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Kawasaki Z900 - Z1

The Z1 Kawasaki was developed in strict secrecy under the project name "New York Steak". Some years previously, Kawasaki, primarily a manufacturer of two-stroke motorcycles, decided to make a 750cc 4-cylinder 4-stroke sports motorcycle; they were beaten to the market place by the Honda CB750. Apparently, the bosses at Kawasaki were horrified and ordered their designers to come up with something overwhelmingly better. The subsequent design was a 903cc bike with stunning styling details that took the motorcycling world by storm and set a standard for superbikes that is still being imitated today.


After its introduction it earned the nickname "The King". The combination of a 903cc engine, dual overhead cams and high power combined with integral styling of tank and body pieces to create a motorcycle for the masses that had never been seen before.

Impact on the industry

All other manufacturers had to change their mindset to keep up with popularity of this motorcycle. By the end of the decade all Japanese manufacturers had developed machines to rival the Z1 which were almost direct clones of its engine configuration and integral body panels.

These bike wars directly lead to the demise of the flagging BrItish motorcycle industry.The American motorcycle industry (mainly Harley-Davidson) was also on its last legs and was only saved by radical restructuring and inventive financing.

Design changes

The basic design of the Z1 remained relatively unchanged until the early 1980s with the exception of increased engine displacement (1015cc). This model is also the basis for the motorcycle used by most police forces across the United States to this day.


Only recently (2005) did Kawasaki announce that it would discontinue production of the police model, 25 years after the production on the consumer model and 32 years after its introduction.