Kawasaki Motorcycle History
Kawasaki emerged out of the ashes of the second World War to
become one of the big players from Japan. In the late ’60s and early
’70s, Kawasaki built a reputation for some of the most powerful engines
on two wheels, spawning legendary sportbikes like the Ninja series and a
line of championship-winning off-road bikes.
The company is founded by Shozo Kawasaki. His firm will come to be
known as Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Over time, the company’s principal
areas of activity will be shipbuilding, railroad rolling stock, and
electrical generating plants. Motorcycles will become a small part of
this diversified industrial conglomerate.
Kawasaki signs agreement to take over Meguro motorcycles, a major
player in the nascent Japanese motorcycle manufacturing business. Meguro
is one of the only Japanese companies making a 500cc bike. In England
and the UK, Meguro’s 500 – which bears a strong resemblance to the BSA
A7 – is derided as a cheap copy. But in fact, it is a pretty
Kawasaki produces its first complete motorcycle – the B8 125cc
A series of the two-stroke models from 50-250cc is released. The
250cc disc-valve ‘Samurai’ attracts notice in the U.S.
The 650W1 is released and is the biggest bike made in Japan at the
time. It’s inspired by the BSA A10. Over the next few years it will get
twin carbs, and high pipes for a ‘scrambler’ version.
Dave Simmonds gives Kawasaki its first World Championship, in the
The striking Kawasaki H1 (aka Mach III) a 500cc three-cylinder
two-stroke is released. Although its handling leaves something to be
desired, the motor is very powerful for the day. It’s one of the
quickest production bikes in the quarter-mile. The Mach III establishes
Kawasaki’s reputation in the U.S. (In particular, it establishes a
reputation for powerful and somewhat antisocial motorcycles!) A
wonderful H1R production racer is also released – a 500cc racing bike.
Over the next few years, larger and smaller versions of the H1,
including the S1 (250cc) S2 (350cc) and H2 (750cc) will be released.
They’re successful in the marketplace, and the H2R 750cc production
racer is also successful on the race track, but Kawasaki knows that the
days of the two-stroke streetbike are coming to an end.
The company plans to release a four-stroke, but is shocked by the
arrival of the Honda 750-Four. Kawasaki goes back to the drawing board.
The first new four-stroke since the W1 is released. It’s worth the
wait. The 900cc Z1 goes one up on the Honda 750 with more power and
double overhead cams. Over the next few years, its capacity will
increase slightly and it will be rebadged the Z-1000.
Kork Ballington wins the 250cc and 350cc World Championships with
fore-and-aft parallel-Twin racers (Rotax also built racing motors in
this configuration. Ballington will repeat the feat in ’79. In 1980 he
will finish second in the premier 500cc class. Anton Mang takes over
racing duties in the 250 and 350 classes, and he will win four more
titles over the next three years. This is the most successful period for
Kawasaki in the World Championship.
Kawasaki’s big-bore KZ1300 is released. Honda and Benelli have
already released six-cylinder bikes by this time, but Kawasaki’s
specification includes water cooling and shaft drive. To underline the
efficiency of the cooling system, its launch is held in Death Valley.
Despite its substantial weight, journalists are impressed.
Over the next few years, the KZ1300 will get digital fuel injection
and a full-dress touring version will be sold as the ‘Voyager.’ This
model is marketed as “a car without doors”!
Eddie Lawson wins the AMA Superbike championship for Kawasaki after
an epic battle with Honda’s Freddie Spencer. He will repeat as champion
the following year.
Kawasaki releases the GPz550. It’s air-cooled and has only two valves
per cylinder, but its performance threatens the 750cc machines of rival
manufacturers. This is the bike that launches the 600 class.
The liquid-cooled four-valve GPz900R ‘Ninja’ is shown to the
motorcycle press for the first time at Laguna Seca. They’re stunned.
James “Bubba” Stewart, Jr. is born. Kawasaki supplies his family
with Team Green diapers.
The first ‘ZXR’-designated bikes reach the market. They are 750cc
and 400cc race replicas.
The ZX-11 is launched and features a 1052cc engine. It is the first
production motorcycle with ram-air induction and the fastest production
bike on the market.
The ZXR750R begins a four year run as the top bike in the FIM
Endurance World Championship.
Scott Russell wins the World Superbike Championship, much to Carl
The ZX-12R is released – the new flagship of the ZX series.
Bubba Stewart wins AMA 125 MX championship.
Stewart is AMA 125 West SX champ. “What the heck is he doing on the
jumps?” people wonder. It’s the “Bubba Scrub.”
In a daring move that acknowledges that only a small percentage of
supersports motorcycles are ever actually raced, Kawasaki ups the
capacity of the ZX-6R to 636cc. Ordinary riders welcome a noticeable
increase in mid-range power, and the bike is the king of the ‘real
Stewart wins the AMA 125 East SX title, and the 125cc outdoor
championship. There are only one or two riders on 250s who lap any
faster than he does on the little bikes.
Just when we thought motorcycles couldn’t get any crazier, the ZX-10R
is released. OMG, the power!
Although his transition to the big bikes hasn’t been as smooth as
many expected it to be, Stewart wins the 2007 AMA SX championship.
- Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 35
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