Super Four: 1973 Kawasaki Z-1

Americans would’ve settled for a burger; Kawasaki gave them steak. The Z-1 roared off the block in 1973 breaking records, hailed as “Terribly fast. Two words every motorcyclist loves to hear.”

| May/June 2019


Engine: 903cc air-cooled DOHC inline 4-cylinder, 66mm x 66mm bore and stroke, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 82hp @ 8,500rpm
Top speed: 120mph-plus (period tests)
Carburetion: Four 28mm Mikuni VM
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube steel cradle frame/58.7in (1,491mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, twin shock absorbers w/ adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 11.5in (292mm) disc brake front, 7.9in (200mm) drum rear
Tires: 3.25 x 19in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight: 542lb (246kg)
Seat height: 31.5in (800mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.76gal (18ltr)
Price then/now: $1,895/$5,000-$24,000

Author’s note: The following story has all the drama of a Shakespeare play, highlighting the near-fall, yet ultimate success of a landmark motorcycle, the push and pull struggle between two of the motorcycle industry’s titans, the tragic death of a young man, and finally the recovery of an original 1973 Kawasaki Z-1 that registers only 9.8 miles on its odometer. This is the story of Z1E 00004. — DG

No doubt, 1969 was a transitional, even pivotal, year for motorcycling. Foremost, two landmark models made their mark during that year when Honda crammed as many of its new CB750 Fours as its factory could produce into dealer showrooms, while Kawasaki crowded the drag strips of America with countless, and extremely potent, Mach III triples, aka The Rocket with a Sprocket.

Kawasaki also used 1969 as a time to reconsider its intentions of a future model under development. That project, known within Kawasaki confines in late 1968 as N600, had come to an unexpected halt in October 1968 when Honda unveiled its CB750 Four at the Tokyo Motor Show. By chance Kawasaki had been developing a similar product — the N600 — that also happened to be powered by an inline 4-cylinder 750cc engine. News of Honda’s groundbreaking 750 prompted Kawasaki to suspend the N600, using the timeout for a rethink; in the time-honored way of the samurai, it would be shameful to follow through with the N600 now. So after careful consideration Kawasaki majordomos did what any smart samurai warrior would do — they reached for a bigger sword.

Four 28mm Mikuni VM carburetors feed the beast

5/2/2019 7:25:40 AM

Owned one in 1975 with a Hooker header, waled like a banshee!

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