Kawasaki Z Series

As Japanese motorcycle manufacturers moved away from large capacity 2-strokes. their focus moved towards large capacity 4 cylinder 4-strokes. driven by the need to meet ever stringent emission standards. Honda, long a stalwart of 4-stroke engines, started the trend with their CB750 four which they introduced in 1969 (much to the chagrin of the Kawasaki management).

Long considered leaders in street bike performance with their triple cylinder 2-strokes, Kawasaki came to the market with a new 4 cylinder 4-stroke in 1972. But this new bike was not as originally planned, a 750-cc engined machine, it was a 900-cc variant. The new Superbike was an instant success.

Going back to the middle 60s. the Kawasaki management had instigated the design of a new 4-stroke 750. Code named the T103 and coordinated by Sam Tanegashima, the new bike’s launch was shelved when Honda beat them to the market place. After extensive market research amongst riders, dealers and motorcycle magazine editors, Kawasaki decided that a larger capacity machine would be the way to go.

Z1 is Launched

The first Z1 was launched in 1972 and featured:


903-cc capacity engine producing 80.8 bhp (82 ps)

5 speed gearbox with chain final drive

4 carburetors

Steel double cradle frame

Wet multi-plate clutch

Contact point ignition (two sets, one for cylinders 1-4, and one set for 2-3)

4 separate exhausts

Brakes: Single rotor (disc) front, drum rear

Top speed in excess of 130 mph

Initial retail price $1900

Model identification:

Frame Numbers: Z1F-000001

Engine Numbers: Z1E-000001

To keep pace with their competitors, and to maintain market share, the Z series machines were continuously modified. Cosmetic changes were typically included in each model year as were changes to the shape and size of the side panels and fuel tank.

Major changes included:

1976 Z900 -A4

Twin front rotors

Smaller carburetors (26-mm)

Frame Numbers: Z1F-085701

Engine Numbers: Z1E-086001

1977 Z1000-A1

Engine capacity increased to 1015-cc (from larger bore)

Four into two muffler system

Rear rotor replaced the drum brake

Frame Numbers: KZT00A-000001

Engine Numbers: KZT00AE-000001

1978 Z1000-D1 Z1R

First Japanese Caf- racer styling

Four into one muffler system

Front wheel diameter reduced to 18

Wire spoke wheels replaced by seven spoke aluminum design

Cockpit fairing

Drilled rotors

Electric start (kick start lever was available under the seat)

Carburetors back to 28-mm

Power increased to 90 hp

20 liter fuel tank

Frame Numbers: KZT00D-000001

Engine Numbers: KZT00DE-000001

1979/1980 Z1000-A3/A4 MKII

Power increased to 93 hp

Transistorized ignition

Cam cover ends changed to a square design

Engine painted black

Frame number: KZT00A-038427

Engine number: KZT00AE-081566

Frame numbers: KZT00E-000101

Engine number: KZT00EE-000101

1978/1979 Z1-R TC

Turbo charged variant

Power between 100 hp and 145 hp (depending on the boost)

Top speed over 150 mph

1980 Z1000-H1 EFI

Electronic fuel injection

Gold wheels

Power increased to 96 hp

Frame number: KZT00H-000001

Engine number: KZT00HE- 000001

Prices range from $18,000 for an early (1972) Z1, to around $3,000 for the later 1015-cc version.

Kawasaki Square Four 2 Stroke Prototype
Kawasaki Square Four 2 Stroke Prototype

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