Son of Z1: The 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 — Classic Japanese Motorcycles — Motorcycle…

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Kawasaki Square Four 2 Stroke Prototype

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Found on 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 bike

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on eBay: 1976 Kawasaki LTD

This week’s eBay is a 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 a one-year-only version of the KZ900.

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Michael Bailey up this 10-year Norton bike just in time for his

1976 Kawasaki KZ900

power: 82hp @ 8,500rpm

Top 120mph (est.)

Engine: air-cooled DOHC transverse inline four, 66mm x bore and …, 8.5:1 ratio

Weight (dry): (232kg)

Fuel capacity: (17.8ltr)

Price then/now:

In 1976, Kawasaki was putting the touches on its next big-bore the soon-to-be-released KZ1000. Until the top of the line was the KZ900, essentially a up Z1, only better.

In the late Kawasaki was in the kitchen, cooking up it dubbed their New York project. They couldn’t known, however, that featured dish — a 4-…, big-bore motorcycle — was about to be by the Honda CB750.

Starting in and working into 1968, was designing “a Super-cruiser, a machine to the legendary Vincent HRD of yesteryear.” At that’s how Ivan J. Wagar, in the October 1972 issue of World . described the unlikely New York Steak project. research indicated the market was for a reliable, large-capacity motorcycle of high performance that, asked, could also be a touring machine.

Kawasaki engineers were underway with a mocked-up equipped with a 750cc engine when Honda their bubble with the Work stopped on the project, but picked it up again in 1970 and to go ahead with its original which was, Wagar a big bore bike with handling and brakes.” It was to be fast and “along with low noise and as design criteria.” According to Kawasaki engineers were aiming for a 1972 production

Bigger and better

Although forte was mostly 2-… development, 4-… technology new to the company. Kawasaki produced its 4-…, a single-cylinder 148cc engine, in 1953. Ten years in 1963, Kawasaki absorbed Works, Japan’s oldest maker and manufacturer of a number of engines, and became the Kawasaki Sales Co.

Ben Inamura, an engineer inherited with its acquisition of was responsible for engine development. press reports indicate he was instructed to build an engine works,” whatever the engine Honda’s introduction of the CB750 underscore the fact Kawasaki’s new engine would have to be than 750cc.

In this it was 903cc.

North American began in February 1972, and by Kawasaki finally delivered the New York Steak as the Z1 900. The Z1 a 1973 model-year machine, and it was introduced it was the largest and most 4-cylinder 4-… Japanese ever built.

Inamura’s engine featured chain-driven overhead cams actuating valves. The head had shallow, combustion chambers and the flat-top gave a reasonable 8.5:1 ratio. With special exhaust valve seats, the could run on lead-free gasoline.

The Z1’s crank was pressed and turned on roller bearings, the connecting rods used needle bearings. Fuel and air in a bank of four 28mm carburetors. The finished engine a claimed 82 horsepower at 8,500rpm, to the pavement through a gear drive turning a 5-speed and chain final drive.

The went into a double-cradle, backbone tube frame a stocky rear swingarm. Up was a 19-inch spoked wheel an 11.5-inch disc brake, an 18-inch spoked wheel a large 7.9-inch drum was at the rear. Not many bikes on the had the distinctive style of the Z1, with its front fender and slim gas and saddle.

The paint was a distinctive Brown and orange or a green and Yellow.

Lifting the seat the battery, a tool kit and the paper air cleaner. Beneath the left cover Kawasaki placed a oil tank to dole out lubricant to the 0.75-inch pitch endless (no link) final drive larger than what fit to their Electra Glide. the Z1 weighed in at 544.5 pounds

A good ride

“The was very stable and deliberate and the brake functioned perfectly for the session,” said testers in the 1973” article that ran in the 1972 issue of Cycle . At the County International Raceway in riders Jess Thomas, Boller and Cook Neilson the Z1 against the Harley-Davidson Sportster, Trident 750, Honda Kawasaki 750 Mach IV, Ducati 750 and Commando 750. “You can the Z1 way over before the pegs and begin to drag,” Cycle “With better rear and disc rear brake, the mind-stopper would circulate quickly, even on our tight course. As it was the Z1 tied for the fastest lap a time of 44.5 seconds.” The it tied was Kawasaki’s own 750 Mach IV.

As groundbreaking as the Z1 was, Kawasaki included it in their line for two years as the 1974 Z1A and the 1975 The formula, though, was right the get-go. There weren’t changes across the three but Kawasaki did clear up some issues that saw the bike when making the transition idle.

It wasn’t just the that caused trouble, but the automatic ignition advance which retarded the spark too making the Z1’s off-idle response suffer. The 1975 Z1B upgraded rear shocks and with more dampening and softer springing. The engine was no all-black, and the chain oil tank had deleted.

Color changed to Super Blue or Candy Red.

From the Z1 to the Kawasaki

By the time 1976 rolled the Z1 became the KZ900A4, the four the fourth year of 903cc Essentially the same machine as the Z1, the most notable change was its of carburetors. These were in size from 28mm to and were different in design the earlier instruments.

Kawasaki Square Four 2 Stroke Prototype

The new 26mm had no visible individual synchronized these were concealed the top covers, and according to Cycle . the carburetors were tricky to

The frame of the KZ was made with tubing, and the gas tank now featured a cap. On the side panels, the “Double Overhead Camshaft” had been removed, and the tail was redesigned to accommodate a square-shaped For the KZ, colors became Diamond Green and Diamond Brown.

Kawasaki expert Jim Goebel, of Redline Cycle Service, in Skokie, Ill. claims the KZ900A4 was something of a transitional Kawasaki already had plans for the a model that was introduced for However, the venerable 900 platform on in different iterations, including the KZ900-B1 LTD, and later as a café racer and shaft touring model before being dropped in 1984.

was the last year for the KZ900 in the U.S.

Jim figures prominently in story as the builder of our featured Kawasaki KZ900, which was by California-based motorcycle journalist Coldwells. The publisher of Ultimate and a passionate motorcycle enthusiast, sits as a director of the Lehmann Foundation, an active motorcycle in California that has noted Daniel Schoenewald as the main

When he was a 19-year-old living in Arthur owned a Diamond Green (or bottle green, as he the color) 1976 Z900. In the KZ was known simply as a Z.

“I’d my 1976 Z900 in 1977 or and for some reason I’d gotten rid of Arthur recalls. “It was one I always to get back.” In 2006, he started the KZ900, and was pondering buying a one and restoring it. “I didn’t have the or the skill,” he says he realized.

he discovered Redline’s website, he Jim to discuss a build. Arthur was to buy a KZ and ship it to Redline, but Jim said he had at hand necessary to custom-build his including an engine, frame and all

Building a better Kawasaki today

Arthur notes although the badge on the side reads KZ900, his instructions to Jim specific: It had to be a Euro-spec Z900 The most noticeable difference the two is the dual front disc setup. Australian and European were fitted with discs, while the U.S. KZ had a single binder up front.

however, notes that offered a dual-disc conversion kit as an for U.S.-spec bikes.

Jim used a of new-old-stock (NOS) Kawasaki new aftermarket reproduction parts and used parts to put the special together. He started the project by the engine and glass-beading the cases. assembling the bottom end, he high-strength bolts to hold the in place, as stock bolts are to snapping.

Also, an undercut and fifth gear set was installed to the stock gears, which Jim are prone to failure. Standard NOS went into standard cylinders, and the head was treated to a valve job finished with NOS

On the chassis, Jim cleaned and powder-coated the black and installed reproduction shocks, which he says a much nicer chrome than stock and are also stiffer. Reproduction fork were matched with lower fork legs, and the trees were fitted to the with tapered roller

Used rims from a were chromed and laced stainless steel spokes to hubs, then fitted Bridgestone BT45V tires.

The fender is NOS Kawasaki, while the is a reproduction blade. The handlebar is lower than the stock unit, and the KPH speedometer is a reproduction the tachometer is a restored instrument. The is reproduction Z1, with the baffles to make them look KZ mufflers from the rear.

Arthur says the paint is to the original, only better. paint on the side panels of the old never matched the tank and section. On this one, a more vibrant green the original, and to a purist, it’s not the paint,” he says.

“Jim did a job with the build,” Arthur adding, “I rode it some on short journeys. It sure back a lot of memories.” However, he found he wasn’t using the as much as he’d have

Arthur rides plenty of for work, but rarely his own. lack of use translated to … and stale gas, so he decided to the Kawasaki KZ900 to the Lehmann Foundation. There, it is properly to, and even though it’s no technically his, he can ride his á la version of the New York Steak any he chooses. MC

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