The Kawasaki Motorcycle History and Significant Model Page:

Kawasaki Heavy Industries dates back to 1878.  Kawasaki was involved in shipbuilding, building locomotives, and building aircraft.  As with other companies, WWII destroyed their manufacturing base.  After the war, the company was looking for ways to expand their business and gain industrial momentum.  In 1950 they built and sold a 148cc engine kit to fit on a bicycle.  The light motorcycle/moped division continued building small vehicles till they bought the Maguro company.  Maguro was a Japanese motorcycle company dating back to 1924.  Kawasaki put their name on the Maguro line of motorcycles and even continued using the Maguro name in Japan.  Kawasaki began importing motorcycles into the US in 1964.  They began really small and had a hard fought battle for their market share.  At that time, Honda was selling double the number of bikes as Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha put together!   By 1966, Kawasaki had a full line of motorcycles from 50cc to 650cc's.  The W-1 was a 650 British style twin and was first offered in 1966.  It was a close copy of the older BSA A10 series and very few were sold.  Kawasaki made great headway in 1967 offering their Samurai, a 250cc, 5 speed twi.  The Kawasaki was slightly faster than the Suzuki X-6 and put the company on the map.  In 1969, Kawasaki made some serious headlines with it's H 1, Mach III 500cc tripple cylinder super bike.  The Mach III was a wickedly fast bike for it's day.  There was little question that it was one fast bike!  If running properly, the bike could rip into the 12 second quarter mile times.  The only problem with the H 1's, they suffered from poor handling, poor brakes, poor reliability, and few lasted long.  Within a few years, the three cylinder series was offered in 250, 350, and 750cc sizes along with the original 500cc variety.  The later bikes were considerably slower than the original 500.  The later 750's were only marginally faster than the original 500's.  The 500 three did put Kawasaki into the performance bike business.  In 1973, Kawasaki unveiled their Z-1, a 900cc in line four which took out the Honda 750 as the premium super bike.  The original Z-1's were a very good motorcycles and many are still around today.  The Z's were followed by the KZ series of motorcycles which were offered in 400/700/750/900/1000/1100 and 1300cc sizes.  Again, the KZ's have been very good motorcycles.  Many 1970's "KZ" bikes are still daily drivers.  The reliability and longivity of this series is impressive!  In 1987, the ZX10 made its appearance and contines today in various sizes of continually updated machines.  In 1985, a little later than other Japanese manufacturers, Kawasaki started the Vulcan V-Twin series which continues in various forms today.  Kawasaki has also been active in off road motorcycles like all the other Japanese companies.  The post 1970's (non 2 stroke) Kawasaki motorcycles have become known for well engineered, well built, very fast, and very sporty motorcycles. 

 The Samauri was available from 1967 to 1971.  These bikes were the king of the hill for 250cc bikes.

Pictured above is the A-1 Samauri, a 350 model, the A-7 was also available:

 The Kawasaki W-1, pictured above, was a clone of the older BSA A 10 series.  The Kawasaki leaked less oil and was more reliable but riders preferred the British BSA.  This motorcycle was short lived and sold few.  They are very collectable today.

Below is the Mach III. Very fast for a 500cc machine, but suffered from poor handling and typically short engine life!

The 1969 Mack III was as fast if not slightly faster than the mighty Honda CB750.  The difference, however, was that the Honda was much more civil and a much more practical ride.  The Kawasaki did put that company squarely on the map as a serious performance motorcycle builder.  The Mach III has become a legendary machine which deserves it's place in motorcycle history!

The three cylinder 2 strokes were offered from 1969 to 1980 and were much better bikes druing their last years of production.  Often called the "Widowmaker" for good reason, many an inexperienced rider took on much more than they could handle. 

Kawasaki became a serious off road motorcycle manufacturer:

Kawasaki's first motocross bike was built in 1963.  It was a 125cc machine which was competitive.  In 1967, they entered the 250cc off road market with strong performing off road machines.  Since the 1970's the Kawasaki off road machines are designated as the KX series.  The current KX450 is a serious performer.

The 1973 Z-1 often referred to as the "New York Steak":

The Z-1 took the place of the Honda CB750 as the premium super bike.  The Z-1's were well designed and very sturdy motorcycles.  Many are still in operation today.  The in line four stroke engines were quickly becoming the standard.  The next step would be liquid cooling in the 1980's.

The ZRX1200:

The ZRX series was available from 1997 to 2006.  The 1100cc version was sold from 1997 to 2001 and the 1200 from 2001 to 2006.  The series commerated the Eddie Lawson race bikes from the 1970's.  They were in my opinion, the best of the "naked" sport bikes!  The ZRX series was a good example of the type of machines Kawasaki builds best!

Above all else, Kawasaki has been a builder of super high performance sport bikes:

Kawasaki from the earliest years has been a builder of high performance motorcycles.  The GPz900R, which was "Bike Of The Year" in 1984, was a sign of things to come.  It was the first street bike to dip well into the 10 second quarter mile bracket with a top speed of over 150mph.  The 1986 GPX750, followed by the ZX10 in 1988, and the 1990 ZZR1100 all were groundbreakers.  The 1993 ZX9R was blistering fast and it's potential finally broken by the 2004 ZX10R.  The current ZX14 is as close to being king of the hill as one could get.  Kawasaki's new 2011 ZX10R claims to approach 200 horsepower!  Kawasaki continues to remain competitive in the 600 and 1000cc sport bike classes.

Kawasaki began as a smaller manufacturer and continues to be the smallest of the big four Japanese companies.  This is not to say they are a small company, they are certainly not!  Kawasaki has had many engineering firsts and numerous groundbreaking motorcycles.  They learned a huge lesson with their late 1960's performance bikes and since the mid 1970's have made very reliable, sturdy, competitant, and innovative motorcycles.  The owner of a Kawasaki can be proud of the heritage of his/her machine!