Little Brother: 1976 Kawasaki Z2 750

The Kawasaki Z2 was the little-known Japanese-market 750cc version of the mighty Z1.

| July/August 2017

1976 Kawasaki Z2 750-A4
746cc air-cooled DOHC inline four, 64mm x 58mm bore and stroke, 9:1 compression ratio, 70hp @ 9,000rpm
Top speed:
118mph (claimed)
Four 26mm Mikuni VM26SC CV
5-speed, chain final drive
12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Dual downtube steel cradle/59.055in (1,500mm)
Telescopic forks front, twin shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Dual 9.65in (245mm) discs front, 7.87in (200mm) SLS drum rear
3.25 x 19in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight (dry):
520.4lb (236kg)
Fuel capacity:
4.5gal (17ltr)
Price then/now:
$1,800 (est.)/$8,000-$14,000

American servicemen returning home from Japan in the 1960s and 1970s often took along souvenirs of their stay in the Land of the Rising Sun. A popular memento was the motorcycle that had taken the soldier, sailor or Marine on off-base escapades. Aircraft carriers often returned stateside with holds packed with motorcycles, and often as not, the bikes were Japanese homeland models unavailable in the U.S.

One such bike that was occasionally imported by returning service folk was the Kawasaki Z2, the 750cc little brother of the awe-inspiring 903cc Z1. The Z1 was the hot ticket back home in the States, but since the Z1 wasn’t available in Japan, some GIs settled for a Z2, and after putting some miles on the 750, many decided it was at least as good as the Z1 they could buy in the States.

Kawasaki enthusiast Andreas Strieve has collected quite a bit of information about the Z2, and estimates there are between 25 and 50 of the smaller 750s in the U.S., all, or almost all, of which were brought back by returning GIs. There are Z2s in Australia and Europe as well, imported by gray market importers or enthusiasts.

Z2 whys

The size of the Z2 engine was mandated by Japanese government regulations in the 1970s, which set a maximum displacement for motorcycles of 750cc. In fact, 750cc was the original displacement of Kawasaki’s prototype Four, which was almost ready for public display in 1969 when Honda announced its market-shattering CB750. The upstage was a setback for Kawasaki, which wanted to triumph over rival Honda, not merely match it, so Kawasaki’s engineers went back to the drawing boards. The result, appearing in 1972, was the Z1, a 903cc double overhead cam monster that, in addition to horsepower and speed, offered decent handling, reasonable gas mileage and reliability.

With the rest of the world duly impressed, Kawasaki embarked on a redesign of the Z1 for the home market, spearheaded by chief engineer Ben Inamura. Instead of simply sleeving down a 900, Inamura and his team decided to work out the best configuration for a smaller machine. As a result, the development work on a 750cc model took an additional six months, even though most of the cycle parts were intended to be the same as the ones on the Z1.

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