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Ikigai is the Japanese concept meaning ‘reason for being’, which betrays in part the longevity of the populace as a whole. The good-people of Ogimi, on the north of the island of Okinawa, are old even by Japanese standards, citing exercise, reconnecting with nature and friends (so, motorbike riding, then?) as imperative to their lives, but also an ikigai, a purpose. Unlike most engineering companies, Kawasaki, like Mitsubishi, embody multiple arts. Starting off as a humble dockyard repairing ships at the latter end of the 19th Century, they developed trains (the legendary Shinkansen and even New York Subway are from Kawasaki), aeroplanes, satellites, industrial robots, gas turbines and power plants. They also built bridges and bored the Euro-Tunnel between Great Britain and France. They also created helicopters and liquified natural gas ships. Oh, and jet-skis. And snow-mobiles. Did we mention motorcycles yet? When Kawasaki build things, they build it with purpose. Enter stage-left, the Z1000.
Equipped with air-cooled, in-line four-cylinder engine producing 85 horses with a five-speed transmission, it was one of the fastest production motorcycles of the era, topping out on 210 km/h. Replacing the older KZ900, the KZ1000 had a heavier crankshaft for less engine vibration and smoother acceleration, upgraded exhaust, upgraded brakes, and a larger engine displacement as a result of increasing the cylinder bore. With the engineers waging some personal vendetta with the boys in the nomenclature department, the Z1000 had more re-incarnations than the Dalai Lama. As a brief overview the KZ1000A1 and A2 versions were developed, the latter with lower handlebars and sporting a luminous green or red hue; the A3 and A4 had another unique colour scheme, mag wheels and thicker frame (also known as the MKII version); a choice of shaft or chain drive was an option for the ST, E1 and E2; Z1000H became the first ever mass-produced fuel-injected motorcycle in the world; the LTD cruiser model and G designation was developed only for the US and Canada; the J version dropped displacement down to 998CC to comply with new superbike racing standards; then there was the R1 and R2 racing versions, and the extremely pretty, top-of-the-line model the Z1-R also developed in 1977. Despite the Z1-R being named Motorcycle of the Year by readers in Germany, Kawasaki felt it needed more beans, so turbo-charged it to produce the ZR1-TC. Far from us at Shepsters Towers belabouring a point here, but we haven’t even mentioned the C1-C4 model, or the police standard P models that ranged from P1-P25 from 1982-2005. Do it, do it well, and then do it well again.
The reliability, comfortable riding position and high-speed made the KZ1000 a firm favourite, with lovely twin-chrome sweeping tail-pipes providing an elegant look. Whilst Kawasaki exist to make multiple long-lasting, superb machines to embolden mankind, their design department took a day off with their official colour schemes being Diamond Wine Red and Diamond Sky Blue, the latter of which is navy for anyone with eyes. Our personal favourite has to be the audible turn-signals, an addition that no one asked for, but which may well have been the turning point (sorry) for Hollywood and the film industry. A motorcycle of this pedigree and stamina has a film-credit list that would be the envy of most actors, most notably in Mad Max, Terminator 2, CHIPs and the Japanese animation series, Great Teacher Onizuka. With a wet-weight of over a quarter of a tonne, the KZ1000 wasn’t exactly a sprightly beast, but one feels the police must have used it as a sort-of two-wheeled tank. There are, unsurprisingly, plenty of the Z1000’s still meandering about, plodding up hill and down-dale, arresting people with it’s pure longevity. If you have a spare $18,000 Australian Dollars, drool over this.