Under the radar
Years produced: 1976-1983
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 55hp @ 7000rpm (1976)
Top speed: 103mph (period test)
Engine type: 745cc OHC, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight: 504lbs (w/half-tank fuel)
Price then: $1,975 (1976)
Price now: $500-$1,750
If ever a machine was worthy of Under the Radar status, it’s the big twin Kawasaki KZ750. Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad, because the truth is, most people haven’t.
Introduced in 1976, the KZ750 was the odd-man-out in Kawasaki’s lineup, especially considering the new bikes Kawasaki had planned for 1977, which included the 4-cylinder KZ650 and KZ1000. Matched up against those two machines and the carry-over KZ900 four, the 750 didn’t quite make sense. With its legendary 2-stroke triples a thing of the past, Kawasaki’s performance machines were being defined by four cylinders. So why a big twin?
The vertical twin
Before the onslaught of big triples and fours, the 750cc category was pretty much defined by vertical twins; or more to the point, British vertical twins like the Royal Enfield Interceptor, Norton Commando and Triumph Bonneville. Yamaha made some motion into the category with the Yamaha XS650 vertical twin in 1970, and even more so with the Yamaha TX750 three years later. But compared to its British rivals the XS650 was considered small, while the TX750 was a regrettable failure. By the end of 1975, there were really only two large vertical twins on the market, the 750cc Triumph Bonneville and the 650cc Yamaha XS650.
Looked at from this light, Kawasaki’s move made sense. While the days of Rule Britannia were over, there was still a sizeable community of riders who wanted a big twin. For that group, the new fours were too much. They had two too many cylinders, too many camshafts, too many carburetors and too many spark plugs. For these riders, the best bike wasn’t defined by quarter-mile performance, it was defined by ease of maintenance and dependability. And on that score, the KZ750 delivered.
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