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.
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