The Evolution of Kawasaki Motorcycles

Kawasaki has an illustrious history that goes back to post-Second World War era when it began mass production of motorcycles, even though the seminal seeds were actually sown in the late 19th century. The publicly traded company Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. under the leadership of Shōzō Kawasaki, a Japanese industrialist and shipbuilder, was initially into aircraft engines manufacturing and shipbuilding.


Later on, driven by a vision to explore, design and develop newer technologies, the company decided to set foot into motorcycle business. Today, the Motorcycle & Engine division of Kawasaki manufactures motorcycles at its various plants located in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and USA.


Here’s a brief timeline of one of the most adored and respected motorcycle brands:



In 1949, Kawasaki’s aircraft engineers began the development of KE- 1.

It was a 148 cc, 4-stroke single cylinder, air-cooled, overhead valve engine with a maximum power of 4 PS at 4,000 rpm.

The design of the first KE- 1 motorcycle engine was completed in 1952.

Mass production started in 1953.

In 1955, production of KB-5 engine with responsive torque was started. It was followed by a number of updates for the next 10 years. KB-5 provided the necessary base for Kawasaki’s 125 cc motorcycle engine.



1960 saw the commencement of exclusive production and sales of Kawasaki 125 New Ace.

The following two years, it manufactured Kawasaki 125B7 and Kawasaki 125B8 in succession. Their curved surfaces, quiet engines and low-end torque testified to the use of the most advanced manufacturing materials available at that time.

During the same time, a series of the 2-stroke models ranging from 50-250 cc was released, most notably Samurai, as well as 2-stroke 123 cc Red-Tank Furore.

In 1969, Kawasaki released Kawasaki H1, a powerful 500 cc, 3-cylinder, two-stroke motorcycle.



Labeled the world’s most powerful motorcycle, Z1 took birth in 1972 with first air-cooled in-line 4-cyclinder engine. It was followed by Z2 of similarly impressive specs.

Bike riders welcomed the stylish Z1-R with 1000 cc in 1977 amidst unbounded praises.

The following year saw the arrival of 1300 cc, liquid-cooled, 4- stoke, Dreadnaught with Double OverHead Cam in-line 6-cylinder, touted as  the largest Japanese-manufactured motorcycle engine at that time.



Kawasaki heralded the year 1980 with Z1100GP, a pioneering model in the Grand Prix series with direct fuel injection and oil cooling.

1981 marked the sales of AR50, which was the first 50 cc sports model from the house of Kawasaki as well as the first 6-speed motorcycle in its category.



For Kawasaki, the beginning of the 20th century saw introduction of its flagship models like ZZ-R1100 and ZX-11. ZX-11, with a 1052 cc engine, was the first motorcycle to be equipped with ram-air induction.

The new off-roader Super Sherpa with 250 cc was unveiled in 1997. It was a multipurpose, 4-stroke single-cylinder, and 4-valve air/oil cooled engine.



At the start of 21st century, Kawasaki released ZX-12R, the first in the Ninja sport bike ZX series with ‎1,199 cc.

Next in line was Vulcan 1500 Mean Streak in 2001, the sporty low chassis cruiser of high performance powered by 1470 cc and 5,500 rpm.

Middle of the century saw the arrival in the markets of mid-sized Z750S with a comfortable seat compensated by aerodynamic features. Features include 4-stroke, DOHC and transverse 4-cylinder.

Kawasaki welcomed biking fans in 2008 with 1400GTR, aka Concours 14 or ZG1400, a tour bike with 1,352 cc in-line 4-cylinder, 136Nm torque, and a fuel capacity of 22 liters.

Kawasaki Ninja H2R Supercharged came with a bang in 2015 as another powerful track-only sports bike with 310 hp and 12,500 rpm.


As we can see, this Japanese motorcycle giant has been producing legendary motorcycles of all classes and purposes year after year. In other words, it delivered and still delivers milestones to millions of fans around the world. Looking at Kawasaki’s evolutionary graph, it becomes pretty clear why it’s still able to hold sway over the market and win hearts of communities of bikers. And it’s no wonder that every person next to you is waiting with bated breath for the next launch from this master craftsman.

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