As Kawasaki was starting to gain competition in the form of larger capacity motorcycles, they had no option but
to increase the capacity of the Z900, and thus the Z1000 was born.
The engine design remained basically the same as the Z900, however the bore of the cylinders was increased from
66mm to 70mm bringing the new capacity to 1015cc.
UK and European models were designated Z1000 whereas the American model was known as the KZ1000.
The first Z1000, the Z1000-A1, introduced in 1977, was available in Diamond Wine Red or Diamond Sky Blue, both
with Gold pinstriping.
Thanks to Dave Winterbottom for this photo of his UK spec Z1000-A1 in Diamond Wine Red.
The most obvious design change from the 903cc machines was the new four into two exhaust system.
This was obviously cheaper for Kawasaki to produce than the four into four system used on the Z1-Z900 series.
Many enthusiasts mourned the passing of the original four into four exhaust system.
The Z1000-A1 retained the 26mm Mikuni carburettors, however, the increase in capacity enabled the engine to
produce 85 bhp at 8000 rpm.
As on the Z900, the Z1000 had twin front disc brakes.
The U.S. KZ1000 only had a single front disc as standard with a factory option of twin discs.
The Z1000 had a rear disc brake in place of the drum brake that had been fitted to all of the 903cc
This was not always the better option. In the wet, the older style drum brake offered more confidence to the
The wiring from both handlebar switch units was now routed through the handlebars.
The hazard warning light switch was redesigned and incorporated into the left handlebar switch unit.
The instruments on the Z1000-A1 were the same as those on the Z900.
The Z1000-A2, introduced in 1978, had the front brake calipers mounted behind the fork legs.
The A2 was available in Luminous Green or Luminous Red, both with Gold stripes.
U.S. models were also available in Black with Gold stripes.
The A2 had a diaphragm type fuel tap that automatically cut off the fuel supply when the engine
The handlebars of the A2 were lower than on previous models.
The instruments on the Z1000-A2 were the same as those on the A1, except that the tachometer was now
calibrated to a maximum of 11000rpm with the redline starting at 8500rpm.
In the USA, a limited edition Z1000-A2A Spirit of America model was available.
Only 200 of the A2As were produced.
Each one was fitted with a Vetter fairing and panniers.
They were painted White with Red and Blue stripes.
Also in 1978, Kawasaki introduced the Z1000-D1, better known as the Z1-R.
This was a factory customised motorcycle featuring a small handlebar fairing, a four into one exhaust system and
eighteen inch, seven spoke cast alloy wheels at the front and rear.
The Z1-R had twin drilled disc brakes up front with a single drilled disc at the rear.
The Z1-R was the first of the Kawasakis to feature the new angular look and was finished in a light metallic blue
described by Kawasaki as Metallic Stardust Silver.
The fairing and front mudguard were also finished in this colour.
The wheels were finished in black with polished edges to the spokes and rims.
The slimline angular fuel tank was only 13 litres in capacity. The KAWASAKI badges on the fuel tank were the same as those fitted to the standard
A larger capacity 22 litre fuel tank later became available. This tank featured Kawasaki badges in the style of
the later Z1000 Mk II.
The instruments of the Z1-R featured a speedometer on the left calibrated to 160mph in 10mph increments. The
tachometer was calibrated to 11000rpm with the redline starting at 8500rpm.
The warning lights between the speedometer and tachometer were, from top to bottom, NEUTRAL, HIGH BEAM, OIL and
TURN. Set into the tachometer was a warning light for STOP LAMP failure.
Above the speedometer and tachometer were rectangular FUEL and AMP gauges.
The engine of the Z1-R was finished in black and was very similar to the early Z1, however, the edges of the
cooling fins were not polished as on the Z1.
A return to 28mm carburettors enabled a power increase to 90 bhp.
Although the kickstarter mechanism was still present, the kickstarter lever was replaced by an emergency lever
that was kept under the seat.
Unfortunately, European sales of the Z1-R were not as good as Kawasaki had hoped.
In an effort to reduce stocks, Kawasaki Germany introduced the Z1000S in late 1978.
This was a standard Z1000-D1 Z1-R in Metallic Stardust Silver fitted with the larger 22 litre fuel tank and
the four into four exhaust system from the Z900.
In 1979, the Z1000-D2 was introduced.
This was basically a MkII engined version of the Z1-R and featured a four into two exhaust and a nineteen inch
It was available in Ebony or Luminous Dark Red.
The model was continued into 1980 as the Z1000-D3 when it was only available in Ebony.
In 1978, in association with the American Turbo Cycle company, Kawasaki also introduced a turbo charged version
of the Z1-R known as the Z1-R TC using a turbo charger developed by the Turbo-Pak Company. This machine could
produce between 105 to 145 bhp depending on how much boost pressure was applied.
Around two hundred Z1-R TCs were produced in the standard Z1-R colour scheme.
A further two hundred or so Z1-R TCs were produced in Black with Yellow, Orange and Red stripes on the
fairing, fuel tank and tail piece.
These were known as the "Molly" Z1-R TCs after Rollin "Molly" Sanders, the hot rod and custom designer who, until
his death in 2010, ran a custom paint shop in California.
It was "Molly" who was responsible for the Lime Green Kawasaki race team colours after Kawasaki executives
approached him in the early 1970s asking him to come up with a colour scheme that would set them apart from the
rest of the crowd.
He also designed the Yellow, Black and White graphics for the Yamaha race team made famous by Kenny
Roberts in the late 1970s.
Thanks to Scott Harvey for these photos of his 1978 Molly Z1-R TC.
More information and photographs to follow soon.
“Paul Mercer (kawasakiz1.com) is a
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