Icon 1000 Axys Collection

Kawasaki Z900

Kawasaki Z900 A4: the original 1970s superbike
Most people will say the Honda CB750 was the first true superbike. But a few will point to the Kawasaki Z1 Series 900 of 1972. The four-cylinder, DOHC ‘Zed’ could hit 120 mph, and if you’ve got one in your garage today, it’ll be worth several times what you paid for it. The bike you’re looking at is not from a period publicity shot, but a machine currently in Australia: it’s one of the last of the series, and the result of a ground-up restoration by photographer Stuart Bowey and a friend in 2008. It’s technically a Z900 because in 1976, towards the end of the Z1’s life, Kawasaki made minor improvements to the bike and changed the name. To be even more precise, this bike is an ‘A4’ from the first batch of Z900s off the production line. It came in dark green or brown, and the styling still looks sharp today. As with most high-powered 70s motorcycles, the Z900’s handling is commonly regarded as a bit suspect, albeit improved over the Z1—but owners report that the failings are overrated. Most Z900s will have had their electrical systems sorted out by now, and performance parts such as big bore kits and Mikuni carbs are still available. Check the amazing online photo album documenting the rebuild—some of the images are as close to art as a stock motorcycle can get. [Image (and thanks) to Stuart Bowey of Adlibitum.]