During the ’70s and ’80s, many of my father’s friends were keen motorcyclists. Consequently, a number of interesting machines came to my teenage attention. One that left a particularly deep impression was the Kawasaki Z1-R. Immediately and obviously different to its predecessors and peers, I clearly recall being struck by its appearance which, for the time (1978), was distinctly exotic.
Dare to be different
Where others possessed curved bodywork, rode on “old-fashioned” spoked wheels and stopped using drum brakes, the Z1-R had crisp square lines, cast alloy wheels and all-round drilled disc brakes. It even had a cockpit fairing with a dark tinted screen!
Whilst not a runaway sales success for Kawasaki when new (in the UK at least), over the years they have become icons of their time and are synonymous with the inexorable rise of the Japanese manufacturers during the ’70s and ’80s.
Performance-wise, the air-cooled inline four-cylinder engine produced its peak power output of 90 bhp at 8,000 rpm and maximum torque of 57 ft-lb at 7,000 rpm. This was enough to propel the Z1-R from a standing start to the quarter-mile point in 11.9 seconds. Those brave enough to hold on would discover that the Z1-R would reach a maximum velocity of 125 mph.
The fine-looking example in these pictures (a US market KZ1000 Z1-R) went under the hammer on 8 January 2015 in the Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction organised by Bonhams, selling for US$12,650 (£8,351).