"The fastest production motorcycle in the world!" proclaimed the radio ad about Kawasaki's Two Stroke Triple.  As high school boys in 1970, that statement caught our attention in a big way.  Most of the bikes on the road at the time were Harleys, Triumphs or BSAs, and the new Kawasaki could blow them all away!  There were also various things that people would be embarrassed to ride now days; Cushman scooters, Wizard mopeds, minibikes.  It didn't matter to us though, if it had a motor and two wheels it was "cool".  Most of what we rode in the dirt were stripped down enduros or the occasional Husky or Bultaco, but the guys that had those were a little older and had more money to spend.  It would be a few years before the Japanese companies came out with the motocross bikes as we know them today.  1971 also brought us the definitive documentary about motorcycles, "On Any Sunday" and of course that instantly became our favorite movie.  By the time I graduated from high school in 1972, I had owned a wore out 1962 250cc two-stroke Yamaha (a road bike similar in style to the old Honda Dream) and a 125cc Ward's Riverside (the old timers will know what that is).

After working part time during school, then all summer on a neighboring farm, I had finally saved enough money to buy a brand new motorcycle.  Of course it had to be a Kawasaki, and it was the new "King of the Street", an H2 750 Mach IV!  It was a leftover 1972 with 46 miles on it that I bought in early '73 from 'Furey Motors' in Malvern, Ohio, a small town about 30 miles from where I lived.  It was so early in '73 that it was too cold to ride, so I borrowed the farmer's old truck to haul it home.  What a haul!  A brand new, shiny 750.  An unbelievable value at $1,256.00 out the door!  Even riding conservatively it about half scared me when it hit the powerband in typical two stroke style.

I had to show the new Kaw to my uncle who lived a couple houses down the road from us.  Although now battling some health problems, he had been an outstanding high school athlete, flew on planes in WWII, and had logged thousands of miles on Harleys.  He worked on them, traveled on, and dragged raced them.  There wasn't the performance aftermarket in the 40s and 50s like there is now, so he and his cousin did their own machining, adjusting, and tuning until their's were the fastest Harleys around.  Although he had sold his bikes by the time his kids came along in the sixties, he remained a Harley enthusiast - that is until I came along with my new Kawasaki.  As good as they ran, none of his bikes ever "kicked him in the seat of the pants" like the Kaw did.  He was impressed with the performance of the H2 and features like it's front disc brake and I let him ride it any time he wanted.  By now the Z1 was around so he began to follow the Kawasaki brand, reading all the reviews and articles he could find. 

Fast forward 10 years to 1982...My H2 was long gone, but I still had an F-5 and an F-8 that I would ride in the hills on occasion. I was now married and living on the other side of town when one afternoon I answered a knock at the door.  There stood my now retired uncle.  "Come on out and see my retirement toy!" he said with the enthusiasm of a kid at Christmas.  Rheumatoid arthritis caused him to limp painfully as I followed him out to the driveway.  What a sight! The old Harley rider was now the proud second owner of a 1975 Z1 900 Kawasaki.  The previous owner had added a small back rest, a windshield, a Kerker exhaust, individual K&N air filters, and a "black with flames" paint job.  I had always wanted a Z1, but was never able to afford one since they cost twice as much as what I paid for my 750.  And now, having a wife and kids...You know how that story goes.  Although they had been out for about 10 years, I had never had the opportunity to ride a 900 Kaw, so I jumped at the chance to take the Z1 for a spin.  It was a beautiful summer day, and the country road I lived on was a perfect bike road.  It had hills and turns, and in some spots the trees turned the road into a shaded tunnel by blocking out the bright sun.  I tapped the Kaw down into third as I rounded a sharp turn and when I cracked the throttle coming out, I envisioned myself clinging to the back of a tiger as the engine on the 900 roared, clawing the road as it leapt forward.  What a thrill!  It was just a bike ride over twenty five years ago, but I remember it like it was just yesterday.

Although it was hard for him to handle while maneuvering and at stops, my uncle felt young and free when he was on the bike and cruising down the road.  Unfortunately he only was able to enjoy the bike for a few more years, his body succumbing to complications of diabetes and other health problems.  He drifted off to sleep on Christmas Eve in 1985 and never woke up.  His son inherited the bike and enjoyed it with his wife for a few years before parking it when they moved to Kentucky to enroll in college and then seminary.  He eventually hauled the bike down there and tinkered with it some, but the years of storage and neglect had begun to take it's toll on the old Z1 and my cousin was never able to get it going as he would have liked.

Fast forward to 2002... My oldest boy was now a senior and although he had a KX 80 for the dirt, he was wanting to get a bike for the road.  By total coincidence, my cousin called me up one day and asked if I wanted the old Kawasaki.  He reminded me that I had always told him that if he ever wanted to sell it that he should give me first chance to keep it in the family.  I instantly said yes, thinking that it would be a great bike for my son to fix up and ride.  We got it back to Ohio and soon discovered that the rust and corrosion had gotten pretty bad.  With some clean up on the carbs and lots of elbow grease, we were able to get it going enough for my son to get his motorcycle permit and put a couple of hundred miles on it.  Even with new points and plugs, though, it just wouldn't run quite right, so we took it to a cycle shop to get it tuned up.  To my disappointment the mechanic said that it was leaking past a valve and would need a complete valve job.  I didn't have the money for that so the old Kaw was once again parked in the corner of the garage.  My son, giving up on the idea of fixing the old 900, eventually bought himself a brand new 2005 ZX12R Ninja.  All the new bikes are pretty awesome, but I was pretty proud of him for sticking with Kawasaki.  Talk about a "kick in the seat of the pants"!  Smooth, yet extremely powerful, is how I describe the ZX12R.

One evening after work in the winter of '05, while looking for something in the corner of the garage, I stopped to look over the old 900 as I would do on occasion.  But this time I seriously began to visualize what the old Z1 was going to look like if I ever got it restored the way I wanted to.  Right then I decided "It's time".  My younger son was a senior now, and I wanted to get the bike done in the spring of '06 so he could ride it to school on the last couple of weeks of school.  I was working a lot of hours with a part time job in addition to my full time job, but I figured that I needed to do something for myself other than working all the time.  With the exception of the windshield, I determined that it was going look like it did when my uncle had it, including the "black with flames" paint job. I soon realized, though, with the corrosion, rust, and large amount of work that was going to be required, that this was going to be more of a long term project.  Disassembly proceeded, nevertheless, and I would spend evening hours out in the cold garage polishing bolts and cleaning parts instead of sitting in the house watching TV.  If there were an evening when I could only spend a half hour working on it, I figured that it would bring me one half hour closer to completion.  Since this was an extremely low budget rebuild, I had to do all the work myself with the exception of the paint and re-grinding of the valves and seats.  In order to clean it up right, I ended up tearing it down to the bare frame, disassembling the engine, and even dismantling the wheels.  Every nut and bolt and the chrome fenders and rims were polished on a little wheel I had set up in my garage.  Yes, the cars had to sit outside to enable restoration space.

Since I had no money for new spokes, I sanded the old ones and painted them with an automotive gold paint.  I also individually polished all 80 spoke nuts before reassembling the wheels.  Being a machinist (NOT a mechanic), I brought my dial indicators home from work and trued up the wheels as described in my Clymers Kawasaki manual.  Along with new wheel bearings, I also installed new tapered steering head bearings.

The frame, swing arm, and other steel parts were sandblasted and painted with black acrylic enamel.  The deteriorated chrome exhaust pipes were blasted and painted with hi-temp manifold paint, while the canister was just polished.  The engine cases, head, wheel hubs, and other aluminum parts were bead blasted.  I had access to a blaster at the shop where I work, so after hours I'd get my son set up and he would blast away.  My other son bought me a gasket set for Christmas, rings for my birthday, new seat and sprockets for father's day, etc. Days stretched into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.  Finally!  In September of 2007 we got it reassembled and fired up.  That became somewhat of an emotional moment for my son and me.  Although my uncle had passed away before he was born, my son knew the connection that I had with him and with this old hunk of iron.  To see this Z1 together again brought back many memories of my uncle and when he first brought it out to show me over 25 years ago.  It's got some wear, and the chrome doesn't sparkle like it did when it was new, but this old Kaw has already created new memories for us, and as it is passed down through my sons I trust that it will continue to do the same for generations to come.

Although I've just recently registered as a user, I've been referring to KZRider.com since I started this project.  I stumbled on to the site when I googled 900 Kawawsaki and I found a wealth of information in the tech section that I was able to utilize to shim the valves and rebuild the carbs. I love the old Kaws and this site has been a tremendous help, not to mention having some very awesome bikes in the gallery.