This bike is a time capsule from when Kawasaki went head-to-head with Honda's CB750.

Most of my motorcycles have been four-cylinder Japanese bikes from the early 1980s. Somehow I missed out on Kawasaki's intended CB750 beater, the KZ750, until this excellent example of one popped up on Bring a Trailer.

Honda's CB750 was the original superbike, the bike that defined the Universal Japanese Motorcycle from its 1969 introduction all the way into the 1980s. Other manufacturers tried to emulate it in varying degrees. Kawasaki's KZ650 was a deliberate choice to offer a slightly slower bike at a lower price than Honda. Starting in 1980, though, Kawasaki decided to upsize the engine and go directly head-to-head with Honda with the KZ750. This nearly showroom perfect example from 1982 represents its final year of production.

While most UJMs that haven't already been ridden into the ground (like mine) have been turned into some sweet custom rides, this one remains extremely well preserved in stock form. Looking at the specs, the KZ750 is barely distinguishable from its Honda competition, with a 750cc inline-4 engine, a 5-speed transmission, and dual front brakes with a single rear disc in back. 

Gallery: 1982 Kawasaki KZ750-E3 Sports

This bike keeps the original 34mm Keihin constant-velocity carburetors, which just got rebuilt with new fuel rail o-rings. It has a fresh pair of Kenda tires and is not 100 percent stock with a half-inch lowering shock and spring assemblies in back. The original seat is well preserved, though there's evidence of two small tears that have been repaired well. Similarly, there are small cracks in the plastic housings around the right-side hand control and indicator light housing. Still, the bike, showing just under 23,000 miles on the clock, is in much better shape than I was at 38 years old.

What may have held the KZ750 back from becoming more popular was that while Honda, as well as the Suzuki GS (of which I owned several), had gone from a two-valve single overhead cam to a more powerful four-valve dual overhead cam setup by the 1980s, Kawasaki stuck with the older single-cam design. While this was simpler to build, it was more difficult to maintain, as the camshaft had to be removed to access the valves for adjustments. Still, the KZ750 earned its place for Kawasaki as one of the "Big Four." While it did have some minor deficiencies as compared to its competition, it was still an excellent motorcycle and the basis for further improvements in the future with the Ninja series of bikes.

 

Sources: Bring a Trailer, Rider