Kawasaki History

A Brief History of Kawasaki Motorcycles

Kawasaki Heavy Industries was founded in 1878 by Shozo Kawasaki.
The origins of the company was in ship building.
Kawasaki later expanded into designing and building other forms of heavy industry machinery such as railway locomotives and more recently helicopters, robots and construction machinery to name just a few.
In 1962, the first motorcycle to bear the Kawasaki name was introduced.
This was a 125cc single cylinder two stroke known as the B8.
However, Kawasaki had been involved with motorcycles before that time.
They had manufactured small two stroke engines for Meihatsu motorcycles from 1954.

In 1961, Kawasaki aquired the Meguro company. Meguro was Japan’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer dating back to 1937.
Kawasaki started to produce both two stroke and four stroke machines.
Perhaps the most famous of Kawasaki motorcycles were the two stroke triples.
They had a wild reputation for speed, somewhat dubious handling and a huge thirst for fuel.
The two stroke triples sounded amazing, however with today’s increasingly stifling legislation, we are unlikely to see machines like this produced again.
Needless to say, they are now extremely collectable.

After studying the U.S. market, in 1967, Kawasaki engineers, led by Gyoichi “Ben” Inamura, were briefed to produce a large capacity four cylinder four stroke motorcycle.
The original plan was for the motorcycle to be around 750cc in capacity.
The Kawasaki team were horrified when Honda beat them to it.
If Honda had not introduced their CB750 four at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show in 1968, Kawasaki may have thought that they were about to introduce Japan’s first four cylinder four stroke motorcycle.
The introduction of the big Honda meant that it was back to the drawing board for Kawasaki.
They had to come up with a motorcycle that was bigger and more exciting than the CB750.
Kawasaki could not have imagined at the time they first introduced the Z1 at the 1972 Cologne Motorcycle Show what an influence this machine would have on the motorcycling world.