Tokyo Motor Show - Forty-five years ago this month, Kawasaki introduced the Z1 900 Super Four, and at a stroke Honda lost the technical dominance it had held for the past four years.
Kawasaki R&D was in fact busy with a four-cylinder 750cc street-bike code named ‘New York Steak’ when Soichiro Honda stunned the motorcycle world with his Grand Prix-derived CB750 Four at the 1968 Tokyo Motor Show. Comprehensively upstaged, Kawasaki went back to the drawing board, and the result was the 903cc Z1, by far the biggest and most powerful sports machine yet from Japan - even though its quarter-mile times were no quicker than those of Kawasaki’s own fearsome 500 and 750cc two-stroke triples.
But its 60kW twin-cam engine was practically bullet-proof - so much so that it could be tuned to produce five times that much power for a few seconds at a time on the dragstrip - and it gave Kawasaki a reputation as a builder of high-performance motorcycle engines that it retains to this day.
It stayed in production as the KZ900, KZ1000, Z1-R and Z1100 R until the advent of the liquid-cooled GPZ900R in 1983. More than 85 000 examples of the original Z1 were made between 1972 and 1976; it has become a cult bike, and there are thousands still running all around the world.
Now Kawasaki has cashed in on that legacy with the Z900 RS (Retro Sport), revealed this week at the Tokyo Motor Show.
Its styling is clearly derived from that of the 1972 model, right down to its signature black and orange colour scheme (Kawasaki’s shamrock green racing livery didn’t make its appearance on a street-bike until the Eddie Lawson Replica of 1982) but with a few neat tweaks to make it appeal to hipsters rather than anoraks, including LED lighting at both ends and thin-spoke cast wheels.
It has a new fuel-injected 948cc twin-cam four rated for 82kW at 8500rpm, fully adjustable upside-downies in front and a gas-charged monoshock on a rising-rate linkage at rear, motoGP-style monobloc brakes, ABS and traction control.