Looking Back – Kawasaki Z1
Kawasaki’s Z1 was released in 1973 and stunned with its combination of power, looks and its – high tech at the time – engine. The Z1’s four cylinder, 903cc engine had twin camshafts, unlike Honda’s single cammed 750 four, and produced a maximum of 82bhp to give the Kawasaki a top speed of over 210kph (130mph). Its straight-line performance outclassed that of the Honda, whose launch in 1969 had caused Kawasaki to revise their Z1 project which had originally been designed as a 750.
With its ducktail rear, the swoopy tank shape, chrome ducktail rear guard, and blacked-out engine, the Z1 made the 4 year old 750 Honda design look dated. The “King” as it was nicknamed, quickly became “the” superbike, an era which lasted nearly the rest of the 70s for the big Kwaka.
Various updates showed on subsequent models, but the basic engine and shape lasted right thru till 1978 with the Z1000, which by then had grown 100cc, sprouted twin discs on the front, a disc rear, and a four into 2 pipe replacing the classic “4 megaphone” look from the original.
Many consider the Z1 the first real “superbike”.