Kawasaki is one of the world's major manufacturers of motorcycles with an extensive product line. The Ninja sport bike and Vulcan cruiser are the primary models of today's Kawasaki line up. In racing their team color is green.
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The history of Kawasaki...
A huge company which produces
boats, trains, planes and (oh yes!) motorcycles. The motorcycle
division is actually quite small compared to the other huge
segments and was only really started to increase the value &
awareness of the brand among the people. In 1960 their first
motorcycle rolled of the lined a 125cc two stroke.
Helped by the knowledge of the
Meguro company which Kawasaki had taken over (Meguro was the
oldest motorcycle company in Japan) the company moved into the
production of big bikes around 1966. The model was called the W1
The W1 wasn’t such a success
because all the rival bikes were still faster, lighter and
better steering. So Kawasaki developed two lighter versions A1
Samurai (250cc) and the A7 Avenger (350cc). Which ended up being
a little more successful.
In 1969 Kawasaki started to develop
a name for itself with bikes with very high performance, the
start was the H1 model (500cc) also known as the Mach III.
However the H1 was excellent for wheelies due to its backward
weight layout. It gulped a lot of fuel and had a hard core
reputation. Two smaller versions were also released the S1
(250cc) and the S2 (350cc). In 1972 a bigger version of the
original was produced called (surprise..) H2 or Mach IV (748cc).
The production stopped when emission rules got too strict in the
Even if the H models didn’t
handle well, Kawasaki developed a super bike which no other
manufacturer could compete with at the time. The Z1 from 1973
was a 903cc engine but it was first planned as a 750cc engine
but Kawasaki waited and improved the engine because of the Honda
CB750 introduction in 1968. Z1 had a great reputation and was
very popular due to the price and performance ratio. The name
‘king’ was its alias. In 1976 the Z1 became the Z900 and the
engine was improved. Later the Z1000 was launched because of
more engine power.
Towards the end of the 1970’s
Kawasaki developed a few smaller ‘zed’ bikes like the Z650
which was introduced in 1977. And a big ‘zed’ Z1300 which
was also partly engineer as to out perform the other Japanese
companies with a big, stronger, heavier bike. But Japan still
had to learn that bigger wasn’t always better and the Z1300
wasn’t a big success to the company.
Kawasaki built a nicely full
fairing bike with a strong engine and an outrageous performance
called the GPZ900R (908cc). It was very popular both on the race
track and on the road. And it was a comfort to ride.
The beginning of the 1990’s all
the Japanese manufacturers were competing very hard in the super
bike models and any advantage above the other would bring credit
and success. Kawasaki stepped right up and took that credit with
the development of the ZZR-R1100 (1052cc) which was launched in
1990 and became the fastest production bike for 5 years .
The ZZR-R1100 was popular not only
for it’s speed and power but the strong frame and good
suspension made it a good tour motorcycle… but also very fast.
In 2002 Kawasaki replaced it with the ZZR-1200. Which was design
for more middle end power and better handling. And a smaller ZZR
600 had also joined the lineup of ZZR’s earlier on in the
In 2000 Kawasaki had already
launched an ultra super bike called the ZX-12R (1199cc). It’s
pure weight, unique frame and 176 bhp was enough to blast most
Kawasaki had lost some of the
reputation for performance by 2000 but Kawasaki president
Shinichi Morita had promised that Kawasaki would be back and
indeed with the arrival of the ZX-12R and the ZX-6R Kawasaki did
make a nice comeback.
The ZX-6R was already launched in
1995 but the 2003 new ZX-6R (636cc) had been truly redesigned
and engineered to new aggressive fast racing machine. Kawasaki
has taken much aspects from the racing technology and integrated
it into this new bike. In 2003 Kawasaki also launched a street
bike model called the Z1000 with a funky styling and a flexible
powerful engine. Kawasaki was / is winning its power name back.