Three is Not a Crowd: 1978 Kawasaki Z1-R

Trace St. Germain revives a Kawasaki Z1-R, his third, which was literally found in a barn.

| November/December 2019


1978 Kawasaki Z1-R

Engine: 1,015cc air-cooled DOHC inline 4-cylinder, 70mm x 66mm bore and stroke, 8.7:1 compression ratio, 90hp @ 8,000rpm (factory), 73.13hp @ 7,500rpm (period test)
Carburetion: Four 28mm Mikuni VM28SS
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube steel cradle/59.3in (1,505mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, twin shock absorbers w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 11.67in (296.5mm) dual discs front, 11.43in (290.5mm) single disc rear
Tires: 3.5 x 18in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 542lb (246kg)
Seat height: 32.08in (815mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.4gal (13ltr)/43.9mpg (period test)
Price then/now: $3,695 (list)/$4,000-$13,000

Trace St. Germain has a business restoring motorcycles, and like most people who have a business restoring motorcycles, he has a few of his own. Three of them are 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000’s. He has one to ride, one to drag race and one (the bike in the photos) to show. It was — literally — found in a barn.

Trace and his Z1-R’s have a lot of history together. It all started when Trace started drag racing. He was a young lad then, “trying not to do it on the street. I met some guys and got interested in racing on a track, instead of on the street, like I had been. I won first time out on a Honda 350.”


Racing got interrupted for a stint in the military. Trace spent downtime reading all the motorcycle magazines and became interested in big-bore Kawasakis. “I really wanted to buy one after they went to 1,000cc.” Home on leave, Trace visited his local dealer on a Friday, parted with $2,900, rode out with a new 1978 Z1-R with a Kerker pipe — and kept going. He was back at the dealer on Monday for the first service, with 750 miles on the clock. That bike is still his street ride. It now has about 50,000 miles on it, much of which was clocked on two cross-country trips. Trace’s first ZI-R has been treated to a frame stiffening kit and a welded crankshaft. A friend liked the stock tank and offered to trade a larger tank that was similar to the tank Kawasaki was then selling on bikes exported to Europe. Trace wanted more mileage between fill-ups and jumped on the deal.

10/15/2020 6:37:38 PM

Always like that look. To me the R90S does it best, but the ZR-1 and Suzuki’s version are pretty as well. I’ve got Kawi’s sales brochure for the bike. For some reason they parked it beside a Porsche Turbo. Never figured the logic on that one.

10/25/2019 5:51:45 AM

Thanks for sharing this story!! I bought a new Z1-R in April of 1978. It was fun to punish the Honda CB750s of the day... Fun times, fond memories, and great stories from terrorizing the streets of Kansas City, Mo. Oh the things we do in our early 20s, and then live to tell about them. My Z1-R was a replacement for my 1972 Kawasaki H2 Mach that is another interesting story.

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