by: Dave Orritt
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-845845-23-0 Publisher: Veloce Publishing Publication Date: February 2013
60 pages. 195 mm x 139 mm x 4 mm List Price: $19.95/£9.99
Here’s another in the “Essential Buyer’s Guide” series from Veloce Publishing, which includes nearly 100 vehicles, from the Volkswagen Beetle and BSA Bantam to this recent volume, The Essential Buyer’s Guide Kawasaki Z1 & Z900.
Author Dave Orritt makes the big difference here, packing this book full of useful information for the potential Z1 to Z900 buyer.
I never met a two-wheeled conveyance I didn’t like — although I’ll have to admit, I like some more than others (it’s only natural!).
The Kawasaki Z1 is definitely in the “like it” category.
I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Z1 first went on sale, believe it or not.
It wasn’t all that long after the outrageous (for the time) Honda CB750 was introduced to the world.
That bike brought on an instant debate: “Who needs four cylinders?” But, by 1972, the performance and reliability of the Honda basically addressed all remaining doubters.
Kawasaki has always been a favorite marque here in the webBikeWorld garage, probably because us old-timers see them as more or less the underdog, especially way back at the beginning.
They had to do something different to separate themselves from the Hondas, Suzukis and Yamahas of the time (not to mention Triumph and BSA) and the incredible 500 and 750 two-stroke triples were it (see the webBikeWorld Kawasaki Triples Bible review).
So using this Kawasaki “more is never enough” strategy that worked for them with the 500 triple, Kawi figured they’d one-up Honda by releasing the 900cc, four-cylinder Z1 in 1972.
The bike did exactly what Kawasaki had hoped and instantly became the top-dog Superbike of its time. The original Z1 had 82 horsepower, which was unheard of at the time and is still very respectable for today.
Double overhead cams and a black-painted engine on the first Z1, along with the famous “fastback” rear bodywork behind the seat, characterized this bike. The swooping egg-shaped fuel tank topped it off and it was an unmistakable styling exercise that set the bar for many generations of Superbikes to come.
The Z1 instantly became hugely popular in the U.S. with nearly 20,000 examples built and sold. 40 of the Yank Z1’s were exported to the UK and sold there in 1972, as there was yet to be a UK Kawasaki distributor.
Fast-forward to 2013, where the original Z1’s are collector’s items and extremely difficult to find in original condition. In fact, I’ve been searching for 1972 to 1976 Z-series Kawasakis nationwide in the U.S. and have basically come up empty. Somewhat modified examples are going for upwards of $10,000.00, so apparently I’m (yet again) late to the party on this bike, which has now become an in-demand classic.
I didn’t know much more about the original Z1’s than what I’ve told you here, so when the Essential Buyer’s Guide Kawasaki Z1 & Z900 was announced, I glommed on to a copy. It’s typical “Essential Buyer’s Guide” in its format; short and to the point, with good-quality color photos.
These books are not designed to make you an expert by any means; just to give you a fighting chance when you’re looking to buy one and hopefully want to make it seem like you know what you’re talking about.
I learned a lot actually from the slim 60-page volume; for example, I’d probably be better off looking for the last model year, the 1976 Kawasaki Z900, which supposedly has better handling and braking and most of the issues have been worked out. And, since it’s not the original 1972 Z1, prices are supposed to be lower also. If only you can find one — the Z1 to Z900 bikes are hot commodities in the collector’s market.
The difference between the Essential Buyer’s Guide Kawasaki Z1 & Z900 and some of the other Essential Buyer’s Guides I’ve read is very apparent, and we have Dave Orritt, the author, to thank for that. When a true afficiando who really loves the bike writes the book, you can immediately tell.