The striking Kawasaki H1 (aka Mach III) a 500cc three-cylinder two-stroke is released. Although its handling leaves something to be desired, the motor is very powerful for the day. It’s one of the quickest production bikes in the quarter-mile. The Mach III establishes Kawasaki’s reputation in the U.S. (In particular, it establishes a reputation for powerful and somewhat antisocial motorcycles!) A wonderful H1R production racer is also released – a 500cc racing bike.
Over the next few years, larger and smaller versions of the H1, including the S1 (250cc) S2 (350cc) and H2 (750cc) will be released. They’re successful in the marketplace, and the H2R 750cc production racer is also successful on the race track, but Kawasaki knows that the days of the two-stroke streetbike are coming to an end.
The company plans to release a four-stroke, but is shocked by the arrival of the Honda 750-Four. Kawasaki goes back to the drawing board.
Kawasaki’s big-bore KZ1300 is released. Honda and Benelli have already released six-cylinder bikes by this time, but Kawasaki’s specification includes water cooling and shaft drive. To underline the efficiency of the cooling system, its launch is held in Death Valley. Despite its substantial weight, journalists are impressed.
Over the next few years, the KZ1300 will get digital fuel injection and a full-dress touring version will be sold as the ‘Voyager.’ This model is marketed as “a car without doors”!
Kawasaki releases the GPz550. It’s air-cooled and has only two valves per cylinder, but its performance threatens the 750cc machines of rival manufacturers. This is the bike that launches the 600 class.
In a daring move that acknowledges that only a small percentage of supersports motorcycles are ever actually raced, Kawasaki ups the capacity of the ZX-6R to 636cc. Ordinary riders welcome a noticeable increase in mid-range power, and the bike is the king of the ‘real world’ middleweights.
Just when we thought motorcycles couldn’t get any crazier, the ZX-10R is released. OMG, the power!
While they’re at it, Kawasaki also decides to give the Ninja 250 and KLR 650 major updates, after years of inactivity.