Back in the early 80’s Kawasaki was in a comfortable position, perhaps too comfortable.
The Z1000 had a heritage stretching back to the 1972 Z1 and the engine was generally known as “Bullet Proof” – then came suzuki’s GS1000. “Borrowing” a lot of engineering from the guys at the big K, the suzuki had more up to date styling, better brakes and handled well… not something the Z1000 was famed for!
The answer? The Z1000D or in street terms, the Z1R. The world’s first production bike with a bikini cowl as standard, the Z1 was created at the request of Kawasaki USA and the brief was simple “all of the performance of a Z1 but not old fashioned like the Z1000”. Z1 size 28mm carburetors returned and a sleek 4 into 1 exhaust was adopted, with other changes 90 claimed horses were released. Styling wise, the Z1R was years ahead of its time. A tiny “coffin” tank held less than 100 miles (160 kms) of fuel and was mated to equally angular side panels and boxy tail unit.
Sadly, it was simply too radical and initial sales were poor. Kawasaki adopted a larger fuel tank and even allowed a limited-edition Turbo version to be sold but the market was simply not ready. After a few short years the Z1R disappeared and was forgotten, until now. Good examples now command prices over €10k and – aside from the bodywork – parts are easy to come by. Perhaps now is the Time for this Traveler to finally shine…
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issued: Friday, September 03, 2021
updated: Friday, September 03, 2021
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