These bikes sort of broke my heart when they came out. At the time I couldn’t really afford one as I was in school and Americans never really warmed up to them so they were short lived over here. Someone (I’m guessing over in Japan) has one fresh out of the crate still with the plastic wrap on it. What a great find!
The Kawasaki Zephyr is a line of air-cooled inline 4-cylinder-engined motorcycles built by Kawasaki to meet the demand for retro-styled naked motorcycles in Japan and elsewhere in the 1990s. There were a number of Zephyr models available in four engine capacities – 400, 550, 750, and 1100cc.
The 400 was produced for Japan due to the demand for 400cc motorcycles in that market. It was very popular. Many aftermarket parts were produced, with companies like Over Racing producing exhausts, swingarms, fairings and engine modifications.
Zephyr styling is roughly based on the old Z1, with twin shock rear suspension, a relatively upright riding position and air cooled power units. The 400, 550 and 750 engines were developed from the old Z400/500/550/650/750/900 series. The 1100 engine is a re-engineered version of a liquid-cooled powerplant and is the only Zephyr built with two spark plugs per cylinder. The Zephyr offered the customer retro styling coupled with simplicity and reliability. Performance of the line was adequate for normal riding and the engines were tuned for low to mid range power.
The Zephyr started the Naked/Retro bike boom in the UK and Europe in the early 1990s and for a while moved Kawasaki to the 2nd best selling manufacturer of motorcycles in the UK Market.
The Zephyr Z 750 engine reappeared in the late 1990s in the short lived ER7.
The Zephyr 1100 had a Z1 restyle in its last year of sale including a return to wire wheels. Wire wheels also appeared on the 750. It was replaced in the Kawasaki UK range by the popular Z1100R styled ZRX1100(later ZRX1200).
The ZRX series of motorcycles had a great impact on the growing market for retro style motorcycles, particularly in the United States. It was modeled after Kawasaki’s superbike championship winning KZ1000R-S1 that propelled Eddie Lawson to Superbike dominance in the early 1980s and even spawned an international owners association known as the ZRXOA (ZRX Owners Association)