Friday, August 18, 2006

Mad Kaws: Kawasaki H1 and Z1


The Kawasaki H1 Mach III - a child of the 60s. Flowerpower rocks!

A 500cc two-stroke, 60 horsepower, three-cylinder wild child, the Kawasaki Mach III H1 500 was truly, deeply, madly deranged. Launched in 1968, the H1 had a top speed of around 200km/h, and was capable of scorching down quarter-mile drag strips in 12.4 seconds. Handling was crap, and early models of the bike were fitted with drum brakes (front and rear), but the H1 had no peers when it came to sheer performance in a straight line. What a pity that bikes like this have no place in today's ecology-conscious, politically correct, buttoned-down world... :-(

The other great Kawasaki was the Z1, which came about five years after the launch of the H1. The late-1960s Honda CB750 was the first mass-produced inline-four from Japan, but it was the Kawasaki Z1, launched in 1973, which was the first real four-cylinder open-class ‘superbike’ for the average man on the street. The fact that men like Gary Nixon, Paul Smart, and Yvon DuHamel were involved in the testing and development of the Z1 should tell you something about what the bike was meant for. With its 903cc brute of an engine, the Zed was capable of doing up to 225kmph in a straight line. At the time of its launch, Z1s sold out so fast that even Kawasaki employees couldn’t get any bikes through the employee discount deal…


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