Kawasaki Z1 - 1973

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1973 Z1  -  August 2001

Why I got this bike

  August 2001.  I've got two nicely running, current model, street bikes and half ownership of a 70's era drag bike.  Blasting down a two-lane, coming back from a Saturday afternoon ride, I spot a bike on the roadside, obviously for sale.  At 70 mph all I recognize is the left sidecover of what looks like an old Kawasaki.   It takes me a 1/4 mile to stop and turn around to go back and look at what it might be. 

  I figure to be an early Kawasaki 900.  The owner is working on his new Harley in the garage.  A few moments conversation tells me that this bike has sat for many years.  I ask what he thinks it's worth and he answers only "make me an offer."  I offer $50 to start things off and he accepts it straight away.   I waste no time coming back with the van to get it.

  In the light of the next day it turns out to be a 1973 Z1.  The first year of import to the US.  It is missing the carbs, the header and muffler is garbage, there's an animal nest under the torn seat, rotted gas in the tank, coagulated gel for brake fluid, rust, weathering and oxidation everywhere, and a truly vile smell.  But it is a very early Z1, confirmed by the engine number.


Needs some work


Left side


Brake fluid ?


No air box or carbs

  There are Allen head bolts all around and an oil pressure gauge.  The wheels are after-market Lesters.  The most interesting item is a double row chain with a matching double sprocket.  I have never seen this before.  That the carbs are missing suggests that they might have been smooth bores that were taken off for their value.  John and I believe this is a "worked" engine.


Double sprocket

Opening it up

  In December, we yank out the engine in my driveway and careen it down the steps to the basement where we start the teardown.  We quickly find that the valve cover has been "relieved" and see the higher lift cams.  This confirms the performance modification.  Pistons are oversized as well.  I sell the wheels for $150 and use that money to buy wire wheels and a very nice original gas tank for $400 total. 



A $250 gas tank

Change in Plans

  A year later and the engine is still apart in the basement and the chassis is buried in the back of the garage.  Looking on eBay for Kawasaki related items, I see at the bottom of an item description that the seller is looking for original Z1 bikes.  A few emails later, and I've sold this bike to him for $1,200.  I get a bank check even before we've arranged how he's going to get it.  Turns out that he owns a bike business (Johnny's Vintage Motorcycle Co.) and specializes in old Kawasakis and Harleys. He wants the gas tank shipped right away and will send a truck to pick up the bike.  So I have to find all of the pieces, get parts back from John and dig the bike out of the garage.

  At John's request, I work out keeping the performance head, cams and larger bore cylinders by substituting stock parts.  I find a pallet and strap the engine to it.  If this works out, I won't have to pack it for shipping but instead will just have to have it ready when the truck comes. This would have been much easier if we had never stripped the bike, but then I never would have seen what was in it or had the tear-down experience.

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And Engine serial number Z1E 17143

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ART Pistons

The Last Day

  I get a call early Sunday (Dec.15th 2002). A Japanese voice wants to know if he can pick up the bike in a few hours.  It seems that this guy, the buyer's friend, is on his way to NYC with a truck.  I scurry over to John's and get the cylinders and stock head and the missing tailpiece.  The guy is here by noon driving a box van with a Johnny's Vintage Motorcycle Co. logo on it.  We load the  four cartons, the chassis, the engine on the pallet and the wheels and then spend 2 hours at John's house looking at his bike and photo collection.  There's the possibility that Now (short for Naohiri Tanaka, from Nagoya Japan) would buy John's TZ 350 Isle of Man race bike or the Parilla 175.

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Engine on a Pallet

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In the truck


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What it might have become - Kawi Z1 at Americade 2001

Drag Bike Story Art's 1978 KZ1000 John's 78 KZ 73 Z1 Another Drag Bike 79 CBX
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