1973 Kawasaki Z1: King of the Road
The Kawasaki Z1 was 900cc of pure power and precision
Honda's legendary four-cylinder CB750 may have started the fire, but when Kawasaki's twin-cam Z1 came on the scene the Japanese Superbike wars heated up fast.
Photo by Shellia Bailey
Years produced: 1973-75
Total production: 85,000 (est.)
Claimed power: 82hp @ 8,500rpm (factory)
Top speed: 120mph (period test)
Engine type: 903cc air-cooled, in-line four-cylinder
Weight (wet): 246kg (542lb)
Price Then: $1,895
Price Now: $1,700 to $8,500
MPG: 43 (average)
Troyce Walls is generally a nice guy, but he’s always getting into trouble with British motorcycle enthusiasts.
Arguments start when he compares the handling of his 1973 Kawasaki Z1 to that of a Norton Commando. “The Z1 handles as good as a Norton. I've been arguing about the Z1's handling with Norton people for years,” Troyce says. He also tees off Honda Four fanatics when he says, “The Z1 also handles much better than a 750 Honda of the same period.”
But Troyce figures he has the right to his opinions. After all, he has owned, worked on or ridden most of the better known motorcycles of the last 30 years — including Nortons, Hondas and Kawasaki Z1s.
Troyce grew up around mopeds and scooters — one of his early scoots was a leaky Cushman Eagle. “It used a quart of oil every eight to 10 miles, but the wind was in my hair, even if the oil was on my leg,” he remembers. The motorcycle bug bit, and Troyce spent his summers working at a local Honda shop. Soon enough he found himself in college, and after graduating Troyce spent several years in serious party mode, a motorcycle always at hand.
In the mid-1970s, Troyce was running around on a clapped-out Norton. “My ex-roommate called from Birmingham, and said he was going to ride his new Kawasaki Z1 to California. Naturally, I jumped on the idea and quit my job. I was supposed to meet him halfway between where he lived and where I was staying, about 100 miles — I had to spend six hours working on the Norton before it would even go that far. I finally met up with him and he let me ride his bike. I was impressed beyond words.”
This part of the story alone is enough to get most Norton fans chewing the wallpaper, but it gets worse. “The next morning, the Norton broke down again. My friend refused to ride with me if I was going to ride the Norton, so I went to the local Kawasaki dealer and traded the Norton for a used Z1. But a few months later, I was out of cash and had to sell the Kawasaki. I delivered the bike to the new owner, and I swear as I was leaving, the handlebars turned towards me.”
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>