Motorcycle Restoration Projects
Potent Kawasaki Z1300
The large capacity six-cylinder Z1300 model arrived on the motorcycle scene in 1979, to mark the end of a decade that had seen great change in superbikes’ performance, size and technical specification.
The Kawasaki Z1300 was a 120bhp behemoth and not just simply the world’s most powerful production motorcycle. It was 15bhp more potent than Honda’s CSX1000, its closest challenger.
Ironically, the Kawasaki was not the brutal performance machine that its vital statistics would suggest, but was known for its sophistication and smoothness – as much as for its horsepower. The big six was more of a grand tourer, with a top speed of almost 225km/h.
Beneath an upright riding position, liquid-cooling allowed the double overhead camshafts to be placed much closer together than in an air-cooled configuration. Long-stroke dimensions of 62 mm x 71mm also helped keep the engine reasonably narrow.
This example of Kwaka’s fire-breathing machine belongs to NSW South Coast resident and historic vehicle club member, Terry J. His is one of 24,500 Z1300s produced during a 10+ year production cycle that ended during 1989.
Terry was raised in the country around the Bathurst area of NSW and, as young lad, first learnt to ride a minibike around the area. However, as his legs grew longer, along with his enthusiasm to mount a larger trail bike, came a KL250, then an XL500 and the mould was cast.
He then progressed to road bikes of which he has owned several – mainly Hondas – but also several BMWs.
Terry has also taken to restoring four wheeled vehicles, including a 6.7-litre Rolls Royce and a Morris 1800 – Alec Issigonis’s greatest (and allegedly his favourite) design. The 1800 was affectionately nicknamed the ‘Land Crab’ by us colonials.
“One of the jobs I had as a spray painter was working for a company that modified vehicles,” said Terry J.
“Apart from painting them, I progressed to turning my hand to making various body and panel mods.
“That’s where I got the bug and I love it!”
Terry is obviously one of those clever people who can turn his hand to many a professional task, be it with machinery or fabricating sheds and garages. It’s a trait that many a young person growing up on a country property inherits.
Terry J said that when he saw the Z1300 advertised for sale, he just knew he had to own it.
British motor sport photographer Tony Wilding once said that the mighty six-cylinder motorcycle has remained a visionary and generally unrealised dream, with plenty of manufacturers taking a stab, including Honda, with its CBX1000, as well as such names as MV Agusta, Laverda and Benelli. The most recent ‘six’ has come from BMW.
Of course, the longest production run of the six-cylinder concept was Kawasaki’s Z1300. It was first unveiled at the Cologne Show in September 1978, before members of the global press were able to get their hands on the bike. The press rides in November of the same year were held in Malta for the Europeans and at Death Valley, California, for the Americans.
The Z1300 was to wow many: the press, motorcyclists and governments.
Such was the hype surrounding the motorcycle, that legislation to limit power output on production motorcycles became a fear, while a short-lived agreement between manufacturers was entered into, to head off disaster.
The motorcycle was certainly an imposing machine in practically every respect, starting from the impressive six headers which snaked back into two mufflers, mounted on either side of the bike, while dual 260mm front rotors with dual-piston callipers provided adequate stopping power.
The year 1984 was to see the big change however, with the implementation of ‘Digital Fuel Injection’ for the Z1300, or ZG1300 as it also was then known. This had the unintended, although obviously not unwelcome result of increasing the bike’s power output by a further 10hp, as well as moving peak torque higher into the rev range. There were also slight changes to the engine cases and the badges were updated to reflect the addition of DFI.
The Z1300 continued to sell from 1984 through to 1989 in almost unchanged form – albeit with different colours and minor details for each year. However, sales fell greatly and, by 1986, the bike’s future became bleak.
Although production ended in 1989, there are reports of dealers still having stock of the Z1300 in 1993, with the six-cylinder cult following obviously not developing until more recent times.
At the end of the day this mighty machine left a noticeable mark on the motorcycling world, with a magnificent engine capable of propelling the bike and rider to speeds more than 145mph (233km/h) and an overall package that left it often described as the ‘King of the Road’ at the time.
Terry loves his rare piece of motorcycle history, saying: “I can’t wait to take it on a decent road trip.”
Kawasaki Z1300 Australian Racing History
According to Motorcycle News, a well-funded team entered a Kawasaki Z1300 for the 1979 Easter Bathurst races.
With numerous Honda CBX1000’s entered and circulating, legendary Kawasaki stalwart, Gary Thomas, was drafted in and quite unwittingly helped to create one of the great Bathurst stories.
The Production Race soon became a brawl between Thomas on the amazing big six and Honda’s trump card, Tony Hatton, on a more conventional CB900/4 Bol d ‘Or.
Rumours and protestations continue to this day concerning the legality of Hatton’s mount but, that aside, the race was a cracker. Against all the odds, Thommo took it to Hatton and made old 55 pull out every bit of skill and daring that he possessed.
Gary was blindingly fast on the two long Bathurst straights aboard the Kawasaki, leaving Hatton in his wake. But, over the top of the mountain and in the twisty bits, Hatton regained the ascendency, despite the Kawasaki becoming lighter by grinding its parts away on the unforgiving track surface!
Hatton, cagey devil that he was, waited till the end and, knowing that the big heavy Kwaka was running out of brakes at the end of Conrod Straight, he pulled out and executed the perfect inside pass to win the sprint to the line.