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1978 Kawasaki KZ1000
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Coded named “New York Steak”, Kawasaki's original Z1 had a mouth watering specification when it was launched in 1972. Kevin Dean finds that his '78 USA built Z1000 can still cut the mustard today...

The seventies are a long time gone, along with my hair and my thin waist, but the memories remain. That long hot summer, the Glam Rock, the flared trousers, Friday at The Rank and the sound of the Kawasaki engined rockets in all their psychedelic colours.

1973 Kawasaki Z1

Thirty years have been and gone in the blink of an eye and we're older and supposedly wiser (or is that just wider?) but somewhere deep inside is a yearning that was never satisfied. Man, I really want a Z1; two tone green and yellow, four into four pipes, the King of the Superbikes, the daddy, the coolest bike in town!

One look at the prices they command and I decide to forget it. But I can’t, it keeps niggling me; I really do want a Z1. So I start looking for a Z900 project bike, but the prices are still crazy - too crazy for me anyway.

But what about a late seventies Z1000? Same cool shape, same cool engine but not the same cool pipes. Oh well, two out of three’s not bad; time to start looking.

I try all the usual places, magazines, owners clubs, etc. but nothing turns up. This is harder than I thought, so I turn to that famous online auction site to see what comes up and sure enough within a few weeks up pops a red 1978 Z1000 project bike, way down west in Bridgewater.

I put in a bid and watch its progress, and a few days from the end the seller pulls it from the auction! I swear out loud, and start looking again.

A month goes by and the red Z1000 is once again listed. I bid again; still not enough for the reserve and once again it is pulled before the auction ends! Arghhh.

I start to look for another. Well blow me, if the same bike isn't listed again a couple of weeks later. Again I bid, again it is pulled before the end, only this time I am so fed up that I e-mail the seller to ask what the game is, if it is really for sale, and can I have a look at it?

The answers were yes, yes, and he didn’t want it to sell too cheap!

Z1000 stuff on eBay.co.uk

The following weekend, cashed up and rolling, I headed south-west for Bridgewater, full of anticipation. When I arrived at the address given it was a bike sales showroom, where the Z1000 had been a static display. Polished to death and sticky with the years of spray on Mr Sheene, a non-runner with a rotted Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust, missing float bowls, and about to be broken for spares.

Mine, it's all mine I tell you.... 1978 Kawasaki Z1000-A2

A deal was struck and the bike was pushed into the back of my van. Every ounce of common sense was screaming “leave it”, but I just couldn’t. I drove home with my prize; I owned a Z1, I really owned a Z1.

Back at home it was time to assess just what I had bought. The sticker on the headstock said “Made in the USA” so it was a KZ1000-A2, of 1978 vintage, built in the works at Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. It had the wrong bars fitted and a new electronic ignition system. In fact that is why it was in the showroom; the previous owner had taken it in for ignition problems (which since turned out to be carb problems, more on that later) but while it was there he fell for another bike and so traded the Z1000 in. There it sat until I bought it four years later.

First thing was to find some float bowls and a new Kerker silencer. The float bowls came via eBay and the Kerker from eBay America thanks to Lannis from the message board; without his help I wouldn’t have got it. Float bowls fitted, a new battery, some fresh fuel, a change of oil, and she eventually fired up. Not only that but she sounded sweet too, so the tyres were changed, the chain adjusted, the new bars fitted, the brake fluid changed, and an MOT sorted.

Kevin's bike, parked in his workshop. 1978 Kawasaki Z1000-A2

Finally I was on the road with my own Z1... but she ran really badly under load so I booked her in to have the carbs sorted with some rebuild kits from the US. When I got her back she was loads better but still had a bad misfire above sixty-five.

I bought a Dyna ignition kit from Z1-Enterprises in the America, along with new coils and leads. She ran and started on the button now, but still had this misfire above sixty-five. Now we knew it wasn’t electrical, it had to be a fuel related problem. I began looking for some better carbs both here and in the US.

Iconic 903cc DOHC engine

It took a while but up came the holy grail of Kawasaki carburettors in the shape of a brand new set of 29mm Mikunis, forgotten on a dealers shelf for the best part of thirty years until discovered and stuck on eBay. I can tell you this, they weren’t cheap, but I got them after some real soul searching and had them fitted along with a fast flow fuel tap. Wow! What a difference; fantastic smooth power right through the rev range, no misfire, no flat spots, just fun, just Kawasaki!

Does the Z1 range still wear the crown as the “King of Superbikes”? I don’t know, but what I do know is that wherever you park up, people come and talk to you about it and you get people taking pictures from their cars while you wait at traffic lights. It may not be the King of Superbikes now, but the Z1 will always be the King of Cool!

Is this the world's most tidily loaded bike? The King of Cool at the Z1 Owners Club Rally

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