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1969 Kawasaki H1 500 versus the 1973 Kawasaki Z1 - which one would you rather have?



KAWASAKI H1 500
  • Year: 1969
  • Horsepower: 53bhp @ 7,400rpm
  • Torque: 38ft.lb @ 5,000rpm
  • Layout: 498cc, air-cooled, parallel-triple
There has arguably never been a streetbike more dominated by its engine than Kawasaki’s H1 triple of 1969. The 498cc, air-cooled two-stroke, also called the Mach III, was created mainly for the stoplight-racing crazy US market, so Kawasaki went all out for power-toweight ratio. This meant designing the most powerful engine possible, and bolting it into the lightest chassis they could make.

Kawasaki tested twin-cylinder prototype motors before choosing the piston-ported triple, which has potential for more power than a twin because its extra cylinder wall area allows more port area. Young engineer Yukio Otsuki, who headed the project, specified big cooling fins to guard against the middle cylinder overheating, and used an innovative ignition system to allow high revs. The smooth running, 120-degree crankshaft meant the clutch and gearbox could be notably light.

The H1 motor produced 60bhp at 8,000rpm - in a bike whose skinny steel frame and pencil-like forks contributed to a dry weight of just 174kg. The result was a stunning bike that screamed through the quarter in less than 13 seconds at over 100mph, and “trounced any mass production motorcycle regardless of displacement”, according to Cycle World.

The peaky motor came alive at 5,500rpm with a mighty kick and the H1’s high bars and 57 per cent rearwards weight bias made the Kawasaki the world’s first production streetbike with a barely controllable urge to wheelie. Predictably scary handling added to the excitement. The Mach III cost a dollar under $1,000 in the States in ’69, and was a huge hit that put Kawasaki firmly on the map.



KAWASAKI Z1
  • Year: 1973
  • Horsepower: 85bhp @ 8,500rpm
  • Torque: 58ft.lb @ 6,900rpm
  • Layout: 903cc, DOHC, parallel-four
You’ve only got to look at the list of the world’s fastest, most exotic hand-built superbikes of the Seventies to get an idea of the impact made by Kawasaki’s mighty DOHC four-cylinder engine. From Harris, Rickman, and Peckett and McNab in this country, to Bimota, Nico Bakker, Georges Martin and Fritz Egli elsewhere, the specials builders of that era welded their magic around the big Kawa lump.

It’s easy to understand why. When the Z1 was launched in 1973, its 903cc twin-cam engine’s peak output of 85bhp at 8,500rpm was 15 horses up on that of Honda’s single-cam CB750. The bigger motor had heaps more midrange stomp, too. And as a legion of tuners and specials builders discovered soon enough, it was strong enough to remain reliable even when tuned to give over 100bhp.

The supremacy of the 130mph standard Z1 and its Z900 successor came about almost by accident. We’ll never know how the motorcycling world of the Seventies would have panned out had Kawasaki unveiled their 750cc four in 1968, as planned, instead of being trumped by Honda’s rival CB750. The Big K’s engineerswent away, enlarged their DOHC powerplant, and returned to blow everything else completely out of the water.

The first Zed was a handsome bike, too, but its bendy old chassis had been designed by the B-team. The inevitable high speed shakes led to plenty of work for the specials builders, and inadvertently enhanced a reputation for fearsome fours that served Kawasaki well for years.
 

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The Z1 hands down... Now had you said 72 H2-750 then you would have a race on yur hands.. I would have to go H2..
 

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H1 and I can't really can't explain why...just cuz.
 

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I know a guy here local with two of these in pristine shape that I know about and at least 1 set of band new in the box set of body panels ( gas tank etc ) put away for the future.. He's owned these bikes and parts for 25 plus years I know of... These bikes are beautiful.. One of the Z1's actually has a set of emblems of the fork legs in place of the reflectors that say { Kawasaki Air Craft } and has a picture of a plane worked into the emblem instead of the regular reflectors that every other that I have ever seen has.. He says that it was like that from the factory and it does appear OEM... Original Z1 A models do have a few unique features that other early model Z1'a didn't have... I've known this guy since the late 70's and nothing short of death will pry either of these or the parts out of his hands..At least not cash in the amounts most people can scrape together... I haven't seen either of the bikes in many years but I'm told they are still there locked away inside a special room INSIDE THE HOUSE that's climate controlled where he regularly keeps them running and maintained.. Back in the day it was cool as hell and this many years later it's insane how cool it is... I owned an original KZ1000MKII 79 model that I have recently discovered is coming up on the market due to the untimely suicide of a long time close friend a little over a year ago that I'm gong to try and reclaim at some point from his sister.. It's needing restored but having it back in my hands is the rightful place for it and also a proper tribute to a fallen brother whom I loved and often times find myself thinking of ina puddle of tears. Sadly he needed someone at a time when my father was passing and something was telling me to check on him, but watching my daddy pass had me a little stretched thin..by the time it was over it was too late.. The MK II being restored will be my way of keeping my long time friend alive in my heart.. I sold it to him many years ago and always told him if he didn't ever want it any longer it needed to come back home to me..
Motorcycles are so much more to many people than just transportation.. They are symbols of life and special people, places, events, of our life... The 83 GPz1100 I have is just the same to me. It holds a place in my soul that money can't buy. I discovered a couple of years back when I sold my 12R that it too held that place and I continued pushing for it back until it came home.. and it will never leave again.. All my bikes will be left to my wife as she alone is the rightful owner and only person to know their stories of significants in my walk through time.. All bookmarks of a person that are marking places and events remembered.

What part of your life does your 12R,CBX, or Buell mark, and should they come home? If so GET BUSY before time runs short.. There's an adequate and NO MORE to mark history. It's your job to place them in the proper spots, and points of history..
 

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Not sure where you got your specs for the H1 at, but everything I have ever read has listed the horsepower for a 1969 H1 @ 60, not 53, at least in the USA. The numbers for the Z1 sound a bit high as well but I can not quote those numbers off the top of my head.

1969 Kawasaki H1 500 versus the 1973 Kawasaki Z1 - which one would you rather have?



KAWASAKI H1 500
  • Year: 1969
  • Horsepower: 53bhp @ 7,400rpm
  • Torque: 38ft.lb @ 5,000rpm
  • Layout: 498cc, air-cooled, parallel-triple
There has arguably never been a streetbike more dominated by its engine than Kawasaki’s H1 triple of 1969. The 498cc, air-cooled two-stroke, also called the Mach III, was created mainly for the stoplight-racing crazy US market, so Kawasaki went all out for power-toweight ratio. This meant designing the most powerful engine possible, and bolting it into the lightest chassis they could make.

Kawasaki tested twin-cylinder prototype motors before choosing the piston-ported triple, which has potential for more power than a twin because its extra cylinder wall area allows more port area. Young engineer Yukio Otsuki, who headed the project, specified big cooling fins to guard against the middle cylinder overheating, and used an innovative ignition system to allow high revs. The smooth running, 120-degree crankshaft meant the clutch and gearbox could be notably light.

The H1 motor produced 60bhp at 8,000rpm - in a bike whose skinny steel frame and pencil-like forks contributed to a dry weight of just 174kg. The result was a stunning bike that screamed through the quarter in less than 13 seconds at over 100mph, and “trounced any mass production motorcycle regardless of displacement”, according to Cycle World.

The peaky motor came alive at 5,500rpm with a mighty kick and the H1’s high bars and 57 per cent rearwards weight bias made the Kawasaki the world’s first production streetbike with a barely controllable urge to wheelie. Predictably scary handling added to the excitement. The Mach III cost a dollar under $1,000 in the States in ’69, and was a huge hit that put Kawasaki firmly on the map.



KAWASAKI Z1
  • Year: 1973
  • Horsepower: 85bhp @ 8,500rpm
  • Torque: 58ft.lb @ 6,900rpm
  • Layout: 903cc, DOHC, parallel-four
You’ve only got to look at the list of the world’s fastest, most exotic hand-built superbikes of the Seventies to get an idea of the impact made by Kawasaki’s mighty DOHC four-cylinder engine. From Harris, Rickman, and Peckett and McNab in this country, to Bimota, Nico Bakker, Georges Martin and Fritz Egli elsewhere, the specials builders of that era welded their magic around the big Kawa lump.

It’s easy to understand why. When the Z1 was launched in 1973, its 903cc twin-cam engine’s peak output of 85bhp at 8,500rpm was 15 horses up on that of Honda’s single-cam CB750. The bigger motor had heaps more midrange stomp, too. And as a legion of tuners and specials builders discovered soon enough, it was strong enough to remain reliable even when tuned to give over 100bhp.

The supremacy of the 130mph standard Z1 and its Z900 successor came about almost by accident. We’ll never know how the motorcycling world of the Seventies would have panned out had Kawasaki unveiled their 750cc four in 1968, as planned, instead of being trumped by Honda’s rival CB750. The Big K’s engineerswent away, enlarged their DOHC powerplant, and returned to blow everything else completely out of the water.

The first Zed was a handsome bike, too, but its bendy old chassis had been designed by the B-team. The inevitable high speed shakes led to plenty of work for the specials builders, and inadvertently enhanced a reputation for fearsome fours that served Kawasaki well for years.
 

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I currently own a garage full of Kawasaki triples and would love to have a Z1 to keep them company. Unfortunately with the price of them going nothing but up, that will probably never happen.
 

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Raced both bikes. Still have the tire changer slash garbage can



I restored a basket case 73 Z-1 with over 50k on the speedo. Traded it and some money for my newer model bike. Found a 74 Z for $25 bucks all stock [sitting in someone's backyard] in the weeds; with 13k on it. Swap all sorts of cylinders and wire harnesses just to make the 73 run. Made the big bucks back then, even with the mix and matched parts.

It was big, heavy, and I wouldn't take that thing for a fast ride with the poor brakes and thin twitchy frame. It handled fine. Just don't push it. I've had the later models like the 350 triple. That was a slow pig. Loved it, but no guts. Had the last model 750 triple and raced that no problem. Then back on the street again. One day that triple twitched so hard, I had my work clothes bungeed on the back seat. The light changed as I turned left, and hammered away from the start. The back end snapped out so hard it whipped my shirt and overalls in the middle of the intersection.

I slammed that kicker down, ran back really fast for them. Everyone stopped to witness what just happened, or saw me run like a fool.

Did I want the 500? Yeah, but I figure if you ever rode an X-6, it might compare as half the brute force smile that starts from the ass cheeks all the way up to the lips.
 

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I had a '78 Z1-R with 3900 (original) miles on the clock that I sold back in about 1988. It was perfect and 100% original.

God, that was a stupid fucking decision.
 

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I would love to have either of these bikes, but lets face it, the Z1 is a much better bike. The H1 was good for one thing - quarter mile, and even then it needed a rider that knew how to keep the front wheel reasonably close to the ground. The early H1 got lousy gas mileage, shook like a hula dancer in corners, had crappy brakes, tended to seize the center cylinder if run at high speeds, and generally needed a top end rebuild after about 15,000 miles.
 

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I do. Good 35mm prints I'll need to scan. (Loved my old 35 but thank God for digital lol)

She was a beauty. ;-)
 

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Has to be the stroker!
I had well over 60+ triples over the years including the first denco H2C in the UK. Suspect i had the fastest H2 and S1 in the UK back then. H2 gave 11 mpg when it's neck was rung!!
Last project i did a few years ago was fit a H2 motor into a S2 frame! tight but fitted! Sold it to a gentleman in Birmingham AL
Wouldn't mind having another triple one alongside my CBR9 in my workshop! aaah! those were the days. I can still smell the Castrol RRRR!!

Regards Y'all

Ted
 
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