearl.
The E2 enjoyed the same differences as the A4 MKII. Remote rear brake
reservoir and quartz-halogen headlamp. The United States got another
colour option, luminous dark red. Kawasaki produced a full touring kit
for this model, courtesy of the American VETTER Company.
1977-1980 KZ1000-B1-B4 LTD
FRAME NUMBERS: KZT00B-500015 >
ENGINE NUMBERS: KZT00AE-010006 >
The KZ1000 LTD was available in the states from '77-'80 in various
colours including black, blue and red. Sharing much of the same
modifications as the original KZ900 LTD did. The B3 and B4 models were
fitted with the MKII engines but finished in silver instead of black.
Imports into the UK have made this once rare bike a popular sight.
1978/1979 Z1-R TC
The relative poor sales of the standard Z1-R prompted Kawasaki America to
team up with the AMERICAN TURBO-PAK Company to produce the Z1-R TURBO.
Basically a standard bike with a turbo kit bolted on. No warranty was
offered and a few hundred were sold in 1978 in the original silver blue
colour. In 1979 a couple of hundred more were produced but this time the
bike was painted in black with red, yellow and orange stripes. Very tacky
and very seventies. Power output was quoted at anything between 100 and
145 bhp, depending on how much boost the rider dialed in. 160mph was
available, on a bike which struggled handling the standard engine output.
Performance was exciting, for all the wrong reasons!
1980 Z1000-H1 EFI
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00H-000001 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00HE- 000001 >
The H1 was basically an A4 MKII with electronic fuel injection or EFI for
short. This was another first for Kawasaki. The black and gold bodywork
was finished off with gold wheels and for the first time the front fender
was painted. Some models had the Kawasaki logo printed on the side of the
seat in white lettering. Power was up to 96 bhp due to the injection
system. America did not get this model, instead they got the KZ1000-GI Z1
CLASSIC, which was basically a customised version not unlike the KZ1000-
1979 Z1000-S Z1-R
Germany was also struggling to sell the standard Z1-R so the German
importers fitted a Z900 four into four exhaust system and renamed it in
an effort to sell more bikes. The standard silver blue finish was
retained and the larger 20 litre fuel tank that Kawasaki had made
available was also fitted. A very rare bike indeed.
THE Z2-750 RANGE
Kawasaki produced a 750 version of the Z1 range from 1973 up to 1980.
Each year model was basically a smaller version of the larger export
model. The only major difference being engine internals, smaller carbs
and the fitting of a speed warning light to conform to restrictive
THE 900/1000 POLICE BIKES
Kawasaki were quick to sell the Z1 to the various police forces of
America. From as early as 1974 right up to present day. The letter C in
their frame number identifies these bikes. Models after 1981 were known
as the KZ1000-P. They were finished in white and fitted out in all the
police gear. The popular seventies TV series 'CHIPS' brought them to
everybody's attention. Quite a few of them have found their way to Europe
and there is even an owners club for them, where owners dress up like
Californian highway patrol officers and ride around the country posing!
What Kawasaki had to
Until 1968, Kawasaki was mainly
involved in developing two cycle motorcycles, although the company did
have a long history of developing four cycle engines. In 1937, Meguro
(merged with Kawasaki in 1963) manufactured 500cc single engines, and the
engineers who developed this technology moved to Kawasaki. These
engineers played a major role in developing the 650cc W series
This experience provided Kawasaki with the basic skills to develop
four cycle engines.In 1967 Kawasaki made a decision to develop a
high-performance motorcycle which would far exceed the 650W1, the largest
motorcycles in Japan that time.
As the United States was targeted as the main market for these high
performance motorcycles, the development team was sent to the U.S. where
they secretly worked out a plan for the new model.
Finally, the displacement of the new model was set at 750cc and a
mock-up was completed in October 1968.
However, Honda announced a new 750cc single-over-head-cam (SOHC)
motorcycle at the
Tokyo Motor Show held the same year. The Kawasaki management staff
realized it was meaningless to come out with a similar model after Honda
had already introduced theirs, so all development efforts on Kawasaki's
750cc model were stopped.
In 1970, the Z1 (development code T103)
developing project team was reunited with the best staff in all the
fields joining the project. This group repeated research and experiments
to develop a better .
Kawasaki resumed U.S. market research in March of 1970 and collected
customers' opinions from various sources such as random samplings of
dealers and editors of major motorcycle magazines.
Finally, the management staff concluded there was a strong market for
a high-speed, eye-appealing motorcycle with enough power to use as a
reliable touring model.
Kawasaki's answer to this market was a 1,000cc class, four cycle,
four cylinder model. The main requirements for the Z1 engine were high
speed, high stability, and ease of dealing with pollution problems. A
four cycle unit meeting these requirements would be met by strong market
The first prototype was completed in
the spring of 1971. This prototype was ridden by
American test riders with minor adjustments made step by step. In the
fall of that year, the final prototype was completed and after testing,
the unit was approved for mass production. The first production model was
completed in February 1972, and this unit was subjected to repeated
severe road testing after which all parts, including even the nuts and
bolts, were examined. After reworking all weak points, the first
mass-production model was built in May 1972.
The 903cc displacement of the Z1 made
it the largest motorcycle in Japan. Worldwide, it was larger than Italian
Moto Guzzi 850 and comparable to Harley-Davidson 1000 and 1200.
The specifications called for an air-cooled four-cycle four-cylinder
engine with a double-over-head-cam (DOHC) mechanism.
The DOHC was necessary to realize overall high performance from low
speed to high speed range. In motorcycle markets around the world, there
were only one or two other samples of this type of engine, and it was the
first engine for Kawasaki to adopt this advanced valve train.
The Z1's maximum horsepower
was 82ps at 8,500rpm, 0 to 400m acceleration was 12 seconds, and the
maximum speed was above 210km/h. The Z1 power was 8ps higher than the H2,
and had great potential considering the average horsepower of the 1,200cc
automobile was 77ps at that time.
However, horsepower per displacement was comparatively lower than the
H1 and H2 because
Kawasaki changed their engine design policy so that the powerband was
not set near the engine's limit, thereby pursuing elegance and smooth
engine performance. It is also noteworthy that the Z1 engine was based on
a policy to prevent pollution and was equipped with anti-air-pollution
devices such as a positive crankcase ventilation system.
The main features of the Z1 were the reliable double-cradle steel
tube frame, a safe and reliable disc brake system, and ease of
maintenance. Since the Z1 utilized the complicated DOHC mechanism, ease
of maintenance was carefully considered at the design stage. As a result,
the Z1 could be maintained without removing the engine from the body
except for maintenance of crankshaft related parts.
The Z1 style was fresh, but cool, without the look of a 900cc heavy
weight machine. The style was achieved with tail-up mufflers, a light
tear-drop formed fuel tank, and a slim, flowing seat.
All Z1 parts were individually examined and tested time after time
resulting in a five year development period. Five years is not a short
development period for one model, although as noted earlier, development
was at one time stopped altogether. In this sense, the Z1 was the
Kawasaki's flagship model.
In September 1972, the Z1 was
introduced to the U.S. public, and sales started in November of that
year. Since the development stage, Z1 was nicknamed "The New York
Steak," and the Z1 was enthusiastically welcomed by markets as the
"mouth watering motorcycle" when sales started. The suggested
retail price was $1,900 and the initial sales plan called for 1,500 vehicles
per month including the European markets.
The Z1 was
introduced to the Japanese public at the Tokyo Motor Show in October of
1972 and drew the strongest attention among numerous new models developed
by our competitors.
In December 1972, Kawasaki held a
press conference at Tokyo Takanawa Prince Hotel and invited guests from
17 companies in the motorcycle industry, and reporters from magazines and
newspapers. At the conference, a new model, the Z2, was introduced as a
brother model for the Japanese market.Production of Kawasaki's 750RS Z2
started in January 1973. It was a 746cc machine with newly designed
pistons and crankshaft parts to express the same feeling as the Z1. The
maximum Z2 horse power was 69ps at 9,000rpm with a maximum speed of
Sale of the Z2 started in March 1973
and were 10% higher than our competitors' 750cc class motorcycles. The
900cc class body size and the DOHC engine attracted Japanese riders all
at once because motorcycle equipped with a DOHC engine had not existed in
Japan prior to the Z2.
During the first two years of production, Kawasaki built 80,000 Z1
and Z2 motorcycles, and the sales of these models established Kawasaki's
reputation as a heavy weight motorcycle manufacturer