More than forty years have passed since Kawasaki started full-scale production of motorcycles. Our first motorcycle engine was designed based on technical know-how garnered from the development and production of aircraft engines.
Our entry into the motorcycle industry was driven by Kawasaki's constant effort to develop new technologies. Over the years we have released numerous new models that have helped shape the market, and in the process, created many enduring legends based on the speed and power of our machines. In 1996, we produced our 10 millionth vehicle, a testament to Kawasaki's ability to meet the needs of a wide range of riders. As Kawasaki continues to "Let the good times roll," our latest challenges will surely give birth to new legends.
Ninja 25th Anniversary
The need for speed celebrates 25 years. Click here to download a history of the Kawasaki Ninja in PDF format.
Design of the KE- 1 motorcycle Engine is completed. (Kawasaki Machine Industry (the precursor to Kawasaki Aircraft Company), Takatsuki factory). "Aircraft engineers" began the development of the KE (Kawasaki Engine) in 1949. Mass production starts in 1953. The air-cooled, 148cc, OHV, 4-stroke Single has a maximum power of 4 PS at 4,000 rpm.
Production of the KB-5 Motorcycle Engine starts. (Kawasaki Aircraft Company, Kobe Plant). Its responsive torque at low and mid rpm, and outstanding characteristics give it a good reputation among riders. For the next 10 years the KB-5 received a number of updates and provided the base for Kawasaki's 125cc motorcycle engine. In the same year, the Meihatsu 125-500 was released, equipped with the KB-5engine.
In 1956 the Meihatsu 125 Deluxe debuted. 1957 marked the production of the improved version of the KB-5 engine, the KB-5A. This was also the first year the "Kawasaki" logo was stamped into the engine side cover.
Meihatsu 125 Deluxe was said to be " A Durable Kawasaki Engine" The Meihatsu 125 Deluxe (Kawasaki Meihatsu Industries) achieved a top speed of 81.5 km/h at a motorcycle industry magazine test, setting a record for its category. In a separate test the Kawasaki engine proved phenomenal durability by running for 50, 000 km without breaking down.
In 1960 Kawasaki completed construction on a factory dedicated exclusively to motorcycle production and sales of the Kawasaki '125 New Ace' commenced.
In 1961 sales of the Kawasaki brand motorcycles, the Kawasaki Pet and Kawasaki 125B7, commenced. Using the most advanced materials of the time, the curved surface compositions of these motorcycles gave them a high-sense of design.
In 1962 sales of the Kawasaki 125B8 commenced. Developed and manufactured exclusively by Kawasaki Aircraft Company, the B8's low-end torque, quiet engine and supreme durability earned it the reputation as the No. 1 practical use bike.
In 1963, the B8M Motocrosser took the top 6 positions in the Hyogo Prefecture Motocross Tournament.
THE FEARSOME "RED-TANK FURORE"
With all the Kawasaki bikes completing the race, the race team proved that the "Kawasakis are strong machines in tough circuits". Later at the Fukui Prefecture Motocross Tournament, the Kawasaki machines won all the race events and at various motocross tournaments held in West Japan, Kawasaki machines were victorious in most of the events - despite not competing the past year. The outstanding achievements of the "Red-Tank Furore", named for it's red fuel tank, earned it a fearsome reputation.
Popularity of the W1 (650cc) (650W1 in Japan) in the US gained Kawasaki world-wide recognition as a big bike manufacturer.
Also in 1966 sales of the A1 (250cc) commenced. It was the first bike in its class to be equipped with an air-cooled, 2-stroke, paralleled twin, rotary disc valve engine. The A1 demonstrated phenomenal performance.
NOTEWORTHY GP RACING ACHIEVEMENTS
In the final race of the 1966 FIM World Championship, Kawasaki's first 125cc GP racer, named the KAC Special, finished in 7th and 8th. In the All-Japan Championship, the A1R (250cc) finished 2nd. In the 1967 Singapore GP, the A7R (350cc) took 1st and 2nd while the A1R finished 2nd and 3rd.
In the Japan Round of the 1967 FIM World Championship, the KA-2, a liquid-cooled, 124cc V4 equipped with the world's first all rear exhaust mechanism, took 3rd and 4th and showed off Kawasaki's technological prowess.
In 1968 sales of the H1 (500cc) (500SS Mach-III in Japan) commenced. The air-cooled 2-stroke triple cylinder is the fastest machine in its class with a top speed of 200km/h. Nicknamed "Bronco", the H1 marked the beginning of Kawasaki's Speed King Legend.
EXPECTANT WORLD CHAMPION SHINES
In the FIM World Road Racing 125cc Championship, Dave Simmons scored victories in both the West German GP and the Isle of Mann TT and won the series championship on his KR-1.
In 1972 overseas sales of the Z1 (900cc) started. Sales of the domestic version, the Z2 (750cc), started the following year.
IT WAS THE BIRTH OF THE POWER KING LEGEND
The Z1, with the world's first air-cooled, DOHC, In-Line Four cylinder engine and other impressive specs, became the world's most powerful motorcycle. Code-named "New York Steak" during its five-year development, the mouth-watering motorcycle was a huge hit from the moment of its release. The domestic Z2 enjoyed tremendous popularity in Japan.
Overseas the Z1 reigned as the "King of Motorcycles" for a number of years. Z1 mania still present today. In Japan, the popularity of the Z2 among motorcycle magazine readers catapulted it to No. 1 and the "Myth of Z was born".
In 1977 sales of the Z1-R (1000cc) commenced. It was a real-style café racer and the Z1-R's stylish appearance received great praise overseas.
In 1978 sales of the Z1300 commenced. Weighing-in at 1300cc, the liquid-cooled, 4-stoke, DOHC In-line 6-cylinder "Dreadnaught" was the largest Japanese manufactured motorcycle engine. Its release at the Cologne Motor Show marked the beginning of the Kawasaki Monster Legend.
In 1979 sales of the Z400FX commenced. It was the first air-cooled, 4 stroke, DOHC In-Line-Four in its class and the "FX" made a name for itself. It's large frame, compact engine and no-compromise quality made it a big hit.
In the same year, the Z750FX and the Z250FT were released and Kawasaki enjoyed a favourable reception.
Also in the same year, the first Japanese mass-produced belt-driven motorcycle, the KZ440LTD, was manufactured for the US market. This was one example of Kawasaki's "Spirit of Embracing Challenge".
The same belt-drive technology was used in two domestic models, the Z250LTD, and the Z400LTD starting in 1983.
In 1980, overseas sales of the Z1100GP commenced. It was the first model in the supersport GP line-up to feature DFI (Direct Fuel Injection) and an oil cooler.
In 1981 Kawasaki won the manufacturer's title in the FIM World Road Racing 250cc class Championship for the fourth year in a row. The machine that won was the KR250. A. Mang won the title in both the 250cc and 350cc classes.
Also in 1981, sales of the AR50 commenced. This bike was Kawasaki's first 50cc sports model and it was also the first 6-speed motorcycle in its class.
In 1982 sales of the Z400GP, a domestic model in the GP line-up, commenced. In the same year, overseas sales of the Z1000R commenced. The legendary model was a limited edition replica that commemorated Eddie Lawson's 1981 AMA Superbike Championship victory. Based on the Z1000J, the "Lawson Replica" featured the latest technology, like an oil cooler and lime green colouring.
Also in the same year, overseas sales of the GPz1100 commenced. The new sports model featured DFI and Uni-Trak suspension. The following year, sales of the other models in the series, the GPz750 and GPz400 commenced.
In 1983 the Z750 Turbo was released. Often referred to as "the pinnacle of air-cooled machines" at Fuji Speedway and a like, this model was Kawasaki's first turbo-charged supersport.
In the same year the GPz900R was released in Monterey, California at a press introduction and test riding session. Sales of the first "Ninja" (US naming) commenced the following year.
NINJA NAMED "BIKE OF THE YEAR"
The GPz900R rocked the world when it was first released. The new model was equipped with Kawasaki's first liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 4-cylinder engine (max power of 115 PS) and a light, compact chassis. With a top speed of the more than 250km/h and a 0-400m time of 10.552 s, the GPz900R rewrote the motorcycle record books and took the top spot as the world's fastest bike. When sales started in 1984, the GPz900R was named "Bike of the Year" by magazines all over the world. Its side-drive cam, diamond frame, unique full fairing and other features distinguish it from competing models and earned it great popularity. The GPz900R received various refinements over the years. It continues to be manufactured today and it still retains its popularity.
Also in 1983, sales of the domestic GPz750R commenced. From this point on, many Kawasaki motorcycles feature liquid-cooled DOHC engines with 4-valve heads.
In 1984 sales of the Vulcan 750, Kawasaki's first V-Twin American-style Cruiser, commenced. In the same year sales of the KR250, a replica model of Kawasaki's FIM World Championship-winning racer, commenced.
In 1985 sales of the Eliminator (900cc) commenced. The new Sports-Cruiser used the engine from the GPz900R.
In the same year sales of the 250 Casual Sports commenced. Nicknamed the "CS", it featured a liquid-cooled DOHC Single cylinder engine.
Also in the same year, the first Japanese mass-produced belt-driven motorcycle, the KZ440LTD, was manufactured for the US market. This was one example of Kawasaki's "Spirit of Embracing Challenge".
Also in 1985, overseas sales of the KDX200 commenced. The new Enduro model had an air-cooled Single cylinder engine that featured the newly developed KIPS power valve. As well, sales of the GPz400R commenced. The GPz1000RX, GPz600R, GPz250R and the fairingless FX400R completed the supersport line-up.
INSTANT BEST SELLER
The GPz400R's excellent brakes and suspension and its original design made it extremely popular. It became a best seller as soon as sales commenced. Kawasaki's unique sports bike philosophy, evidence by the modern design of its newly developed aluminium frame, set the new motorcycle apart from competing racer replica brands. The GPz400R enjoyed the position of "Best 400" for many years.
In 1986 sales of the GPX7550R, a full-fairing supersport model, commenced. Sales of the GPX250R and the GPX400R commenced the following year.
In 1987 sales of the KS-I (50cc) and the KS-ii (80cc) (both small-sized dual-purpose models with air-cooled single engines) commenced. The new machines allowed riders to enjoy both on-road and off-road fun. The bikes marked the beginning of the "Superbikers' Mini Racer" boom.
In 1988 Atsushi Okabe won the All-Japan Motocross Championship for the second year in a row riding a KX125SR.
In the same year overseas sales of the ZX-10 (1000cc) commenced. The new machine featured an extremely rigid aluminium E-box frame that was inherited from Kawasaki works racing motorcycles. With a light weight of 225 kg, it had a top speed of 270kkm/h and guarantied Kawasaki's position as the fastest motorcycle in the world.
Also in the same year, sales of the ZX-4 (400cc) commenced in Japan.
In 1989 sales of the ZXR Series, including the ZXR750 and the ZXR400, commenced. These supersport machines had styling identical to that of the Kawasaki works racers. In the same year sales of the Zephyr (400cc) commenced.
ZEPHYR CAUSES MARKET SENSATION
Developed mainly by young Kawasaki engineers, the Zephyr's design concept was to create a "real" bike that "got back to the basics". Released in the middle of the racer replica boom of the mid 1980's, the Zephyr's refreshingly simple design, low and mid range performance, air-cooled four-cylinder engine, and the prevalent idea of "fun riding" change the market as motorcycle fans swiftly respond to the new machine. Sales exploded and the Zephyr was declared the best-selling 400cc machine up until 1992. The boom period was named the "Myth of the Zephyr". When sales of the Zephyr 750 and Zephyr 1100 started in 1990 and1992 respectively, they also created great sensations.
In 1990 sales of the Kawasaki flagship model, the ZZ-R1100, commenced. In the same year, sales of the ZZ-R600 and the ZZ-R400 (models in the same series) commenced.
FIRST RAM AIR SYSTEM HITS THE MARKET
At the time of the debut, the ZZ-R1100 had an unbelievable maximum power of 147 PS. To increase engine power output, it employed the first "Ram Air System" - a duct at the bottom of the front face that directed air directly in the air cleaner. The "monster bike" also featured the first speedometer with a 320km/h dial. For the next six years it is the world's undisputed "King of Speed".
In 1991 sales of the Balius (250cc) commenced. The new naked sports model featured a liquid-cooled DOHC 4-cylinder engine.
In the same year sales of the Estrella (250cc) commenced. The new classic sports model features an air-cooled single-cylinder engine.
In 1992 the Kawasaki ZXR560R won its first Daytona 200 AMA Superbike title and Scott Russell won the rider of the championship award. In the same year, sales of the Xanthus (400cc), a road sports model with innovate styling, commenced.
In 1993, during the FIM Endurance World Championship, Kawasaki racers won the Le Mans 24-Hour Race for the first time riding on the ZXR-7. In the same year overseas sales of the Ninja ZX-9R (900cc), commenced. The new supersport model featured an aluminium frame.
1994 marked the fourth year in a row that Kawasaki won the FIM Endurance World Championship series. The bike that earned Kawasaki the title of "Endurance King" was the ZXR750R. In the same year sales of the ZRX (400cc) commenced. The new naked sports model combined straight-line powerful styling with a refined version of the ZZ-R400's engine.
In 1996 sales of the GPz1100 ABS commenced. The new supersport model featured an anti-lock braking system. In the same year sales of the Zephyr c (400cc) commenced. The new road sports model featured an engine with 4-valve heads.
Also in the same year, sales of the Vulcan 1500 Classic commenced. The new American-style Cruiser featured a v-Twin engine and was considered the world's largest displacement mass production motorcycle.
As well, sales of the ZRX1100 commenced. The new Large-displacement road sports model features a bikini cowl.
In 1997 sales of the Super Sherpa (250cc) commenced. The new multipurpose off-road models was and still is the ideal wilderness partner.
In 1998 sales of the D-Traker (250cc) commenced. Featuring a liquid-cooled 4-valve Single-cylinder engine, the D-Tracker created a new category of motorcycle. In the same year, sales of the Z650, a re-release of the popular W1, commenced.
CLASSIC BEAUTY IN A MODERN MACHINE
Following a "new Nostalgic" concept, the new sports model's appeal lies in its elegant simplicity. The W650 combines the beauty of a redesigned air-cooled Vertical Twin engine, elegant high-class styling and a compact chassis. Its instant popularity among a wide variety of riders made this model a hit.
In the year 2000, overseas sales of the Ninja ZX-12R (1200cc) commenced.
NEW MILLENNIUM FLAGSHIP
Ninja ZX-12R - the flagship model of the Kawasaki's supersport Ninja Series. Intended to be the successor to the King of Speed throne, the NinjaZX-12R featured the first mass-produced aluminium monocoque frame, an advanced technology liquid-cooled DOHC 16-valve In-Line Four cylinder engine with a maximum power of 178 PS, an aerodynamically crafted chassis and numerous other unique features.
In 2001 sales of the ZRX-1200 commenced. The successor to the ZRX1100 featured an increased displacement and came in one of three styles; the half-cowled ZRX1200S, the bikini-cowled ZRX1200R and naked ZRX1200.
In the same year sales of the Vulcan 1500 Mean Streak commenced. The sporty new Cruiser combined a long and low chassis, high performance components and custom styling.
In 2002 sales of the ZZ-R1200 commenced. An evolution of the famous ZZ-R1100 superbike, the new supersport tourer combines superbike performance, sport touring comfort and avant-garde styling.
In the same year sales a kids enduro model called the KLX110 commenced.
Also in the same year, sales of the 250TR commenced. The domestic-market retro street bike gained popularity among young riders
Sales of the Ninja ZX-6R (636 cm3) and the Ninja ZX-6RR (600 cm3) commence. Designed to be the quickest circuit bikes in their class, these completely redesigned Sixes feature many components usually found only on race machines.
Sales of the Z1000 commence. Released 30 years after the legendary Z1, the new "Super-Naked" combines top-level supersport components with a design that is unmistakably Kawasaki.
Sales of the Ninja ZX-10R (1000 cm3) commence.
Introduced to the world's press on the 20th anniversary of the original Ninja (GPz900R), Kawasaki's new litre-class supersport model is designed for one purpose: total domination on the circuit. Boasting an engine output of 175 PS, and weighing in at a mere 170 kg, the Ninja ZX-10R has a power-to-weight ratio greater than 1. Incredible performance and racer-friendly characteristics make it the winner of supersport shootouts around the world and earn it the title of Master Bike - two years in a row.
Sales of the Z750 commence. While unmistakably part of the "Z" series, the mid-class version of the Z1000 features its own distinct cowling and a single muffler. Sales of the Vulcan 2000 (VN2000 in Europe) commence. With a displacement of 2,053 cm3, Kawasaki's new flagship cruiser model is the world's largest production V-Twin. Sales of the KX250F, Kawasaki's first 4-stroke motocrosser, commence. The new bike is a model jointly developed by Kawasaki and Suzuki. A year earlier in the 2003 All-Japan Motocross championship, the KX250F-SR (factory racer) wins its debut race, and amasses 11 wins to take the 125cc title.
Sales of the Ninja ZX-6R (636 cm3) commence. More power, less resistance and more control make new 6R the most potent middleweight on the circuit and on winding roads.
Sales of the Z750S, the latest in the "Z" series, commence. This multitalented model features an aerodynamic cowl and long comfortable seat.
Sales of the ZZR1400 (Ninja ZX-14 in N. America) commence.
Kawasaki fans rejoice at the arrival of the ZZR1400. Featuring Kawasaki's most powerful engine ever and an all-new aluminium monocoque chassis wrapped in sculpted bodywork both aerodynamic and awe-inspiring, the new flagship is a showcase of the latest technology and Kawasaki craftsmanship. Designed to deliver the ultimate supersport riding experience, the ZZR1400's superb balance of performance, handling and a virtually palpable presence recalls the legendary machines whose spirit it embodies.
Sales of the Ninja ZX-10R (1000 cm3) commence. Designed to help riders trim their lap times, the new 10R features the same awesome power, superior cornering performance and an all-new aerodynamics package.
Sales of the ER-6f (650 cm3), or Ninja 650R in N. America, commence. The versatile package offered by its Parallel Twin engine, lightweight chassis and sleek, sophisticated styling make it appealing to both new riders and veterans alike.
Sales of the ER-6n (650 cm3) commence. Its unique combination of avant-garde styling, responsive power, brilliant handling and userfriendly characteristics allow it to be enjoyed by a wide range of riders.
Sales of Kawasaki's first big-bore 4-stroke motocrosser, the KX450F, commence. Its high-performance engine, lightweight aluminium frame, race-tuned suspension and superlative rear wheel traction make it a potent track weapon for riders serious about racing.
An all-new Ninja ZX-6R (600 cm3) debuts. Two things make this new Six particularly special. The first is that it is the replacement for two models: both the best-selling 636 cm3 Ninja ZX-6R and the limited-edition 599 cm3 Ninja ZX-6RR. The second is that it is new from the cases up - for the first time in 10 years. An ultra-compact yet powerful engine, incredible mass centralisation, a riderresponsive chassis and the cornering prowess of a lightweight small-displacement GP machine make this evolution of the Ninja ZX-6R the closest representation of Kawasaki's ideal 600cc-class circuit machine to date.
Sales of the Versys (650 cm3) commence. This interesting model features the same base engine and chassis as the ER-6n and 6f (Ninja 650R) introduced the year before. But where the ER models were designed to accommodate a wide range of riders and skill levels, the Versys is designed with experienced riders in mind. Long travel front and rear suspension, 17" wheels with sport tyres, an upright riding position, engine tuned for low-mid range torque, and a sleek, flickable chassis with superb rider feedback - all part of a versatile package that enables riders to explore a variety of riding styles and to tackle numerous street riding conditions with confidence.
Like its predecessor, the new Z1000 takes the performance naked class by storm. Refocused for even more realworld riding exhilaration, the new Z1000 is the epitome of Kawasaki Performance and Styling, its crouching, muscular appearance an overt display of its phenomenal performance.
A replacement for the highly popular Z750 also debuts later that year. Capitalising on the great balance inherent in a 750cc machine, the second "Z" model offers serious street riders superb feedback and just the right amount of crisp, responsive engine performance in a sharp-handling and sharp-looking package.
The 1400GTR (Concours 14 ABS / Concours 14 in N. America) debuts.
Like its predecessor, the long-selling 1000GTR (Concours in N. America), the 1400GTR borrows from the best supersport technology of its time. But where the 1000GTR had its roots in the GPz1000RX, the 1400GTR takes its key components directly from the mighty ZZR1400 (Ninja ZX-14). Starting with breathtaking engine performance, sublime handling, and a slim riding position care of its supersport core, Kawasaki's new "Transcontinental Supersport" bike adds shaft drive, removable panniers, electrically adjustable windscreen and a host of other features that make it the most impressive long-distance flagship-class machine of its time. It also features KI-PASS (Kawasaki's Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System), the first electronic authorisation system in its class.
Sales of the latest iteration of the Ninja ZX-10R commence. The new supersport model once again raises the bar in the litre-class. In order to ensure the stock engine and chassis performance necessary to satisfy even professional racers, development started with creating the ideal superbike racer, which was then adapted into a high-level street-going model. Featuring dual injection and oval sub-throttles, the new 998 cm3 engine focuses on high-rpm performance while maintaining the impressive low and mid-range torque of its predecessor. Equipped with KIMS (Kawasaki Ignition Management System), the new 10R offers the precise control that enables the rider to stay in charge. The evolution of the twin-tube/backbone frame and redesigned ergonomics result in a machine that offers superb levels of feedback, providing communication essential for riding at the highest level. The no-nonsense, minimalist styling package reflects the character of the bike, while instilling it with the presence befitting Kawasaki's litreclass supersport flagship.
The KLX450R, an off-road racing machine based on the KX450F motocrosser, makes its debut. Taking key engine, frame and suspension components directly from the KX450F and adapting them for the gruelling world of off-road racing, the KLX450R offers racers a highly competitive package right out of the crate.
A replacement for the long-selling KLR650 arrives. Thoroughly rejuvenated, the new KLR650 offers improved engine and chassis performance and all-new bodywork.
Sales of the Ninja 250R commence.
GOOD THINGS DO COME IN SMALL PACKAGES
Designed for riders of all levels, the Ninja 250R offers an engine character that can be fully exploited, a compact, easy-to-operate chassis and numerous rider-friendly features - all wrapped in full-fairing supersport styling that would not be out of place on top-class Ninja supersport models. Two versions are released: a carburetted model for N. America (replacing the long-time bestselling entry model of the same name), and a fuel-injected model for Europe.
Sales of Kawasaki's first fuel-injected motocrosser commence. The new KX450F features a number of other major changes, including a lighter, slimmer chassis and completely new factory-style bodywork designed to facilitate rider control.
Sales of the new ER-6n (650 cm3) commence. The revised model features sharper styling aimed at young riders, and a number of engine and chassis changes that make the new bike even more fun and easy to ride.
Debuting the same year, the new ER-6f (650 cm3), or Ninja 650R in N. America, builds on the strengths of its predecessor, offering a package both fun and easy to ride, and matches its sporty street performance with aggressive Ninja supersport styling.
The new Ninja ZX-6R (600 cm3) arrives. An evolution of the 2007 model, the new 6R takes the track-focused performance of its predecessor to the next level. Reduced weight, chassis fine-tuning and mass centralisation result in a lighter-handling machine. The first production-use of Showa's BPF (Big Piston Front fork), combined with the already potent triple petal disc brake package and highly effective slipper clutch, offer increased control and superb composure under hard braking. The updated engine offers a much stronger midrange and very precise throttle control and feel at all rpm. Revised ergonomics complement the precise control offered by chassis and engine by providing a natural rider interface with a high level of feedback, inducing a high level of confidence that allows riders to go faster and enjoy themselves when pushing hard.
Kawasaki introduces the Vulcan 1700 Voyager (VN1700 Voyager in Europe), the first Japanese full-dress V-Twin tourer.
SET YOUR SITES BEYOND THE HORIZON
A large front cowling, windscreen, and leg shields provide superior wind and weather protection. Top-mounted trunk, hard panniers and dual glove boxes ensure ample storage. Essential touring features like Electronic Cruise Control, 6-speed transmission with over-drive are joined by innovative technology like Kawasaki's first fully electronic throttle valve system, and (on ABS models) K-ACT (Kawasaki Advanced Coactive-braking Technology) ABS. A new 1700 cm3 engine mounted in a light-handling chassis is all wrapped in sculpted bodywork reminiscent of 60s muscle cars. In short, the Vulcan 1700 Voyager offers everything needed for long-distance touring with or without a passenger.
Other models in the series, the Vulcan 1700 Nomad (VN1700 Classic Tourer in Europe), Vulcan 1700 Classic (VN1700 Classic in Europe) and Vulcan 1700 Classic LT, debut the same year.