The Kawasaki tale is one of motorcycling's great success stories. They appeared, as if from nowhere in 1962, and within a 10-year period had reached the very top, producing class leading motorcycles that turned the two-wheeled world on it's head. Following the success of the Kawasaki Z1, the time was right to back that up with an equally impressive middleweight motorcycle. Ben Inamura, the designer of that superbike, was single-handedly given the task of creating the new motorcycle and in typical style he chose a capacity long since lost.
The real reasons for this switch from the obvious 750cc category may never be known, but several ideas can be thrown around to make sense of it. Back in 1968, Kawasaki had a 750cc motorcycle already nearing production when Honda announced the CB750, thus prompting Kawasaki's return to the workshop and the subsequent Z1's birth. Suzuki had been developing the GS750, albeit a straight take off of the Kawasaki twin overhead camshaft, roller bearing crank, design. These may have been the catalysts that prompted the new Kawasaki to be a smaller engine than the rest but one thing is for certain, by the mid 80's the middleweight class had become the center of attention for all motorcycle manufacturers.
A 650cc motorcycle was, like tis 900cc big brother; different enough to grab attention, stylish and fast. The Kawasaki Z650, launched in 1976, was the first Japanese motorcycle to have a formal press launch, something we take for granted now-a-day. The press launch proved to be a good success, its was held on a tight twisty race track and the track demonstrated the Kawasaki Z650 and highlighted its many positive attributes. The chassis was more than capable of keeping the 64 horsepower in check, enabling high corner speeds to be attained.
The lightweight of the design coupled with an impressive 57Nm of torque enabled it to blast up the 400meter in around 14 seconds, less than a second adrift of its larger capacity sibling. With over 190km/h on tap, the top speed was little down on the bigger motorcycle of the period making the Kawasaki Z650 a genuine alternative to a motorcycle 750cc or above... 30-years ago.