The Z1300 was shown to the world at the Koln
show in September 1978. The engine a liquid-cooled 1286cc DOHC two valve per
each of the six cylinders sat in the bike which had a massive dry weight of
297kg. This was the "dreadnought" of touring bikes. In November 1978 the press
were introduced to the Z1300, in Malta for the European press and Death Valley
California for the American press. They were unanimous with praise for both
styling and impressive performance of the ground breaking machine.
The Z1300 was produced from 1978 until
bowing out in 1989. In 1983 the Z1300 was given a digital fuel injection (D.F.I.)
and was called the ZG1300, the system installed to improve fuel consumption gave
a gain in power and torque. In march of 1983 the Voyager was launched, a fully
dressed tourer:- it featured a fairing, panniers, top box, stepped seat, digital
speedometer, radio/cassette deck and on board computer for trip and fuel
calculations. The Voyager was a big hit with serious touring riders despite its
higher price than its competitors.
After its 12 year run the Z1300,
Kawasaki's first liquid cooled six cylinder engined bike ceased production in
1989. 20,000 Z1300's and 4,500 Voyagers had been produced.
Today as we stand testament for the Z1300 is
still a popular choice for many bikers.
In 1978 Honda and Benelli had a six,
Kawasaki were to be different. The Z1300 was a six with water cooling and shaft
drive:- the ultimate sports tourer. It was the heaviest at 297kg but the 120bhp
was more than enough to power the bike to over 145mph. It soon found admirers
all over the world.
1978. The Z1300 Prototype.
The 1286cc motor was smooth and a
masterpiece of design and easy to work on. The Z1300 was the "King of the road".
1979. The Z1300-A1
Starting frame number: KZT30A-000101
This the first model was only available in
one colour, starlight blue with gold pin stripe. The Z1300 handled better than
it should have and surprised many of the reviewers at the time. The brakes were
poor and it had little ground clearance. But the Z1300 was in a class of its
1980. The Z1300-A2
Starting frame number: KZT30A-006201
The A2 was offered again in only one colour:
ruby red. The A2 was an improvement over the A1, the sump was much bigger: A bid
to counter act the crank problems the A1 had experienced. It was increased from
a capacity of 4.5 Litres
of oil to 6.
1980. The KZ1300-B2 Touring
Starting frame number: KZT30B-000001
This model was not released in the UK, being
mainly a US model. It was basically a Z1300a with a fairing, top box and
panniers. Again only one colour was offered: Royal dark red. The heaviest bike
got even heavier.
1981. The Z1300-A3
Starting frame number: JKAKZAA15BA-011501
The A3 was available in two colours: Holy
green and Ebony. A chrome grab rail was fitted and the outer engine cases and
air filter covers were chromed. The electronic ignition was modified and gas
rear shocks absorbers were fitted. The A3 was now also being built at the
Lincoln factory in The USA.
1982. The Z1300-A4
Starting frame number: KZT30A-014101
1982 saw few differences in the Z1300, it
was offered in two colours: Passion red or ebony. The CDI pickups were moved and
the horn covers were changed.
1983. The Z1300-A5
Starting frame number: KZT30A-015901
The A5 had even few differences than
previous models, the badges were changed but it was offered in the same colours.
With bikes like the H1 500, the K2 750 and the Z900,
Kawasaki earned a reputation for making the fastest and the most fearsome
roadsters available. As the 1970s wore on, although the 900 grew into a
1000, the opposition began to catch up, overtake and zoom ahead with their
own scorching road burners. Since 1973, however, Kawasaki Heavy Industries
had been working on a new 'King' to wrest the laurels from its Oriental
rivals. The brief was simple, the bike should be a 1200, have six cylinders
and because of the company's expertise with such a layout, should have an
in-line engine. Development continued slowly but surely on those lines until
it was decided that, due to the bike's inevitable weight penalty, an even
larger power unit was necessary. So when the new Kawasaki bike was announced
to the press in late 1978, it was designated the Z1300 and featured a 1286cc
engine. The width of a six-cylinder power unit mounted
across the frame presents the biggest problem for designers because it
limits banking angles and thus impedes rapid cornering. Such a unit also
presents a large frontal area to the wind and makes manoeuvring in traffic
somewhat perilous. Kawasaki's answer to the problem of
making a compact six was to utilize water cooling. With water jackets around
each cylinder, the gaps between can be narrower than if air is relied on for
cooling. Although the Z1300 is rather large from crankcase end to crankcase
end, the rest of the engine looks more the size of a big four. Of course,
another advantage of water cooling is that it provides good sound insulation
and this well-balanced six is notably quiet and smooth with few peers in
Difficulty was found in accommodating the customary one
carburetor for each cylinder, so the decision was made to use three
twin-choke constant-vacuum carburettors. These were found to be more compact
and fitted underneath the fuel tank without impeding the rider. The fuel
mixture enters the combustion chambers by way of a single valve per
cylinder, the company thinking that the expense of the
four-valve-per-cylinder system was unjustifiable. Power is transmitted
through a five-speed gearbox to a shaft drive, mounted on the right-hand side of
the bike. With a weight of 640 lb to propel, and all of 120bhp to transmit to
the 17in diameter rear wheel, it was obvious that a chain would just not be up
to the job. Braking is taken care of by triple discs using the Kawasaki system
of sintered metal pads, (two front, one rear). Surprisingly, once under way the
bike is quite easy to ride and does not feel at all like the heavyweight it is.
The engine is smooth and powerful and urges the machine forward at an even and
very rapid rate.
There is no noticeable power band as such,
just one turbine-like surge right up to the 8000 rpm mark. This corresponds to
135 mph in top gear, although a few more mph can be extracted if you risk
running into the red sector of the rev-counter. Acceleration is certainly in the
top bracket with a standing-start quarter-mile time which just reaches into the
'elevens'. There are one or two bikes which are faster but they are a fair bit
lighter and not quite so comfortable. Another pleasant surprise is the machine's
fuel consumption which is quite low and always on the good side of 40mpg.
The instrumentation and switchgear of the bike are just what you would expect of
a Japanese bike for the 1980s, and they are just about perfect for the job. The
Z1300 has a large comfortable saddle which makes long-distance touring very
comfortable indeed. It is hard to say just how big bikes will get before
the trend to 'bigger and faster' stops, but critics should not dismiss the new
Kawasaki as the ultimate unmanageable monster. It is in fact smooth, fast and
easy to ride and an interesting step in the development of the powered cycle.
Source : Super Bikes by Mike Winfield