Kawasaki KZ1000

The Kawasaki Kz1000 or Z1000 is a motorcycle manufactured in Japan by Kawasaki released in September 1976 as a 1977 model to replace the KZ900/Z1 in the Z series. It has an in-line 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed transmission, in a 'one down and four up' configuration. Producing about 90 hp, it was the fastest production motorcycle of the era.[1]

In 1979 Kawasaki introduced the Z 1300 liquid-cooled, 6 cylinder engine, which became the engine for the Voyager touring series. Both models were available for several years. The police model continued in production until 2005.

The Kz1000 was featured in the television show CHiPs, wherein it was ridden by the protagonist characters Ponch and Jon, two California Highway Patrol officers. The bike was also used in various other TV shows and feature films such as Great Teacher Onizuka (a Japanese anime series) and Chain Reaction (Keanu Reeves' character's bike). The Kz1000 was also featured heavily in the 1979 movie Mad Max, in which a 1977 Kawasaki KZ1000 was ridden by the Main Force Patrol officer Jim Goose, played by Steve Bisley.[2]

Some of the significant differences between the Kz900 and the Kz1000 include that the latter of the two has a heavier crankshaft for less engine vibration, smoother acceleration and a larger displacement. There were various configurations of specifications and assembly, such as having the choice between chain-drive and shaft-drive. The more cruiser-like US version was called 1000 LTD in european markets.


The KZ900 and subsequent 1000 are often credited[by whom?] with heralding the era of modern superbikes, being the first production "literbike" inline fours. With a factory quarter mile times in the low 12 second range, the KZ's enjoyed many years of straight line domination on the street.

Kawasaki swapped the traditional 4-4 exhaust (available on Z1 and Kz900) for the cheaper 4-2 exhaust. The Kz1000 series came in either a chain drive or shaft drive ('79-) to turn the rear wheel.

Tires and rims

The Kz1000P (police) sits on 18 inch wheels with Dunlop run-flat tires. The front tire is size MN90-18, and the back tire is size MR90-18. They came in either a cast magnesium or chrome-plated wire spoke rims.


The Kz1000 came optional with a Windjammer brand fairing, saddle bags, a sissy bar and highway bars - all of which were removable without any interference with performance or function. The fairing and saddle bags were molded fiber-glass resin made by Vetter, while the sissy bar and highway bar were chrome plated to accentuate the look. Highway bars were also used for comfort on long trips that didn't require constant shifting or braking and usually held additional lighting, in combination with the single 7 inch halogen head lamp.

Ride, comfort and size

The Kz1000 series weighed about 525 pounds dry and could approach 140 mph. Compared to modern superbikes, handling and braking only barely accommodated its monstrous power. As a 'middle child' (not a fully loaded cruiser and not a light weight), the Kz1000 rode smoothly and easily took to the open roads for long trips or local errand running.

The frame on the Kz1000 is a very conventional featherbed design, but has not been significantly changed in over 30 years of production. The KZ is generally stable at high speed, but can become unstable above 100 mph. The large disk rear brake can lock up easily under hard braking but in general the condition is predictable if the front end is properly set up. Frame flex on non J model bikes is an issue when cornering hard with a knee down.

Police use

As a fast, reliable, and relatively maneuverable bike, the Kz1000P was a favorite among some Police Departments that utilized motorcycles (Kz1000P and Kz900P were used as the police bikes in the popular TV show C.H.i.P.s.). However, it suffered from a number of technical problems, including electromagnetic interference between some radios that caused problems for the ignition system. In addition, the combined set of equipment mounted at the rear (and particularly the placement of the radio on the rear rack) caused high-speed handling difficulties.

Its quick acceleration, quiet exhaust and relatively light weight made sure that a running criminal wouldn't get very far. The officer would be able to use his radio, and if the officer dumped the bike over at any time, chances are, he'd be able to pick it back up without any help. For this and other reasons, caseguards are often seen on these models, protecting the lower engine casing from sustaining any damage or potential oil leakage from falls. The Kz1000 can be outfitted with police gear.

See also

  • Kawasaki Z (disambiguation)


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