Kawasaki Ki-5

Kawasaki Ki-5

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Kawasaki Ki-5

The Kawasaki Ki-5 was an inverted gull-wing cantilever monoplane designed in 1933 in an attempt to produce a Japanese fighter equal to the Hawker Fury or the Boeing P-26A, and to replace the Nakajima Army Type 91 Fighter and the Kawasaki Army Type 92 Fighter. The prototype was tested by the Army in 1934, and was rejected because of poor manoeuvrability. Work on the Ki-5 ended late in the summer of 1934, and in September Kawasaki was asked to develop a high performance biplane, which emerged as the Kawasaki Ki-10 Army Type 95 Fighter.

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Welcome to Total Motorcycle’s The Ultimate History Guide of the legendary Kawasaki Z! This must be the most complete guide to the Kawasaki Z ever written or I pitty the writer who did even more work! From 1972 to 2013 Total Motorcycle will take you back into the past of this legendary bike and into the future as well. If you do not learn something new about the Z from this Total Motorcycle Guide let me know and I’ll be happy to eat my hat! Also if you have any further information about a model not listed here type it up and email it to me, I’ll review it and be happy to include it.

The first Kawasaki Z900 was actually inspired by Honda at the Tokyo Motor Show in late 1968 as Honda unvieled new CB750 Four. A move that surprised the designers at Kawsaki as they were designing their very own 750cc bike! The CB750 Four offered never before seen power and a new type of engine, the Inline-four. With an OHC valve train, 67 hp, 200 km / h top speed, 4-into-4 exhaust system and front disc brakes. Kawasaki scrapped the new 750 idea and started work on a new bigger bike code named T103. The 903cc engine size was the target thanks to market research done in the USA.

Thanks to the U-Turn approach Kawasaki did in dumping the 750cc idea for a 903cc one Honda did not have the slightest suspecsion as to what was taking shape in the Kawasaki garage. And what would emerge to be the most powerful and fastest production motorcycle with the best technical ingredients, the finest details and the most exciting design riders ever seen to date.

In early 1972 Kawasaki had a road worthy Z900 concept and begain testing in the USA. Two teams were set to ride 6000 miles each on public roads from Atlanta Georgia to Santa Ana California and back while also testing on the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. The Z bikes – some with Honda Emblems camouflaged tank – survived this distance without any damage.

Kawasaki debuts the new Z900 SuperFour to the press, who are so excited about it write an avalanche of media stories which get the public excited about seeing the world exclusive premiere of Kawasaki’s new Z900 at the 1972 IFMA in Cologne. When released for sale 2500 units are available and sold almost immediately as demand exceeds supply.

The Ultimate History of the Kawasaki Z

Since the debut of the 1972 Kawasaki Z1, motorcycles wearing the Z designation have revolutionised their respective eras and blasted a path to the future. Combining astonishing performance with advanced technologies and design, the Kawasaki Z bikes have had major impact on the history of high-performance motorcycles. This is the legend of the Kawasaki Z.

The legend was born in 1972 with the release of the model that started it all, the Kawasaki Z1. Featuring advanced Kawasaki technology, the Z1 completely redefined the world of high-performance motorcycling.

During development its code name was New York Steak. The letter Z was chosen because as the last letter of the alphabet it represented the most extreme, and the 1 stood for number one in the world.

The Z1 was the first mass-produced sports bike to feature a DOHC, 4-cylinder engine – technology found only on factory racing machines or limited production sports bikes. Displacing 903 cc, the Z1 was not only the fastest production motorcycle of its era, its reliability and durability were equally impressive.

The Z1 became a huge sales success in its target market of North America and also in Europe, and was equally successful on the race track.

Thus began the legend of the Z – a legend that continues to this day.

1972 Kawasaki Z – A Legend is Born

Featuring advanced Kawasaki technology, the Z1 completely redefined the world of high-performance motorcycling. During development its code name was New York Steak. The letter Z was chosen because as the last letter of the alphabet it represented the most extreme, and the 1 stood for number one in the world. The Z1 was the first mass-production sports bike to feature a DOHC, 4-cylinder engine – technology found only on factory racing machines or limited production sports bikes. Displacing 903 cc, the Z1 was not only the fastest production motorcycle of its era, its reliability and durability were equally impressive. Four mufflers accentuated the Z1’s slim, sexy and sleek design. The Z1 became a huge sales success in its target market of North America and also in Europe, and was equally successful on the racetrack. Thus began the legend of Z – a legend that continues to this day.

With the 900Z1 Superfour began the Z story. 1972 this model was presented at the IFMA motorcycle show in Cologne. Until then there had been no comparable motorcycle with so much capacity and so much power. The 900Z1 Superfour was a coveted cult object – to this day.

1972 Kawasaki presented for the first time a motorcycle with four-stroke engine from them. The four-cylinder in the 900 Z1 Super Four, a completely new development with two overhead Camshaft, 903 cc, and according to the manufacturer 82 SAE horsepower at 8500 rpm strong sat in terms of motor and driving performance with the production motorcycles new standards. It was to beat next year though. With amassive engine and a 4-in-4-exhaust system the Z1 was a huge hit. With outstanding performance to her name”. To date, the Kawasaki Z1 has successfully defended it’s aura among classics.

1972 Kawasaki Z Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 903 cc
Power 58 kW (79 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm 72 at 7000 rpm
Net weight kg 246
Top speed 210 km / h

1974 Kawasaki Z400 (Europe)

The Z400 united many good features in an affordable motorcycle. The parallel twin engine was initially developed for the U.S. market as a robust and economical model for everyday life. It enjoyed but also extremely popular in Germany, and was built as Z440 and Z440 LTD as a soft chopper up in the eighties.

Kawasaki rose in 1974 in the Middle class with the four-stroke twin-cylinder Z400 designed for the U.S. market. The Z400 didn’t have the power the Z900 had but was still a great tourer. One of the attractions of the Z400 was cheap insurance due to the lower horsepower (27 or 33 hp thus it was at the level of Japanese 250cc competition). Vibrations of parallel twins were tamed by the overhead cam and balance shaft and the Z400 became known as an environmental, durable and most comfortable motorcycle.

1974 Kawasaki Z400 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2 cylinders, 398 cc
24 kW (33 hp) at 9000/min
Torque Nm at 7500 rpm 31
Empty weight 187 kg
Maximum speed 135/140 km / h

1976 Kawasaki Z900 and Z750 (Europe)

The Z900 A4 comes with a second disc brake front, a reinforced frame and many detail improvements. From this year, Kawasaki offered with the parallel twin Z750 also a great touring bike.

Two years after the introduction of the Z1, Kawasaki renamed the Z1 the Z900. 1976 also led to new paint and design changes. The four-cylinder is simply called now Z900 and no longer had a black engine but a silver one. The main technical difference was the dual disc in front which increased braking performance significantly with less hand force. Also the 1976 Z900 offered a more stable frame.

1976 Kawasaki Z900 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 903 cc
Power 58 kW (79 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm 72 at 7000 rpm
Empty weight 252 kg
Top speed 210 km / h

1976 Kawasaki Z650 (Europe)

Entering production four years after Kawasaki’s Z900 sporty oriented four-cylinder model the Z650 offered a mid range bike to complement the flagship 900. Unlike the big Z900, the Z650 had a 4-into-2 exhaust system. With 66 hp at 8500 rpm from 652 cc, the Z650 created a new displacement category versus the 500cc and the 550cc Japanese competitors and ranked number one in terms of performance in the area until the 750cc class pushed forward.

1976 Kawasaki Z650 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2cylinders, 652 cc
Power 49 kW (66 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 57
Empty weight 220 kg
Top speed 193 km / h

1976 Kawasaki Z750 (Europe)

In addition to the Z400, Kawasaki also created the 750cc (three-quarter-liter) class with a parallel twin. Two balancer shafts helped reduce the vibrations of the large volume cylinders. The Z750 DOHC engine prodived 50 hp at 7000 rpm and 60 Nm torque @ 3000 rpm, but the designers had less emphasis on sportiness and high peak power as their goal was a touring type engine for a relaxed ride.

1976 Kawasaki Z750 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2 cylinders, 745 cc
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 7000 rpm
Torque 60 Nm at 3000 rpm
Empty Weight 235 kg
Top speed 175 km / h

1977 Kawasaki Z1-R – Upscale Sports Bike with Avant-garde Design

During the 70’s, café racers with racing inspired designs were all the rage. The Z1-R, successor to the mighty Z1, was a special café racer version of the Z1000. The Z1-R was designed in the U.S., the main market for the Z-Series. It featured a stunning silver livery and unique styling never before seen on a large displacement sports bike. A slim fuel tank accentuated the massive black engine, and a bar-mounted bikini fairing advertised the R-model’s high performance. The Z1-R was also one of the first sports bikes to feature cast alloy wheels. Instead of the four mufflers of the Z1, the Z1-R used a 4-into-1 exhaust. The Z1-R heavily influenced the design of future Z-Series machines.

1977 Kawasaki Z1000, Z650 and Z200 (Europe)

With the Z1000, the magical capacity limit was cracked. At the same time, the model was also updated visually. Most notable here was the new 4-into-2 exhaust system. A great commercial success, the Z650, which brought the benefits and the look of the Z1000 in the middle class. Furthermore, Kawasaki thought of other target groups: With the Z200 a simply constructed cylinder came on the market, which was very cheap to obtain and operate.

Z1000: In 1977 Kawasaki enlarged the engine from 903cc to 1016cc by enlarging the bore four millimeters. This increased horsepower to 85hp @ 8000 rpm and increased torque from 73 Nm @ 7500 rpm to 81 Nm at 6500 rpm. With their new Z slogan “A bigger engine brings even more power, especially in lower speed range.” Kawasaski succeded in creating a motorcycle even better than the original for day-to-day power use. Other changes were a new 4 into 2 exhaust system, modified swing arm mount to improve riding stability and a disc brake.

Z200: At the 1976 IFMA Kawasaki presented Z200 as a simple, robust and economical entry level model for everyday use. With a single-cylinder engine with overhead cam delivering 17 bhp @ 8000 rpm the z200 was well received both in terms of performance and cost. The Kawasaki Z200 offered an economic alternative to the much more complex 125cc two-cylinder Japanese competitors of the day and offered electric start, front disc brake and a lightweight 145kg weight.

1977 Kawasaki Z1000 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1016 cc
Power 62 kW (85 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm at 6500 rpm 81
Empty weight 256 kg
Top Speed 210 km /h

1977 Kawasaki Z200 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 1 cylinder, 197 cc
Power 12.5 kW (17 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque 15 Nm at 7000 rpm
Empty weight 145 kg
Top speed 120 km / h

1978 Kawasaki Z1300 – The 6-Cylinder Monster that Shocked the World

The Z-Series machines established the popularity of the air-cooled In-line Four. However, the series continued to evolve. The Z1300 was powered by a revolutionary, liquid-cooled In-line Six displacing an incredible 1,268 cc, the largest of its time. Harnessing the engine’s massive power was a robust shaft drive. This flagship model boasted chassis and exterior components that were of the highest quality and performance. At 300 kg, the weight of this machine was equally impressive – in spite of this, test riders were seen wheelying the bike during its press launch. A road sport model built for fun, the Z1300 had so much power that it ran afoul of the West German horsepower regulations for motorcycles. The Z legend was now firmly established.

1978 Kawasaki Z1300 Specifications

1978 Kawasaki Z1-R (Europe)

The readers of the Motorcycle magazine chose the Z1-R immediately after the release of the first photos for “Motorcycle of the Year”. It had good reasons. Finally, the design of the Z1-R was not only unique and stylistic influence, but also tailored to the European market. This also marked the start of cast aluminum wheels.

The 1978 Kawasaki Z1-R was developed to concentrate on a more rounded design and look. Offering edges and corners more rounded look kept the new model fresh while technical advancements were slow to come to the market, thus Kawasaki’s advertising focused on it’s success in endurance racing. The Z1-R offered different handlebars, a fixed fairing, a square 13 liter tank, cast wheels and dual disc brakes which found favour with sport riders worldwide.

1978 Kawasaki Z1-R Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1016 cc
Power 66 kW (90 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 81
Empty weight 260 kg
Top speed 212 km / h

1978 Kawasaki Z650LTD (Europe)

The Kawsaski Z650LTD was created from the inspiration of the junior German Cup races of 1978. While the 652cc engine remained technically unchanged, the German importer made extensive modifications by the addition of a new gas tank with narrow cusps and cast wheels with dual discs in front.

1978 Kawasaki Z650LTD (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 652 cc
Power 49 kW (66 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 57
Empty weight 228 kg
Top speed 200 km / h

1979 Kawasaki Z1300, Z500 and Z250 (Europe)

This year, the Z1300 was clear with its six-cylinder engine in the center. The Z1000 MK II was a powerful Z-athletes, the sister model Z1000ST said the tour driver on by Cardan, long travel suspension and the big tank. In the middle class, the Z500 was made with a light weight four-cylinder, while the Z250 perfectly with a two-cylinder fit in the German 27-hp class.

1979 Kawasaki Z250A (Europe)

The 1979 Kawasaki Z250 was created as an in-house comptition. Taking the Z400 two-cylinder engine idea and modifying it for a shorter stroke with a single overhead cam with sharper performance characteristics an impressive 27hp @ 10000 rpm was achived. Weighting just 166kg the Z250 not only handled great but also stopped great as well with the first disc brakes front and rear on a Kawasaki plus cast wheels. It was a technological marvel at the time.

1978 Kawasaki Z250A (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2 cylinders, 249 cm ³
Power 20 kW (27 hp) at 10 000/min
Torque 20 Nm at 8500 rpm
Empty weight 166 kg
Top speed 145 km / h

1979 Kawasaki Z400 (Europe)

In 1979 Kawasaki already had the Kawasaki Z400B, but wanted to refresh the looks of the 400, thus the Z400G was born. With new perforated disc brakes in the front, newly innovated seven-spoke cast wheels and sintered metal pads, braking power improved but horsepower was reduced to 27hp @ 9000 rpm. Because of the horsepower reduction Kawasaki found the Z400G in competition with the Z250A.

1978 Kawasaki Z400 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2 cylinders, 398 cc
Power 20 kW (27 hp) at 9000/min
Torque Nm at 7500 rpm 29
Empty weight 182 kg
Top speed 141 km / h

1979 Kawasaki Z500 (Europe)

With the introduction of the 1979 Z500, Kawasaki crates the half-liter class of bikes and riders appreciated the affordable insurance class of the 500cc. With 50hp @ 9000 rpm and 43 Nm of torque at 7500 rpm the Z500 rode well, was a good ride, light in weight at 210kg fully fueled vs the 650cc class. With triple disc brakes, cast wheels the Z500 was quite a comptitive motorcycle in it’s class.

1978 Kawasaki Z500 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 498 cm ³
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 9000/min
Torque 43 Nm at 7500 rpm
Empty weight 210 kg
Top speed 182 km / h

1979 Kawasaki Z650SR (Europe)

The 1979 Kawasaki Z650SR was Kawasaki’s first custom bike for the beginning of the 1980s custom look boom. The “SR” was Kawasaki’s designation for a “soft chopper” and they gave the SR raised handlebars, a modified tank-seat combination and the crossed manifold of the exhaust system which made the Z650SR look more “Easy Rider” style. While the Z650SR’s engine was identical to the Z650, the Z650SR frame was greatly modified and also allowed the use of 16″ tires.

1978 Kawasaki Z650SR (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 652 cc
Power 48 kW (65 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 57
Empty weight 236 kg
Top speed 178 km / h

1979 Kawasaki Z1000 MKII (Europe)

With the end of the 70s and start of the 1980 model year manufacturers were expericing the start of a motorcycle sales boom and started offering a huge variety of motorcycle models to the rider. As with any sales boom the market was flooded with very similar bikes and Kawasaki needed a bike to stand out. Enter the new 1979 Kawasaki Z1000 MKII motorcycle, the successor to the standard 1977 Z1000. Offering a completely new look and technology package the new Z1000 MKII had 94hp @ 8000rpm and 86 Nm of torque at 7000rpm. With a shortened 86mm caster and 1485mm wheelbase the Z1000 MKII now handled ever better in the corners.

1978 Kawasaki Z1000 MKII (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1016 cc
Power 69 kW (94 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 86
Empty weight 264 kg
Top speed 211 km / h
Price (1979) 9568 Mark

1979 Kawasaki Z1000ST (Europe)

Kawasaki needed a new tourer and the Z1000ST was their answer. For a small additional amount over the Z1000, the Z1000ST offered shaft drive, longer travel front and rear suspension, a larger gas tank, modified frame for better directional stability and a higher torque motor, all for long trips in mind. With 97hp and 90 Nm torque the ST offered slightly higher performance.

1978 Kawasaki Z1000ST (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1016 cc
Power 71 kW (97 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque 90 Nm at 7000 rpm
Empty weight 276 kg
Top speed 214 km / h

1979 Kawasaki Z1300 (Europe)

With Honda selling the CBX1000 6 cylinder motorcycle successfully on the market Kawasaki wanted to create one of their own. With six water cooled cylinders, three twin carburettors, shaftdrive and 99 horsepower (unrestricted: 120 hp) with 102 Nm torque the 1979 Kawasaki Z1300 was the answer. The Z1300 was no lightweight however, weighing in at 318kg. Both the Z1300 and the Honda CBX represented the height of motorcycle engineering and complexity.

1978 Kawasaki Z1300 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 6 cylinders, 1286 cc
Power 73 kW (99 hp) at 7500 rpm
Torque 102 Nm at 6000 rpm
Empty weight 318 kg
Top speed 213 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z250C (Europe)

One year after the introduction of the Kawasaki Z250 came the Z250C. The single cylinder engine with an overhead camshaft was designed to offer riders a less expensive insurance class as the Z250C offered an easy to use 17 hp @ 8000 rpm and 19 Nm @ 4000 rpm of torque.

Featuring an electric starter motor, easy to ride comfort, and a low weight with full tank of 132 kg for superior handling. To keep costs down the Z250C also came with integrated drum brakes front and rear with cast wheels.

1980 Kawasaki Z250C (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, Displacement: 1 cylinder, 246 cc
Power 13 kW (17 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque 19 Nm at 4000 rpm
Empty Weight 132 kg
Top speed 126 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z250LTD (Europe)

The 1980 Kawasaki Z250LTD represented the entry level into the custom chopper style made popular by the movie Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. With sweeping high handlebars, a stepped seat and a small 16-inch rear wheel the bike had the right looks for the day. Using the same engine as the Z250C and offering the same wheels the Z250LTD was more of an excercise in looks than performance.

1980 Kawasaki Z250LTD (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, Displacement: 1 cylinder, 246 cc
Power 13 kW (17 hp) at 7000 rpm
Torque 19 Nm at 4000 rpm
Empty weight 139 kg
Top speed 121 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z400F (Europe)

The smallest engine model in the new 1980 program for offering sporty four-cylinder motorcycle from Kawasaki. The 399cc four cylinder offered the best of three worlds, performance at an affordable price and affordable insurance rates. With 27hp @ 8000rpm and a top speed of 154km/h the Z400F was originally destined for the Japanese home market but interest internationally had Kawasaki selling the Z400F worldwide.

1980 Kawasaki Z400F (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 399 cc
Power 20 kW (27 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm 28 at 6500 rpm
Empty weight 210 kg
Top speed 154 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z440 (Europe)

The 1980 Kawasaki Z440 was the successor to the popular Z400 two-cylinder model. By increasing the bore to 67.5mm displacement rose to 443cc. Peak horsepower now came on at a lower RPM of 7000 and the torque curve was significantly improved with 32 Nm at just 3000rpm. Especially to the pointed out already favorable torque curve once further optimization. already at 3000 rpm with 33 Nm.

1980 Kawasaki Z440 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2 cylinders, 443 cc
Power 20 kW (27 hp) at 7000 rpm
Torque Nm 32 at 3000 rpm
Net weight kg 189
Top speed 137 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z550LTD (Europe)

With the introduction of the LTD custom look series with high handlebars and a sweeping stepped bench seat, the Z500LTD represented the mid displacement option offering a new 553cc engine upgraded from the Z500. The new 550LTD engine offered more horsepower (50hp) and higher torque all at a lower rpm. Riders found 50hp to be a magical number for performance and even though the Z550LTD’s top speed was 178km/h few dared it.

1980 Kawasaki Z550LTD (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 553 cc
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque 45 Nm at 7000 rpm
Empty weight kg 211
Top speed 178 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z750E (Europe)

While the Kawasaki Z650 was a great bike and met the market head on for it’s needs, needs changed in 1980 and the market wanted a 750cc bike. With the introduction of the Honda CB750K and Suzuki GSX750, Kawasaki had their work cut out. What was created was the Z750E, taking the Z650 engine and increasing it’s bore 4mm engine size grew to 739cc and performance grew as well to 77hp @ 9500rpm. The new Z750, whose engine was based on the Z650, brought also new dynamic to the upper middle class.

1980 Kawasaki Z750E (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 57 kW (77 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm 63 at 7500 rpm
Empty weight 228 kg
Top speed 203 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z750LTD (Europe)

The biggest chopper in the Kawasaki lineup the Z750LTD replaced previous biggest one, the Z650SR. The 1980 Kawasaki Z750LTD offered raised handlebars, stepped seat and 20mm greater suspension fork travel but weight climbed another 25kg. Thankfully the engine was from the Z750E and was tuned to 74hp @ 9000 rpm make this chopping a performance machine as well.

1980 Kawasaki Z750E (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 738 cc
Power 54 kW (74 hp) at 9000/min
Torque Nm 62 at 8000 rpm
Empty weight 225 kg
Top speed 170 km / h

1980 Kawasaki Z1000 FI (Fuel Injection) (Europe)

Kawasaki again belonged to the pioneers in motorcycle construction. With the introduction of the 1980 Z1000 it was the first time for fuel injection in the Kawasaki motorcycle model lineup even though fuel injection was already standard in the car industry. While horsepower and torque did not significatly change from the carburetored Z1000ST version, the addition of FI to the Z1000FI offered sophisticated smooth engine running and responsiveness.

1980 Kawasaki Z1000 FI (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1016 cc
Power 71 kW (97 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 89
Empty weight 264 kg
Top speed 218 km / h

1981 Kawasaki Z1100GP – The 2nd Generation Z

Based on feedback from Kawasaki’s superbike racers, the 2nd generation Z models began with the Z1000 (J) in 1981. The Z1100GP, based on the Z1000, featured a larger 1,089.9 cc engine and greatly improved comfort. Its rectangular headlight and black engine and mufflers gave it a very sporty image. It also featured a unique rectangular instrument panel. The Z1100GP was also one of the first motorcycles of its era to offer fuel injection (K.E.F.I.: Kawasaki Electronic Fuel Injection) – technology made available on production bikes only by Kawasaki at the time. Compared with carburettors, this system allowed more precise engine management by adjusting fuel delivery according to changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature. The results were more power and improved fuel economy.

1981 Kawasaki Z1100GP Specifications

1981 Kawasaki Z650F (Europe)

Kawasaki wasn’t going to continue the Z650 for 1981 as it had remained unchanged since it’s introduction in 1976 but with some upgrades and small technical improvements the Z650 became the Z650F. New were cast wheels, two disc brakes in the front and one in the rear, new paint job, but also additional technical improvements which had been introduced with the Z750E. Power was 67 hp @ 9000/min and the Z650F offer a 190 km/h top speed proved the Z650F still had a lot of life left. Also as a side benefit cost price was significantly cheaper than the other 750cc four-cylinder motorcycles available.

1981 Kawasaki Z650F (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 652 cc
Power 49 kW (67 hp) at 9000/min
Torque Nm at 7500 rpm 54
Empty weight 226 kg
Top speed 190 km / h

1981 Kawasaki Z750L (Europe)

Just one year in, the Z750 receives a new look to attact buyers. Angular forms replaced rounded edges of the previous model. Squared tank edges, new seat hump, new fenders plus a square headlight created a completely new look. Performance though was unchanged.

1981 Kawasaki Z650F (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 57 kW (77 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm 63 at 7500 rpm
Empty Weight 232 kg
Top speed 203 km / h

1981 Kawasaki Z1000J and Z550 (Europe)

The Z1000J represented Kawasaki’s sportist model in 1981 with it’s changed 999cc engine that was an ideal base for the growing popularity of 1000cc class racing activities as well as riding in everyday life with its 72 kW (98 hp). The Z1000J gained success in the rank of racing especially in the AMA Superbike.

The 1981 Kawasaki Z550 was developed from the Z500, which increased horsepower and torque significantly at the same rpm vs the Z500 although both horsepower and torque peak numbers were the same. Overall, however, the torque curve across the entire engine speed range became more favorable. The biggest technologic improvement was the new electronic ignition.

1981 Kawasaki Z1000J (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 999 cm ³
Power 72 kW (98 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7500 rpm 86
Empty weight 253 kg
Top speed 212 km / h

1981 Kawasaki Z500 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 554 cc
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque 45 Nm at 7000 rpm
Empty weight 216 kg
Top speed 173 km / h

1981 Kawasaki Z1000LTD (Europe)

With the success of the Z750LTD, Kawasaki created the biggest custom yet, the 1981 Kawasaki Z1000LTD. With the powerful inline-four 998cc engine and custom accessores made the Z1000LTD the flagship Kawasaki chopper everyone wanted.

With 95 bhp @ 8500 rpm Kawasaki could claim that the Z1000LTD was the most powerful cruiser with loads of reserve pulling power on the market.

1981 Kawasaki Z1000LTD (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 998 cc
Power 70 kW (95 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7500 rpm 81
Empty weight 254 kg
Top speed 211 km / h

1981 Kawasaki Z1100ST (Europe)

Two years after Kawasaki introduced their Z1100ST came the Z1100ST, a bigger, smoother more comfortable touring bike. With more power (97hp @ 8000 rpm, 93 @ 6500 torque) down low, a smooth engine with silent blocks to reduce vibrations, a long spring and air-assisted strut suspesion, more comfortable seat, a new fuel gauge and an automatic indicator reset made for extra comfort.

1981 Kawasaki Z1000ST (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1089 cc
Power 71 kW (97 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm at 6500 rpm 93
Empty weight 271 kg
Top speed 212 km / h

1982 Kawasaki Z750GT (Europe)

Touring was being quite the craze and riders wanted to see the sights on bikes. With Kawasaki introducing shaft drive to it’s touring models like the Z1000, Z1100ST and Z1300, the new Z750GT extended the sports tourer shaft drive lineup.

The Z750GT was derived from the Z750E model with a revised engine and dual overhead camshafts that contributed to a healthy 78 hp @ 9500rpm. Forks were air-assisted shocks and had progressive action but could be easily load adjusted. Engine was rubber mounted and an oil cooler helped to promote moderate engine temperatures under long range loads. Kawasaki even included a large tank, shaft drive and comfortable bench seat.

1982 Kawasaki Z750GT (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 57 kW (78 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm 63 at 7500 rpm
Empty weight kg 243
Top speed 205 km / h

1982 Kawasaki Z750LTD (Europe)

In 1982 Kawasaki offered the Z750LTD as a 750cc parallel-twin again from the previous four-cylinder engine. With two overhead camshafts and two balancer shafts and making 49hp @ 7000 rpm, (which was significantly less power than the 4-cylinder version), Kawasaki went full bore for looks and sound over pure performance. The new Z750LTD offered contactless ignition for ease of maintenance and a rubber mounted handlebar for comfort.

1982 Kawasaki Z750LTD (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 2 cylinders, 745 cc
Power 36 kW (49 hp) at 7000 rpm
Torque 60 Nm at 3000 rpm
Empty weight 222 kg
Top speed 175 km / h

1982 Kawasaki Z1000R – Eddie Lawson Inspiration

In North America, the main market for big-bore sports bikes, superbike racing using highly modified production bikes was even more popular than World GP and attracted some of the world’s top riders. In 1981 Eddie Lawson won the championship for Kawasaki on a factory Z1000S. The Z1000R was built to commemorate that victory. The “Eddie Lawson Replica” was painted the same lime green as the Z1000S, and was a very popular model around the world. Like the Z1000S, the R model came with a Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust, a stepped seat and reservoir-equipped rear shocks.

1982 Kawasaki Z1000R – Eddie Lawson

After the highly acclaimed and hard-fought victory by Eddie Lawson in the AMA Superbike Championship in 1982 is the Kawasaki for the 1983 season is the Z 1000R – a flawless replica of the master street compliant machine.

Striking is the typical garish green Kawasaki paint with black and white decor strips, a small fairing (from GPZ1100B2) and the typical kink in the seat with a low driver’s seat cushion. Stunning visual appearance complete with rear Piggyback shocks and a smoky sound.

Changes – The Steering head angle changed from 62.5 to 61 degrees in order to provide more stability. The caster is enlarged by 15 millimeters. A revised braking system and a wider rear rim (2.50 instead of 2.15 in) complete the chassis improvements. The painted all black engine receives a modified cylinder head for more gas flow rate and an oil cooler from the GPZ1100, the operating temperature of the maintains a moderate level. A sticker on the tank, carrying Eddie Lawson signature reminiscent of winning a championship

Differences can be identified, especially in looks. Thus the tank, side covers and base color but remains the same. The sticker on the tank mentions Lawson’s second “AMA Champion Superbike Champion” in white Scripture. The instruments are sitting in a common housing. The swingarm falls from 10 millimeters longer and has slightly different reinforcements. In addition, it has once again modified the cylinder head slightly.

This model is the one that imported Kawasaki Germany.Japan only 500 units are available. While Lawson Replica in the U.S.A has 102 horseposer Germany has 98 horsepower. This is largely due to the temperate, TUV-compliant four-into-two exhaust system and bespoke carburetor tuning.

From 4000 rpm the power comes on, 6500 rpm’s and above a huge surge of power. Combined with the easy switchable Five-speed transmission provide impressive performance. Top speed measures an incredible 223 km not bad for an almost
faired motorcycle. Thus the Z1000R joins the ranks of the fastest Kawasaki Four-cylinder bikes, only the ’83-GPZ1100 has been quicker to date.

The Z1000R is sold for only one year in Germany due to the impending new four-cylinder generation Kawasaki GPZ with the sporting codes. The top model in the range, the GPZ900R with a liquid-cooled four-valve engine marks a new milestone in 1984
in the history of the brand. Other European countries and the U.S. have the Lawson for sale from 1983 to 1985 and displacement is enlarged to 1090 cc with 114 hp peak output. The era of the legendary air-cooled Kawasaki four-cylinder is coming to an end.

Z1000R, model year 1983
• Four-cylinder with double overhead camshafts
• 999 cm3 for Superbike regulations as Z1000J
• modified cylinder head
• first in Kawasaki lime-green line painting in Germany
• Oil cooler and cockpit shell of GPZ1100B2
• Kerker four-into-one exhaust system for the U.S. version
• Rear shocks with reservoir
• typical level in the field of driver seat
• only 500 units built in Japan
• Top 223 km / h
Conclusion: Rapid AMA Design & power-hungry series engine and stable suspension

1982 Kawasaki Z1000R Specifications

Kawasaki Z1000R, model year 1983
Engine Air-cooled four-cylinder four-stroke in-line, DOHC, two valves per combustion chamber
Displacement 999 cm! Bore x stroke 69.4 x 66 mm Compression Ratio 9.2:1 Power 98 hp (72
kW) at 8500 rpm Max torque 85 Nm (8.7 mkg) at 7000 rpm Fuel system
Four Mikuni CV carburetors, Ø 34 mm Transmission Five-speed rear-wheel drive
Chain Frame Double cradle steel frame Wheelbase 1520 mm Rake /
Grad/113 trailing 61 mm Seat height 740 mm front suspension forks with! 38 mm
Steel tube swingarm rear suspension with two strut Spring travel, front / rear
145/80 mm wheels light alloy wheels tires Front tire Rear 4.25 3.25 V19 V18
Front brake Dual discs, Ø 280 mm, single-piston floating calipers Rear Brakes
Disc, Ø 270 mm, single-piston caliper Dry weight (curb weight) 260 kg Fuel Capacity
21 liters no emission speed of 223 km / h Color Lime
Green with blue and white stripes RRP (1983) 10 590 DM

1983 Kawasaki Z550F (Europe)

Kawasaki Uni-Trak system is first introduced in the 1982 Kawasaki Z550F with a central spring strut. New sintered metal pads and double disc brakes in the front made rider control, even in the wet, easy. A drum rear brake and O-Ring chain final drive made maintainance easy as well.

1983 Kawasaki Z550GT (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 554 cc
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 46
Empty weight 208 kg
Top speed 184 km / h

1983 Kawasaki Z550GT (Europe)

After positive sales experiences with the Z750GT Kawasaki increased their tourer line with a new 554cc based on the proven Z550 reliable four-cylinder engine with an oil cooler producing 50 hp @ 8500 rpm with a shorter final drive ratio for more toque and a shaft final drive. Using two air-assisted spring front fork legs together with a fill valve the suspension adjusted to different loads much better.

1983 Kawasaki Z550GT (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 554 cc
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 46
Empty weight 208 kg
Top speed 184 km / h

1983 Kawasaki Z1000R (Europe)

Eddie Lawson won the US AMA Superbike title in 1981 and 1982 on a 1000cc Kawasaki in the Kawasaki racing bright green paint color scheme. The 1983 Kawasaki Z1000R continues with the replica looking Kawasaki Z1000 he rode as an offshoot. Featuring a small front cowling, modified camshafts, modified carburetors, new rear shocks with reservoir and increased horsepower.

1983 Kawasaki Z550GT (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 999 cm ³
Power 72 kW (98 hp) at 8500 rpm
Torque Nm at 7000 rpm 85
Empty weight 260 kg
Top speed 220 km / h

1983 Kawasaki Z1000R and Z550GT (Europe)

1981 and 1982 Eddie Lawson won on a lime-green Z1000 the AMA Superbike title in the U.S.. The inspired Kawasaki to a green special series based on the Z1000J. Today, one of the most coveted Z1000R Z models at all. For the middle class the Kawasaki Z550GT brings shaftdrive to the market.

1985 Kawasaki Z750 Sport (Europe)

With the 1985 Kawasaki Z750 Sport was the first model to not use the Uni-Trak spring system but a to use a traditional front fork instead. The Z750 Sport rested on traditional Kawasaki virtues and offered the least expensive 750cc motorcycle in the 750cc Kawasaki model lineup.

The proven twin cam engine with two valves per cylinder produced 80hp @ 9500rpm which was enough for sporty performance. In contrast to the newly revised Kawasaki GPZ models, the Z750 had traditional lines but with the number of customers preferring the more modern design the Z750 sales reign was at and end.

1985 Kawasaki Z550GT (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 59 kW (80 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm at 7500 rpm 66
Empty weight 234 kg
Top speed 204 km / h

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 550 (Europe)

Classic style was again gaining popularity and Kawasaski knew they could produce a classic bikes within the old Z lineup for today’s rider. The 1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 550 was the completely new model in classic style. With a double-cradle steel frame and the air-cooled inline four-cylinder with double overhead Camshaft and two valves from the 1980’s Z550 models fitted the new Zephyr looked the part. New large diameter front suspension, a sturdy aluminum swingarm and current 17-inch tires provided strong driving stability while dual-piston caliper disc brakes improved controllability and braking.

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 550 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 554 cc
Power 37 kW (50 hp) at 10 000/min
Torque 40 Nm at 6000 rpm
Empty weight 200 kg
Top speed 140 km / h

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 750 (Europe)

Produced simultaneously with the Kawasaki Zephyr 550, the Zephyr 750 followed the same classic design principle. Using an air-cooled inline four-cylinder with two overhead cam with roots that stretched back to the Z650 of 1976 and its Z750 successor.

Unfortunately when using an old engine from the past, exhaust and noise regulations change and Kawasaki could not quite match the performance of the original engine and had to make do with 72 hp @ 9500/min. Even with a lowered horsepower the Zephyr 750 due to it’s classic looks and modern ride was a sales hit around the world.

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 750 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 53 kW (72 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm 59 at 7300/min
Empty Weight 215 kg
Top speed 203 km / h

1992 Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 (Europe)

Thanks to the sales success of the 1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 550 and Zephyr 750, Kawasaki decided to introduce the Zephyr 1100 in 1992. In the big bike category it was the timeless classic. The air-cooled engine offered superior performance in all situations, and special technical features such as a slipper clutch or a secondary air system called the Clean Air were on board. With dual overhead camshafts, two balancer shafts and producing 93 hp and 88 Nm of torque mated with a classic chassis with contemporary suspension components for a very pleasant ride. The classic design concept was a big success.

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 1062 cc
Power 68 kW (93 hp) at 8000 rpm
Torque Nm 88 at 7000 rpm
Empty weight 262 kg
Top speed 210 km / h

1999 Kawasaki ZR-7 (Europe)

With the end of the Zephy line Kawasaki was looking for something classic yet modern and inexpensive to produce, thus in 1999 introduced the ZR7. The 1999 Kawasaki ZR-7 was a sophisticated motorcycle in contemporary design and marketed for every riding application. The engine was based on the Zephyr 750, but with some improvements brought to the cylinder head and gearbox. Kawasaki was able to produce even more horsepower (76hp) and more toque (88 Nm) than the original Zephyr 750.

Kawasaki offered the Uni-Trak suspension system once again with moden design features like a new tank, double cradle steel frame, lighter swingarm and a 4 into 1 exhaust system.

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 750 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 56 kW (76 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm 63 at 7300/min
Empty weight 229 kg
Top speed 209 km / h

2001 Kawasaki ZR-7S (Europe)

Two years after the successful introduction of the ZR7 came the ZR7S. Pushed two years after the introduction of the ZR-7 After the Kawasaki ZR-7S. Both the ZR7F and ZR7S were the same as each other mechancially but offered new harder springs and firmer damping. The half cowling gave the ZR-7S model a new design facelift as well as allowing the driver wind-weather protection and slightly higher top speed however, this increased weight by 7 kgs.

1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 750 (Europe) Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 739 cc
Power 56 kW (76 hp) at 9500/min
Torque Nm 63 at 7300/min
Empty weight 236 kg
Top speed 211 km / h

2003 Kawasaki Z1000 – The Z is Reborn as a Super-Naked

The 2003 Kawasaki Z1000 represented a return to the Z-models’ roots but with a modern engine and design flair. Rather than track performance and ultimate horsepower, the Z1000 delivered the traditional virtues of the Z-bikes: a sports bike that prioritised the rider “fun factor.” The Z1000’s 953 cc liquid-cooled 4-cylinder engine was based on the Ninja ZX-9R power plant rather than a previous Z model. Featuring a special cylinder head and fuel injection, the engine was tuned for more low- and mid-range torque. The four stylish mufflers were reminiscent of the original Z1, and the large-diameter, steel-tube diamond frame was fitted with top-shelf suspension components for responsive handling. Ultra-modern styling cues included an angular headlight and a sexy and compact tail cowl, giving the bike an aggressive look and creating a new genre: the Super-Naked was born.

2003 Kawasaki Z1000 Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 953 cc
Power 93 kW (127 hp) at 10 000/min
Torque Nm at 8000 rpm 96
Empty weight 217 kg
Top speed 245 km / h

2003 Kawasaki Z1000 (Europe)

The new Z1000 again set the standards in the market. With exciting streetfighter look and extremely eye-catching four-pipe mufflers style 900Z1 Superfour woke the Z1000 buyers appetites for older Z-sports enthusiasts and young riders alike. The engine was based on the Ninja ZX-9R. Upside-down fork and polished rims beds in series were other highlights.

2004 Kawasaki Z750 (Europe)

The Z750 was not just the little sister of the Z1000 but in many ways the Z1000 equal in performance even though the Z750 had 17hp less. The Z750 embodied everything that Kawasaki made. Featuring aggressive headlights, superior engine performance, a bassy sound and many technically elaborate details. A perfect and inexpensive motorcycle for all types of riding. The Z750S version had a three-quarter fairing and full lenght seat for passengers.

2004 Kawasaki Z750 and Z750S Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity: 4 cylinders, 748 cc
Power 81 kW (110 hp) at 11 000/min
Torque 75 Nm at 8200 rpm
Empty weight 204 kg
Top speed 225 km / h

2007 Kawasaki Z1000 – Shocking Style and More Refined Performance

This highly refined 2nd iteration Z1000 was based on the earlier Z1000 that had received rave reviews in Europe. Chassis upgrades included an all-new steel-tube diamond frame that incorporated a new aluminium sub-frame and mounted the engine as a stressed member, and a 25 mm longer wheelbase. Displacement remained unchanged at 953 cc, but improvements to the intake and exhaust systems resulted in more low- and mid-range torque for blazing acceleration at the cost of just 2hp. Other upgrades included radial-mount front brake calipers, and lightweight front and rear petal discs offering superior heat dissipation. The all-new exterior design included integrated radiator guards accentuating the Z1000’s concentrated, massive image. ABS was available as an option.

2007 Kawasaki Z1000 Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity R4, 953 cc
Power 92 kW (125 hp) at 10 000/min
Torque Nm at 8200 rpm 99
Empty weight 221 kg
Top speed 250 km / h

2007 Kawasaki Z750 and Z750S (Europe)

The second edition of the highly successful Kawasaki Z750. A slightly modified frame geometry extended wheelbase slightly and gave the bike more comfort for passages and a stiffened chassis, an adjustable upside-down fork and wave brake discs offered up a very sporty ride. The new engine tuning produced additional torque (but at the cost of a few horsepower) allowed Kawasaki to decrease fuel consumption. Both the Z750 and Z750S’ naked bike history can be visibilty seen thanks to clearly visible 748cc engine. ABS was available as an option as well as the Z750S version had a three-quarter fairing.

2007 Kawasaki Z750 and Z750S Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity R4, 748 cc
Power 78 kW (106 hp) at 10 500 rpm
Torque Nm 78 at 8300/min
Empty weight 225 kg
Top speed 230 km / h

2010 Kawasaki Z1000 – Original Engine and Chassis to Create the Ultimate Z

To take the Super-Naked concept even further and made the 3rd iteration Z1000 even more fun to ride, Kawasaki’s engineers discarded the earlier method of using an existing superbike platform and instead started from scractch. They designed an all-new 1,043 cc engine tuned for hard-hitting low- and mid-range torque. Even the sound from the airbox and intake ducts during acceleration was used to enhance the ride feel. The chassis features a new aluminium twin-tube frame for responsive handling and light weight. Another interesting feature is the Horizontal Back-link rear suspension that contributes to mass centralisation and improved manoeuvrability. A low-profile front cowl and high tank are complemented by specially designed wheels and stylish front fork guards, giving the latest Z1000 a powerful, dynamic form.

The new Kawasaki Z1000 caused quite a stir. This unique naked bike design was a completely new approach adding on design cues from the Kawasaki’s past. The engine offers enormous power from the bottom end and the throaty intake sound makes the every rider addicted after a short time.

2010 Kawasaki Z1000 Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity R4, 1043 cc
Power 101.5 kW (138 hp) at 9600/min
Torque 110 Nm at 7800 rpm
Empty weight 221 kg
Top speed 240 km / h

2011 Kawasaki Z750R (Europe)

The Kawasaki Z750R took many popular tuning measures the forefront. With high-quality suspension technology and a gorgeous aluminum swingarm with higher damping more adjustment front and rear, powerful brakes with radial-mount, unique seat and two tone paint made the Z750R version differ in detail of the normal Z750 and saved the owner countless workshop hours.

2011 Kawasaki Z750R Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity R4, 748 cc
Power 78 kW (106 hp) at 10 500 rpm
Torque Nm 78 at 8300/min
Empty weight 227 kg
Top speed 230 km / h

2011 Kawasaki Z1000SX (Europe)

With the introduction of the new Z1000 last year, Kawasaki decided to produce a touring model called the Z1000SX. A full faired motorcycle with more ergonomic details, better aerodynamics and higher top speed but with mechanicals largly unchanged from the Z1000. The Z1000SX is also available as a The Z1000SX Tourer. In North America the Z1000SX is called the Ninja 1000 and Ninja 1000 Tourer.

2011 Kawasaki Z750R Specifications

Engine type, engine capacity R4, 1043 cc
Power 101.5 kW (138 hp) at 9600/min
Torque 110 Nm at 7800 rpm
Empty weight 231 kg
Top speed 245 km / h

2014 Kawasaki Future Z

After writing this entire guide and studing the Kawasaki’s Z’s history (both good and bad points), I would like to see Kawasaki produce again a basic UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) simular to the ZRX1200 or even Zypher/ZR7 in style, ergonomics and purpose. While the new 2nd and 3rd Generation Z750 and Z1000 motorcycle are impressive from a technological view point they are just not the “Z” classic style of motorcycle riders and customers want and unfortunately really are just “Z” models mostly due to the name and mostly naked inline-4 engine appearance. It would be nice to see Kawasaki again produce a line of classic bikes as they did with the new W800.

1980s: The Birth of the MULE

The origins of the UTV aren’t totally clear, but many credit the MULE with being the very first side-by-side (if you’re not counting the Lockley Wrangler or single-seater Honda Odyssey). And it all started on a cocktail napkin back in 1980.

According to Kawasaki, three employees had one simple concept in mind: “a vehicle with four wheels that could carry two people and heavier loads than an ATV.” They sketched out their vision on a napkin, calling it the Pony Truck and nicknaming it the “four-wheeled three wheeler.”

And the rest, as they say, was history.

It all started with a napkin. The original concept of what would eventually become the very first Kawasaki MULE was drawn up in 1980.
Photo by Kawasaki

󈨜: Kawasaki MULE 1000

Eight years after the initial concept was drawn up, the first Kawasaki MULE hit the market. The MULE 1000 was powered by a liquid-cooled 454cc twin-cylinder engine and featured a rear differential lock feature. Independent front and rear suspension and four all-terrain tires made it perfect for any work site. The MULE was an instant success, especially on farms and ranches.

The origins of the MULE are evident in this original brochure cover from 1988—work, work, and more work. From the fields to construction sites, the MULE was built to get things done.
Photo by UTV Scene

Operational history

Army units to be equipped with this model included the following Sentai: 5th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 59th, 111th, 112th, 200th and 244th and the 81st Independent Fighter Company. Along with the previously named Army air units, pilots were trained through the Akeno and Hitachi (Mito) Army Flying Schools. Many of the Akeno and Hitachi instructors, who were often seconded from operational units, flew combat missions (this deployment was a notable spreading out of the very few fighters that were operational, but many of these wings were only partially re-equipped). [11]

The Ki-100 made its combat debut on the night of 9 March 1945 [7] and suffered its first loss on 7 April 1945, when a Ki-100 flown by Master Sergeant Yasuo Hiema of the 18th Sentai was shot down by a B-29 after "attacking the formation again and again". [7] [N 1] Allied aircrews soon realised that they were facing a formidable new fighter [12] Although far fewer Ki-100s were available than the Ki-84s, it was considered one of the most important fighters in the inventory. However, during interception of the high-flying B-29s (the B-29 raids soon became low-level missions) the new Japanese fighters struggled as the Ha-112-II engine's performance decreased at high altitudes. The most effective way to attack the Superfortress was by making very dangerous head-on attacks, with the fighter hanging its approach path as it neared the bomber. A failure while attempting this was deadly, because of the concentration of defensive fire from the bombers. In this type of combat, the Navy's Mitsubishi J2M Raiden was superior. [13]

During March and April 1945 experienced instructors from the Akeno Army Flying School flew the Ki-100 in extensive tests against the Ki-84, which was considered to be the best of the JAAF fighters then in operational service. Their conclusions were that, given pilots of equal experience, the Ki-100 would always win in combat. [4] From Mid-April, Major Yasuhiko Kuroe, a highly experienced combat veteran was placed in charge of a "flying circus" made up of captured Allied aircraft, including a Mustang which had been captured in China. This "circus" travelled to various operational fighter bases throughout Japan and was used to train pilots in the best ways to combat enemy aircraft.

On 25 July 1945, 18 Ki-100 fighters from 244th Sentai encountered 10 Hellcats of the light aircraft carrier USS Belleau Wood's Fighter Squadron 31 (VF-31) in an air battle where the Ki-100 pilots claimed 12 victories with only two losses. Claims and counter-claims regarding the true results still arise around this action. The American claims were two Hellcats and two Ki-100s, including Major Tsutae Obara's Ki-100 and Ensign Edwin White's Hellcat which collided, killing both pilots. [14]

After the bombing of the Kagamigahara plant and the slow deliveries of components by the satellite plants, production rates of the Ki-100 began to fall more and more, and in the period between May and July, only 12 units were delivered. Finally, production ended due to the bombing, with only 118 units of the Army Type-5 Fighter Model 1b delivered.

The last loss of a Ki-100 occurred on 14 August 1945, a day before the surrender of Japan, when Sergeant Major Fumihiko Tamagake of the 244th Sentai was shot down by a Mustang. [11]

An overall assessment of the effectiveness of the Ki-100 rated it highly in agility, and a well-handled Ki-100 was able to outmanoeuvre any American fighter, including the formidable P-51D Mustangs and the P-47N Thunderbolts which were escorting the B-29 raids over Japan by that time, and was comparable in speed, especially at medium altitudes. In the hands of an experienced pilot, the Ki-100 was a deadly opponent the Ki-100 and the Army's Ki-84 and the Navy's Kawanishi N1K-J were the only Japanese fighters able to defeat the latest Allied types. [15]

Welcome, Kawasaki owners. Access the information and tools you need to get the most out of your vehicle.


Kawasaki Genuine Parts are the only parts on the market specifically engineered and tested to fit your Kawasaki vehicle. They undergo comprehensive evaluation to ensure the hightest quality and durability standards to help maximize the life of your vehicle, and give you peace of mind that your Kawasaki is always operiating at peak performance.

The proper maintenance of your Kawasaki vehicle is the best way to ensure that it operates at its full potential. Whether you work on your vehicle or bring it to an authorized dealer for service, we recommend that you use Kawasaki Genuine Parts.


VIN check and its history for Kawasaki

Kawasaki is another grand slam motorcycle producer popular all over the world. Japanese company has always been known for its superbikes featuring great engine specs, reliability and class. It is represented in various racing championships and is still involved in mass production. Purchasing a new bike is always challenging for the wallet especially when it comes to Kawasaki brand. That is why used vehicle market is always an ease for your pocket. Here you can opt for wide array of previous models at a reasonable price.

Pay attention that pre-owned bikes need a thorough inspection and examination in case you want to avoid any malfunctions and problems in future. Bike is one of the riskiest ways of transport. That is why you need to be sure that everything works properly and the vehicle does not have any damages. Kawasaki VIN check service will help to obtain necessary information within a couple of seconds. There are no any hidden fees for using our Kawasaki VIN search tool. Visitors of our website can also benefit from the most detailed Kawasaki recalls by VIN number.

The history of the brand started many decades ago when in 1896 Shozo Kawasaki decided to start his own business specialized in construction of oceangoing vessels. Alter the company was also involved in manufacturing of locomotives, turbines, passenger carriages and more. The brand launched production of motorcycles only in 1949. The first ever Meihatsu model was released 5 years later. It was equipped with independent Kawasaki engine followed by improved version in 1956 with the official Kawasaki logo on its body.

W1 model appeared to be one of the most noticeable bikes of the brand. It had 650cc engine with exception spec released in 1960. New bike enjoyed great success. The company was also aimed to produce lighter bikes and came out with some other 250cc and 350cc models. Many great motorcycles were manufactured from that time including award-winning Mach III otherwise known as H1 500cc with heavier versions including Mach IV in 1972 with 748cc motor. Now Kawasaki produces wide range of bikes including super RX super versions and lighter models.

Kawasaki KLR250 History [ edit ]

The Kawasaki KLR250 was a motorcycle produced from 1984 to 2005, with only minor changes during the model run. This lightweight dualsport motorcycle was used for several years by the US military for a variety of tasks, including messenger duty and reconnaissance. It was produced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan and exported to many parts of the world, including the U.S. and Canada, Europe and Australia.

Somewhat similar in appearance to the larger KLR650 (sold in the same colors), the 250 is often described as being a better trail bike (due to lighter weight and reduced bulk) but less enjoyable on long stretches of highway. The user-friendly power delivery and light weight make it a popular bike for novice riders. Like the 650, the KLR250 has continued to sell well into the 21st century despite being questionably "state of the art" even at its introduction, and having no styling changes, except paint and the color of the plastic. You can tell approximately what year a KLR is (either size) by the color of the bodywork:

  • '85 White/Dark Blue
  • '85/'86 Lime Green/Dark Blue OR Red/Dark Blue (non-US)
  • '87 White/Red with Blue/Red Tank Decal (patriotic year)
  • '88/'89 half Blue/half White with Green Stripes
  • '90-'92 White/Light Blue
  • '94-'96 Teal/Purple (often referred to as "Barbie Years")
  • '95 Seafoam/Black (Spain only?)
  • ? Black/Black with Purple Tank Decal
  • ? Black/Dark Blue
  • '97-'99 Dark Blue "Forest Bluish Green"
  • '00 Olive/Black Tank Decal
  • '01/'02 "Galaxy Silver"/Olive
  • '03 Black/Olive
  • '04/'05 Black/"Aztec Red"

Unlike the 650, the 250 shares many engine parts with an ATV sold by Kawasaki, the KSF250 "Mojave". This has resulted in the availability of engine performance parts, though many owners prefer to use their bike relatively unmodified.

Owners report highway fuel economy figures ranging from 55-70mpg, and city fuel economy of 45-50mpg. The combination of excellent fuel economy, high reliability, light weight and easy handling have made it a favorite among dualsport riders as well as urban commuters and it remains popular even though production has ceased.

It is rumored that Kawasaki has discontinued the KLR250 at the end of the 2005 model run.

The base specifications have remained virtually unchanged through out the production period.

2012 Kawasaki KX100 [ edit ]

If one is ready to advance from the smaller KX85 to the full-size Lites competition, the 2012 MY Kawasaki KX100 is a good option to fill in the gap between these categories.

Featuring a liquid-cooled, 99cc, two-stroke engine, it offers just enough muscle for one to make the transition between classes. And with its six-speed transmission, one may be confident that there is a gear for any situation that might occur.

And last but not least, the Uni-Trak rear suspension plus the 36 mm inverted cartridge fork ensure that no matter how steep the gradient, or how difficult the obstacle may be, the KX100 will always get the rider to the finish line.

Kawasaki Motocross history 1963-2016


Kawasaki has a long and storied history in the sport of motocross.

Kawasaki has a long and storied history in the sport of motocross.

A full decade before Honda took the plunge with their game changing CR250M Elsinore, Kawasaki motocross machines were tearing up the dirt courses of Japan. They were the first of the “Big Four” to wade into the uncharted waters of motocross with a purpose built off-road racing machine and pivotal in bringing the Old World sport of motocross to a new and enthusiastic audience.

Over the years, Kawasaki has often been at the cutting edge of motocross design. Never afraid to push the envelope, the red, and later, green machines have always been quick to embrace new motocross technology. Some of those gambles have paid off (disc brakes) and some have not (bolt-on shock towers), but regardless of the success of the innovation, Kawasaki has continued to try new things and always push forward. This pioneering spirit has helped drive competition and benefited every one of us that throw a leg over a motocross machine.

In putting together this 53-year Kawasaki motocross retrospective, I was struck by how many significant machines have worn that trademark green. Machines big and small, power houses and mini missiles, every one of them important in their own way to the rich heritage of Kawasaki and motocross. In light of that, I thought it might be of interest to highlight a few of the more signifiant machines Kawasaki has brought to market. Not necessarily the best at any one time, just the ones that have had the most impact on the sport as a whole and Kawasaki specifically.

As always, these are just my opinion, so if I left off your personal favorite Kwacker, please feel free to make your case in the comment section below. Most importantly, keep calm, carry on, and always remember to keep the rubber side down.

Sit back and check out the evolution ala green.

1963 Kawasaki B8M: The machine that started it all.

The 1963 Kawasaki B8M (sometimes referred to as the “red-tank Kawasaki) stands as the first production motocross machine from Japan. Based off a small street machine known as the B8, the B8M featured a 123cc rotary-valve two-stroke single and four-speed manual clutch transmission. In the transformation from plain-Jane B8 to racy B8M, the Kawasaki engineers stripped the lights, upgraded the forks, raised the expansion chamber, swapped the seat, junked the crossbar-less street bars and bolted on a set of off-road knobbies. Pumping out a claimed 12 horsepower, the B8M was by far the most race-worthy Japanese machine of the day. The bike was so good that it dominated the All-Japanese Motocross Championships in 1963 by sweeping the top six places.

After the immense success of the B8M, Kawasaki’s rivals Suzuki and Yamaha started to take interest in this new form of off-road racing and within a few years, both would have motocross development programs of their own. The B8M and its successors were the first steps in a revolution that would transform Japan from a motocross curiosity to a world power in a few short years.

1969 Kawasaki F21M Green Streak: The color of money

In 1968, Kawasaki released their second important off-road racing machine, the F21M. The F21M was designed mainly for scrambles racing, a similar, but less intense off-road discipline than motocross. Unlike the B8M, the F21M was not based off a street bike. Instead, it was designed from the ground up to be a racer. It featured a 238cc rotary-valve two-stroke single and a four-speed transmission putting a claimed 28 horsepower to the ground. These were big numbers in 1968 and the F21M quickly became known for its high-revving horsepower. In 1969, the F21M would gain a new name, “Green Streak” and with it, a change in color from red to green. This made the ’69 F21M Green Streak the first Kawasaki to wear the now familiar lime green and cemented its place on our list.

1970 Kawasaki GM31 Centurion: Little green holeshot machine

In the mid-sixties, motocross was still a bit of a curiosity in America. It was big in Europe and quickly catching on in Japan, but not quite on most people’s radar here in the states. In 1967, all that changed with the work of an enterprising man by the name of Edison Dye. Dye had the bright idea that he could sell more Husqvarna’s if he brought over some of Europe’s stars to show what the bikes were capable of. Dye’s exhibition series proved to be a huge success (so much so that the AMA stole it from him) and America’s love affair with motocross was born.

While motocross in America was on a huge upward swing in the late sixties, Kawasaki USA was barely known. American operations had opened in 1966 and by 1968, they had a nationwide distribution network in the works. In 1969, the arrival of the high-performance Mach III street machine put them on the map of road bike enthusiasts, but off-road guys continued to ignore the little two-strokes with the funny name.

All that changed in 1970, with the introduction of a little green rocket by the name of G31M Centurion. Often referred to as the “baby Green Streak”, the G31M was a small-bore powerhouse, pumping out an unheard of 18.5 horsepower from its 100cc rotary-valve single. At the time, this was nearly double what most 100cc machines were putting out.

Just as with the F21M, the G31M was not designed specifically as a motocross racer, but it was easily modified for the demands of the new discipline. After word got out on the little green meanies, Centurions were ripping holeshots at tracks all across the nation. While the motor was a powerhouse, it was extremely high strung and required a locked right wrist to get the most out of its high-revving nature. The chassis and suspension also left a lot to be desired, but most people at the time did not care. For them, it was all about the eerie shriek emanating from that tiny exhaust stinger. The G31M Centurion stands as the bike that introduced America to the joys of Kawasaki horsepower and put the brand on the US racing radar for the first time.

1974 Kawasaki KX250: The progenitor of a proud pedigree

In 1974, Kawasaki would make its most serious off-road commitment to date with the release of an all-new line of motorcycles designed solely for motocross racing – the KX. The KX’s were significant machines because they represented the first bikes from Kawasaki designed from the ground up to be serious motocross racers. Prior racers had been modified street bikes (B8M, J1M, B1M), scramblers (F21M), TT racers (G31M) or stripped enduro bikes (F81M, F11M, F12M). The new KX on the other hand, was crafted from the beginning to do but one thing win motocross races.

The new KX250 featured a chrome-moly steel chassis (stronger than the mild steel found on most Japanese brands of the day, but not as sturdy as the ultra-tough chrome-moly steel found on Husqvarna’s) and a piston-port two-stroke single feeding power through a wet clutch and five-speed gearbox. In the suspension department, the KX featured 5.8 inches of movement up front and a standard for the time, 3.5 inches of travel in the rear. Unfortunately, neither end was very good and the KX had a hard time keeping up with the established Honda Elsinore and amazing new Yamaha YZ.

Even though the KX250 failed to set the world on fire in ’74, it did signal a shift toward more serious racing machines from Kawasaki. It would take them several more years to finally catch the likes of Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, but eventually the green machines would claim the top spot in the motocross rankings. Today, the KX line is one of the most successful in all of motocross, and that lineage stars here.

1978 Kawasaki KX250 A-4: A works bike for the chosen few

Even after the introduction of the KX250 in 1974, the green machines had failed to gain traction in the marketplace. First the Honda, then the Yamaha, and later the Suzuki took turns dominating the top of the 250 motocross charts. In 1977, Kawasaki did not even produce a motocross machine and most green dealers were more interested in selling Z-1000’s than cases of two-stroke oil.

In 1978, that attitude changed with the introduction of Kawasaki’s first official “works-replica”, the ultra-trick KX250 A-4. The A-4 tipped the scales at a featherweight 206 pounds and pumped out a rip-snorting 40 horsepower (claimed) from its 249cc’s. Long-travel suspension graced the KX for the first time and a Boyesen reed-valve (a first for any manufacturer) gave the bike instant throttle response. Power and handling were pro-focused, as one would expect from a Weinert replica and the KX was aimed squarely at expert racers only.

Available in extremely limited numbers (an estimated 1500 total), the KX250 A-4 was more about Kawasaki’s renewed commitment to racing than selling big numbers. At the time, it was important to demonstrate that the green team was serious about motocross and the A-4 showed that in spades. It put Kawasaki back in the game and made it clear that they could indeed compete with the other Big Four manufacturers.

1979 Kawasaki KX80: The start of something big

In 1979, Kawasaki entered the mini motocross game for the first time with the introduction of the all-new KX80. Slightly larger than the Suzuki and Yamaha 80’s of the time, the new KX featured a torquey two-stroke motor, five-speed transmission and rugged motocross-ready suspension. The mini-cycle class was big business in the late seventies and the arrival of the KX80 gave Kawasaki an important foothold in the exploding entry-level segment. While not the best performer in the class, the mini KX proved a great success for Kawasaki. It introduced thousands of young racers to the joys of riding green and paved the way for what would eventually become the most successful grass roots amateur motocross program in the sport’s history, Team Green.

The 1980 Kawasaki KX125, KX250 and KX420: Have linkage will travel

In the late seventies, motocross suspension design was moving at a break-neck pace and all the manufacturers were caught in a battle of technological one-upmanship. In a mere five years, travel had grown from a kidney busting 3 inches, to an eye-opening full foot of articulation. By 1979, most of the manufacturers had settled on 11 to 12 inches as the optimum amount of travel and the focus began to shift from quantity, to quality.

The first production single shock design to utilize a linkage system, the 1980 Kawasaki Uni-Trak paved the way for the Supercross-bred suspension we use today.

In 1980, Kawasaki took the first major step in this direction by incorporating a linkage into its rear suspension for the first time. Originally named the “Bell Crank” in Japan, the design that would become the Uni-Trak consisted of a large vertically mounted single shock, connected in a see-saw layout to a bell crank (hence the name) by a set of steel pull rods and bolted to a large alloy swingarm. The Uni-Trak design was inspired by the need to offer better small bump performance, while still allowing good bottoming resistance on big hits. The addition of the linkage allowed the engineers to vary the forces placed on the shock at different speeds and better fine-tune performance.

Initially, the Uni-Trak did not perform appreciably better than the conventional dual-shock arrangements of the time, but it did prove there was potential in the new design. Later iterations would improve performance and become lighter by replacing the heavy steel components with lightweight alloy alternatives. In 1980, the Uni-Trak did not immediately make every other suspension systems obsolete, but it did blaze a trail that all other off-road manufacturers would follow within a few short years.

1982 Kawasaki KX125 and KX250: Better living through hydraulics

In 1982, Kawasaki became the first major manufacturer to equip their stock machines with disc brakes (with all due respect to Rokon, who had equipped their wacky machines with disc brakes in the mid-seventies). This was a major innovation at the time, as the power and suspension capabilities of modern motocross machines were quickly outstripping the braking power afforded by conventional drum brakes.

In 1980, Kawasaki debuted their first disc-equipped Factory racers in the All-Japanese Nationals. Early versions of this braking system (like the one seen here on Goat Brecker’s KX250SR) actually mounted the caliper forward of the lower fork tubes in an effort to keep the caliper out of harm’s way and find the best placement for power and feel.

For eighty years, the drum had proven an effective and reliable way of stopping a vehicle, but as more and more machines moved to hydraulic discs in the seventies, it started to look like its days were numbered. The switch from 120mm hubs to 200mm units and advances like dual-leading shoe linkages had kept the drum in the hunt, but by 1980, the writing was on the wall.

In 1979, Kawasaki first started development on a disc brake for motocross use and by 1980 they had a prototype ready to be raced in the All-Japanese Motocross Nationals. Early concerns about the effectiveness of the system in water and mud proved unfounded, but there were problems with cracked calipers, warped rotors and misrouted cables. While powerful, the early disc systems proved grabby and prone to squealing and it took engineers and test riders several iterations to find the best material combinations for off-road use.

By 1981, the Kawasaki engineers had the basics figured out and the new braking system made its debut on the 1982 Kawasaki KX125 and KX250 (the KX420 took the year off after a disastrous ’81 outing) to much fanfare. For riders raised on the feel and power of drum binders, the new discs were both a blessing and a curse. Where four fingers were required to bring a ‘81 KX420 down from speed, the same task could be accomplished with just one on the new ‘82 KX250. This newfound jump in braking power actually put some riders off and many preferred the comfort of their familiar drums. History, however, would prove that the days of the drum were quickly fading away and Kawasaki’s bold move to embrace this new technology was the right one.

1983 Kawasaki KX60: The bike that launched a thousand careers

The 1983 Kawasaki KX60 was far from the first pint-sized motocrosser to come from Japan, but right from the start, it was the best. In 1983, all the Big Four offered 60cc mini racers for aspiring Bob Hannah’s to choose from. The all-new KX60 and CR60R vied for showroom victory with the slightly more long-in-the-tooth RM60 and YZ60. All four offered different levels of performance, with the YZ and RM appealing more to smaller and less skilled riders, while the CR and KX offered junior more room to stretch his abilities.

The KX in particular was the choice of aspiring throttle jockeys, offering the most power and suspension in the class. It was bigger, faster and more capable than anything else available at the time and quickly caught on as the hot ticket for collecting trophies at Chicken Licks Raceway. Within a few short years, the KX had laid waste to the 60cc competition and stood as the last 60cc mini-cycle available for sale.

A 1985 upgrade to liquid cooling would be the last major refinement the evergreen KX60 would receive (aside from a yearly dose of Bold New Graphics) until its eventual demise in 2003. For 20 years, the KX dominated 60cc class racing in America, taking home countless amateur National titles along the way. Kevin Windham, Ricky Carmichael, Robbie Reynard, James Stewart, Mike Alessi and Ryan Villopoto all took turns winning aboard the venerable Kawasaki 60. It was a bike so good, it scared away the competition and so influential, it played a part in nearly every major professional career for nearly two decades. That is a resume any machine would be proud to own.

1985 Kawasaki KX125 and KX250: KIPS-equipped Kermit Krossers

In the heyday of the two-stroke motor, it was its lightweight design, simple construction and impressive peak power output that made it such an attractive racing alternative. It was lighter, easier to work on and more powerful per cubic centimeter than the booming thumpers of the day. Where it fell short was in the breadth of its power, where the smooth and tractable four-stroke held a distinct advantage.

In the seventies, the addition of a reed-valve to the intake helped improve response and the switch to liquid cooling in the early eighties, combined with advances in carburetor technology, helped the manufacturers push horsepower figures ever skyward. While more potent than ever, these racing two-strokes continued to offer fairly narrow spreads of power. They were explosive and fast, but typically unable to carry that power over a broad range of RPM.

In 1982, Yamaha took the first step toward addressing this issue with the introduction of their Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS). The YPVS used a rotating drum placed at the top of the exhaust port to vary port timing based on engine RPM. In theory, this allowed the engineers to offer two porting configurations in one motor, to best optimize the flow characteristics for a broader powerband.

In 1984, Honda introduced its version of a power widening gizmo in the form of the Automatic Torque Amplification Chamber, or ATAC. The ATAC took a different approach than Yamaha, in that it did not alter the port timing. Instead, the ATAC tried to widen the powerband by adding a small sub-chamber to the exhaust port to increase head volume at low rpm. At low rpm, a flapper valve opened, allowing exhaust gas to fill the chamber before exiting the exhaust. At high rpm, the valve closed, allowing unimpeded flow to the expansion chamber. This allowed the CR motor to behave as if it had two differently tuned pipes, one configured for low- end and one tuned for top-end power.

In 1985, Kawasaki introduced its version of a two-stroke “Power Valve” for the first time. Dubbed KIPS (for Kawasaki Integrated Power-valve System), the new design integrated the resonance chamber of Honda’s ATAC and the variable port control of Yamaha’s YPVS.

While both systems were a step in the right direction, it was Kawasaki that finally cracked the code of how to best implement these new technologies. Their solution was the handiwork of chief motocross engine designer Eizaburo Uchinishi, who incorporated the theories behind both the ATAC and YPVS into one mechanism. Dubbed the Kawasaki Integrated Power-valve System (KIPS), this new design featured both an exhaust sub-chamber and a variable exhaust port to boost engine torque.

The new design would make its production debut in 1985 on the new Kawasaki KX125 and KX250 (the KX500 would get the Power Valve treatment a year later in 1986). Both the 125 and 250 were potent performers, with the small KX in particular holding a significant power advantage over its classmates. As with any new technology, it would take Kawasaki a few years to refine the KIPS’ potential and later versions would incorporate a second valve to alter exhaust-port timing and a 2-stage operation for the sub-ports.

Perhaps the best endorsement for Uchinishi’s design came from the competition. In 1992, Honda introduced a new KIPS-like Composite Racing Valve (CRV) on their new CR250R and in 1995, Yamaha integrated a resonance chamber into their proven YPVS design for the first time. Today, the KX125, KX250 and KX500 are but a memory, but the KIPS lives on in Kawasaki’s mini-class rockets, the KX85 and KX100.

1987 Kawasaki KX80 Big Wheel: Junior gets an upgrade

With the demise of the 100 class in America in the early eighties, a void was left in the market for kids too big for an 80, but not quite ready for a 125. In 1987, Kawasaki addressed this issue with an all-new model (at least in the US), the Kawasaki KX80 “Big Wheel”. Popular across the pond for Schoolboy class racing, big-wheeled 80’s made a perfect transition machine for kids not quiet big enough for a full-size bike.

The new Big Wheel bumped up the diameter of the wheels two inches front and rear (19” front and 16” in the rear) and extended the wheelbase with a longer swingarm. The motor and basic chassis remained unchanged, but the overall bike offered a little more room to grow. For kids large enough to make use of the bigger bike, the Big Wheel offered superior handling and greater stability over its small-wheeled sibling. Eventually, the Big Wheel model diverged from the regular 80 with upgraded suspension components (the Big Wheel got the switch to USD forks sooner) and in 1995, a bump to 100cc’s. Perhaps most significant, the introduction of the KX80 Big Wheel gave rise to the Super Mini class in America, which continues to thrive to this day.

1988 Kawasaki KX500: The Jolly Green Giant

Kawasaki’s history in the Open class is a bit of a rags-to-riches story. Early Open class Kwackers were anything but excellent and basically an afterthought in the marketplace. From 1977 to 1979 Kawasaki did not even bother to make an Open bike, and when they reentered the market in 1980, it was a bitter disappointment. The 1980 KX420 was an overweight, ill-handling and poor-running mess of a bike that was so lambasted by the media that Kawasaki refused to give them to magazines to test the following year. It rattled, it vibrated and it swat off its pilots like a mechanical bull with a mischievous streak.

In 1982, Kawasaki took the season off to regroup and came out with an all-new machine for ’83 – the first KX500. Unfortunately, the big green meanie was once again too heavy, too tall and nearly impossible to ride. The motor blubbered and pinged incessantly and liked to grenade when pushed. The suspension, chassis and overall handling were more or less terrifying and the bike was a handful for even the most skilled of pilots to manage.

After another disastrous year in ‘84, Kawasaki came out swinging in 1985 with an all-new KX500. The new green five-honey received the water-cooling treatment for the first time and with it, a slight decrease in its notorious pinging. Reliability continued to be a KX500 bugaboo, the Kawasaki once again brought up the caboose in the 500 standings.

The 1986 season brought with it another major revamp for the KX500, but this time it was with much better results. A new KIPS equipped motor finally cured its lingering powerband issues and chassis refinements at last delivered a 500 Kawasaki that handled better than a runaway school bus. The addition of a rear disc brake aided stopping and a revised Uni-Trak rear gobbled up the bumps. Overall, it was the best Kawasaki Open bike in history and a front fork away from wresting away the title of best 500 in the land.

The ’87 KX500 would see further refinements with an ultra-slim layout and new bottom-link Uni-Trak. The new KX was literally half the width of the porky CR and a solid handler. The KIPS motor continued to impress with its smooth and abundant power, but finicky carburetion and an incredibly harsh set of TCV front forks held it back in the final standings.

This brings us to 1988, the real watershed year for the KX500. An all-new green frame and redesigned bodywork refreshed the look of the half-liter ground-pounder and the additions of Kayaba’s excellent cartridge fork and Mikuni’s new PKW39 crescent-slide carb finally addressed the last of its glaring issues. Gone was the slim layout of the ’87 KX, but the rest of the bike was majorly improved.

What truly made the ’88 KX500 such a great machine was its incredible motor. In an era dominated by 60 horsepower terror machines, the KX was a fire-breathing pussycat. The KIPS allowed the KX to pump out an amazing amount of power, while also being smooth and controllable. It offered comparable thrust to the blistering-fast Honda, but did it in a much more civilized fashion. If you needed to torque around a tricky off-camber, it was up to the task. If you needed to pin your eyeballs back to clear the Himalayas, all that thrust was a mere flick of the wrist away.

Handling of the new chassis was much improved and the KX offered the best combination of cornering and stability in the 500 class. The new KYB cartridge forks were 1001% better than the grim ’87 offerings and the overall bike was by far the best overall package of 1988. Its only real shortcomings were its pudgy layout, brittle plastic and suspect component quality (best to buy footpeg springs in six packs).

In 1989, the KX would get a bump up in fork size and in 1990, the mighty 500 would switch to upside-down forks and a 19” wheel (a move none too popular with the Baja set). Other than suspension refinements and a revolving door of BNG, the first and last great KX500 would soldier on mostly unchanged for nearly two decades of off-road domination. It captured four of the last five 500 National Motocross Championships run and roosted to countless off-road victories with legends like Ty Davis, Larry Roeseler and the late great Danny Hamel at the controls. Today, the KX500 is a motocross icon, because in 1988, Kawasaki finally got it right.

1990 Kawasaki KX125 and KX250: Buck Roger’s personal berm busters

In 1989, the full size KX’s were just about the dowdiest looking machines in motocross. They were big, bulky and old fashioned looking. The rear fender looked more like a snow shovel than a piece of racing equipment and the poor little 125 was still saddled with a single large radiator on one side that made it look like a KX from 1982. Compared to the sexy Honda, racy Suzuki and works-like Yamaha, the poor KX’s looked like mini vans lost at a Mustang convention.

All that changed in 1990 with introduction of the all-new Kawasaki KX125 and KX250. The new machines were a complete 180 from their conservative looking predecessors with futuristic looking bodywork, road race inspired steel perimeter frames, bolt-on alloy shock towers and outlandish (for the time) graphics. They looked like bikes from the future and immediately caught the imagination of the motocross buying public.

Actual performance was quite good and both bikes acquitted themselves well on the track. The 125 was a huge improvement over the anemic ’89 model and the 250 continued to offer one of the fastest motors on the track. The new chassis was heavy and bulky, but it offered previously unknown levels of rigidity. Suspension was also very good and both bikes were near the top of the class.

While not perfect, the 1990 KX’s were groundbreaking machines that had a significant impact on the sport. They were the first machines to bring us ultra-wide platform footpegs (your ankles thank you) and the forerunners of the ultra-ridged alloy perimeter frames common on all Japanese machines today. They blazed trails in styling and led to an explosion of crazy colors and outlandish graphics in the early to mid-nineties (depending on your age, you may or may not be thankful for this). Perhaps most importantly, they once again demonstrated Kawasaki’s commitment to push the envelopes of design and challenge the motocross status quo.

2000 Kawasaki KX65: A micro mini for the new millennium

By the mid-nineties, the venerable KX60 had enjoyed an unchallenged decade at the top of the 60cc charts but the times, they were a changin’. The introduction of upstarts like Cobra and the return of a revitalized KTM to the mini ranks started to put a little pressure on the grande dame of pint-sized racers. The littlest KX had not enjoyed an update since Reagan was in office and its dog-bone Uni-Trak and drum brakes were starting to look as out of style as mullets and Members Only jackets.

With Y2K approaching and the shut down of all society eminent, Kawasaki decided the time was right to finally introduce an all-new mini racer. The 2000 Kawasaki KX65 was completely new from the ground up and every bit a modern machine. A powerful new liquid-cooled 64.7cc motor provided thrust through a manual clutch and six-speed transmission. Beefy 33mm forks offered a full 8.3 inches of travel in the front (.4 inches more than the KX60) and an all-new bottom-link Uni-Track punched out a full 8.9 inches (12 inches more than the KX60) in the rear. Disc brakes front and rear hauled the KX down from speed and offered a quantum leap forward in braking performance over the old KX60.

Initially, Kawasaki kept the KX60 in the line up to appeal to smaller riders, but in 2003, the old girl was put out to pasture for good, leaving the KX65 as the sole Japanese offering in the 65cc class (excluding of course, the yellow version rebadged as a Suzuki RM65, but more on that later). In 2003, the KX65 would also get a slight bump in suspension travel, but has otherwise remained unchanged (aside of course from the yearly dose of BNG). Today, the KX65 remains the only 65cc offering from the Big Four and stands as a testament to Kawasaki’s long-standing commitment to the roots of our sport.

2004 Kawasaki KX250F: A flawed first step toward a four-stroke future

The 2001 season was an eventful one in the world of motocross. In March of that year, the MX press was shocked to learn that Yamaha was bringing to market a 125-class legal version of their amazing YZ426F thumper – the YZ250F. The new 250F was going to compete head-to-head with 125 two-strokes and rev to an ear splitting 11,000-rpm. This was absolutely unheard of at the time, as no sub-350cc four-stroke had ever proven even remotely competitive with the two-strokes on equal footing.

With this news, it became very apparent that the other Big Four Japanese manufacturers needed to get their thinking caps on in a hurry. None of them even had an Open class four-stroke ready to compete with the YZ426F and now Yamaha was going after their 125 business as well. No one knew for sure if the new YZ250F would even be competitive, but if the YZ400F were any indication, they would be foolish to stand pat and get left behind.

In August of 2001, Suzuki and Kawasaki took a bold step toward bolstering their market position by purposing an alliance between the two brands. Both manufacturers would remain autonomous, but each brand would share products that did not overlap (hence the yellow KX65) and pool their resources to design and manufacture a 250F to compete with the new Yamaha. Both teams would work together, with Kawasaki focusing on the chassis and Suzuki developing the motor. Final assembly would be handled by Kawasaki and both brands would sell the machine with minor changes to differentiate the two.

In August of 2003, the much-anticipated Kawasaki KX250F/RM-Z250 made their debut to much fanfare. The chassis and bodywork were 100% Kawasaki and featured their trademark steel perimeter frame and unmistakable KX looks. The motor itself was a fairly conventional design, with much of the technology being pilfered from Suzuki and Kawasaki’s sport-bike catalog. Dual-overhead cams actuated four valves and were fed by a 37mm Keihin FCR carburetor. Like the Yamaha, the KX250F used a road-race style “slipper” piston to provide low reciprocating mass and a high-rpm ceiling.

Other than color and a slightly different radiator shroud, the Kawazuki twins were identical.

On the track, the new KX250F (and by default, its identical twin, the RM-Z250) provided a very different character than the established YZ250F. Where the YZF preferred to be ridden like a 125, the KX/RM required a more 450 approach. Power was torquey and twins worked best when short-shifted instead of wrung out. While this was different from what many people were expecting, it was not really a disadvantage. The power was competitive and the bike handled decently, but it was not going to be mistaken for a RM in the corners. Overall, the bikes were flawed, but fun to ride.

As with nearly any completely new design, there were bound to be problems and these issues led to tension between the two companies. The bikes were well received initially, but when the new motor proved unreliable, it reflected badly on both parties. Eventually, tensions rose to the point that neither was happy and in May of 2006, Kawasaki and Suzuki decided to end their alliance.

While the original KX250F certainly had its issues, it was still a very important machine for Kawasaki. It was vital in 2004 for Kawasaki to get in the game and show that they were capable of competing with Honda and Yamaha in this exploding market. The four-stroke was looking very much like the wave of the future and it was starting to look like the green team was falling behind. The alliance with Suzuki bought Kawasaki some much needed breathing room and a little time to get it right, something they would do with the second generation of their 250F machine.

2006 Kawasaki KX450F: The return of the Open class Kwacker TransworldMX Photo

In 2006, Kawasaki became the last of the Big Four Japanese manufacturers to unveil an Open class four-stroke. Amazingly, this was a full eight years after the original Yamaha YZ400F shocked the world in 1998. Yamaha had taken the rest of the manufacturers by surprise with their high revving, road race inspired racing thumper and it took all of them several years to catch up. By 2002, both KTM and Honda had big-bore four-strokes in the hunt and plans were set for Kawasaki to unveil their new valve and cam racer in the fall of 2004.

Unlike the 250F, the new 450F was a 100% Kawasaki project and not affiliated in any way with Suzuki’s development program. The new bike was set to use a unique D-style alloy frame that was completely unlike anything else on the market and be powered by a traditional short-stroke DOHC four-stroke single. In, 2004 things looked good for a 2005 model year release, but unfortunately, the prototypes being raced in Japan suffered some very high profile frame failures that led the engineers to scrap the D-style frame design completely.

Originally, Kawasaki’s first KX450F was supposed to have a very different look than the one that made it to market in 2006. Prototypes raced in Japan used a unique D-shaped frame more reminiscent of a Honda XR650R than a KX250. When prototype frames began braking in Japan, Kawasaki scrapped the original design and went with an alloy perimeter configuration similar to what Honda was using on its CR and CRF line.

Forced to go back to the drawing board, Kawasaki decided to go with a more traditional alloy perimeter frame similar to the ones Honda had been utilizing since the late nineties. This was a proven design and provided a sturdy and flex-free platform that could handle the immense power and torque of the new 449cc power plant. This setback in development pushed back the arrival of the KX450F over a year and the new bike would not make its debut until September of 2005.

Once the new KX450F finally hit the market, it was an instant success with a buying public intoxicated by the allure of the new valve-and-cam craze. It was not the best 450F of 2006, but it was competitive and a very solid first effort. By far the biggest complaint was with the four-speed transmission, which severely limited its versatility. In 2007, the KX450F would get its longed-for fifth gear and claim Kawasaki’s first Supercross title in six years with James Stewart aboard.

Kawasaki’s entry into the four-stroke game may have been late and a bit bumpy at the start, but they quickly righted the ship with some of the best race bikes in the sport. In the years since their introduction, the KX250F and KX450F have claimed no less than 14 major AMA Motocross and Supercross titles. That is a pedigree no other four-stroke manufacturer can claim.

2014 Kawasaki KX85 and KX100: Mean green pumpkin hunters

When Honda went to a 150 four-stroke in 2007, most pit pundits thought the writing was on the wall for the venerable two-stroke mini. Rumors of a purposed YZ150F had been circulating since the arrival of the original Yamaha 250F and it seemed inevitable that the days of 85cc two-strokes were numbered. A funny thing happened on the way to the bone yard however the two-stroke started to make a comeback.

KTM, long the champion of the oil-burner, continued to pour development dollars into its racing smokers and perhaps most important, the AMA did not make the same mistake with the 150 that they did with the 250F. Unlike the 450F and 250F, which were allowed to run legally in the 250 and 125 class, the new CRF150R would not be allowed to compete in the 85cc division. It was legal only in the Super Mini class, where it would face larger machines.

Another factor staving off the demise of the 85 was fact that Honda’s 150 did not prove to be the mini killer the 250F had been. As it turned out, the threshold for a omnipotent four-stroke was somewhere north of 150cc’s and the CRF, while easier to ride, was not significantly better than the best two-stroke minis. Its wide powerband was an advantage, but it was heavier and actually put out less power than a strong running 85 and 100 smoker.

Even though four-stroke Armageddon was averted (for now at least), Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki seemed content to sit back and keep cranking out decades old minis. The YZ and KX could trace their roots back to the early nineties and the RM’s stretched all the way back to the late eighties. Along the way, they had all enjoyed suspension upgrades and some minor bodywork improvements, but the basic machines remained largely unchanged from the days of 90210 and Pearl Jam.

For 2014, Kawasaki finally decided to retire their mini workhorses and introduce an all-new KX85 and KX100. Significantly, the new bikes remained two-strokes, which were lighter, easier to work on, and less costly to repair than a comparable thumper. The new machines featured radically redesigned bodywork (designed to mimic the KX250F), upgraded suspension and a major boost in power. The frames remained largely unchanged, but the overall machines enjoyed an all new character.

Perhaps most significant were the power upgrades that finally brought the KX within reach of the blazing fast Austrian competition. A new cylinder, head, single-ring piston and expansion chamber boosted power a full four horsepower over 2013 and offered a broad and easy to ride power curve. The KTM and nearly identical Husky offered more peak power, but they were harder to ride and more expert oriented. At $4349, the new KX cost $300 more than the rebadged 1998 machine it replaced, but it still undercut the European competition by a full $1000.

The 2014 Kawasaki KX85 and KX100 are significant because they represent both Kawasaki’s commitment to continued two-stroke development and mini-class racing. With Honda stubbornly refusing to rethink their all four-stroke strategy and Suzuki and Yamaha content to rehash old designs, it is important that someone besides KTM is willing to invest in new product in a traditionally neglected division. Nothing helps the breed more than competition and we can all thank Kawasaki for helping to keep the two-stroke oil burning. #Braappp

2016 Kawasaki KX450F: Slimmed down, toned up and ready to race

In all fairness, it is much too early to officially add the 2016 KX450F to this list, but the initial specs are certainly appealing. It is no secret that one of the major issues with four-strokes has always been weight. They are big bikes with lots of moving parts and have tended to be correspondingly heavier than the two-strokes they replaced. The addition of fuel injection and its associated hardware have only made that worse.

Honda was first to bring back a little sanity to the ballooning waistlines in 2009 and KTM has done amazing things with their incredibly svelte Factory Edition machines. Now, Kawasaki has finally entered the game and put their immensely successful KX450F on a weight loss program. The new 2016 boasts a whopping 6.6 pound drop in unwanted suet and is slimmer and more compact to boot. A new 270mm front disc looks to give Brembo a run for their money and numerous engine upgrades promise lots of holeshots in 2016. With its adjustable bar mounts and selectable peg positions, the new KX450F is not just lighter it is also the most customizable stock 450 on the market today. The jury is still out on the SFF-Air TAC front forks, but there can be no doubt this new KX will be at or near the top of the charts once again.

With the new 2016 KX450F pointing the way forward, all of us can rest assured that Kawasaki is ready and willing to keep investing in the sport we love. They were the first to the party in 1963, and remain one of the most committed to motocross innovation in the new millennium. Let the good times roll.