The Kawasaki KZ1300

Reader Contribution by Doug Mitchel
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Kawasaki jumped in the 6-cylinder motorcycle game right after the Honda CBX 1000 with the biggest bruiser of the bunch, the 1,280cc, 120hp Kawasaki KZ1300.
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The Kawasaki KZ1300.
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The Kawasaki KZ1300.

Kawasaki KZ1300
Years made:
Claimed power: 120hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 140mph
Engine: 1,286cc DOHC liquid-cooled inline 6
Weight (wet): 710lb (322kg)
Wheelbase: 62.5in (1,588mm)
Width: 25.25in (641mm)
1/4 mile, sec/mph: 11.79/115.68
MPG: 35-45
Price then (1979): $4,695
Price now: $1,500-$4,000

Weighing in at an astounding 710 pounds, the Kawasaki KZ1300 was a heavyweight 6-cylinder motorcycle, with a 239cc displacement advantage over the Honda CBX 1000 and 380 over the Benelli Sei 900. Much like the Sei, its six lungs are fed by a trio of carbs.

Each of the three 32mm, 2-barreled Mikuni units is equipped with dual throttle ports, making for an unusual looking setup and the world’s first 2-barrel CV carb. Like the CBX, the Kawasaki KZ1300 features double-overhead cams with shim and bucket valve adjustment. Unlike the CBX, it uses a driveshaft to deliver its power to the rear wheel. The result of all these machinations was a claimed output of 120hp at the crank.

Holding all this in check is a tubular steel frame that’s fairly typical for the era, but with a 45mm steel backbone for increased rigidity. Despite the largeness of the Kawasaki KZ13000, its seat height is the same as the CBX at just over 31 inches. It is a well padded and accommodating place to spend the day, and ahead of that saddle you’ll find a large 5.6-gallon fuel tank. That big tank and MPG ratings of 35-45 add up to potentially long stints behind the bars.

Read how the Kawasaki KZ1300 performed in our 6-Cylinder Motorcycle Shootout

The Kawasaki KZ1300 exhales through a 6-into-2 exhaust, and being liquid cooled is equipped with a radiator, hung on the down tubes of the frame. Cast wheels at both ends carry disc brakes, with two up front and one out back. A 5-speed gear box is on par with most machines of the day.

Ground clearance was one of the primary complaints of magazines at the time, but most were impressed with the power the KZ pumped out and its enormous presence. “There are motorcycles with more speed, but not with the same combination of power, strength comfort and handling,” said Cycle World, adding, “The sophistication is incredible, the size is enormous. What we have here is an incredible hulk.”

Styling on the massive Kawasaki KZ1300 is sharp for a 6-cylinder motorcycle and works to keep its porkiness in check. The crisp lines of the tank, side covers and tail section make it look lighter than it is. All in all, the big KZ trumps the lesser sixes by sheer numerical supremacy. Yet as learned from our test riders, the bulk of the KZ1300 was of little concern when the grip was twisted. MC

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