Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show, seen a vehicle, and felt like it hit you with a bolt of lightning? I’m going to guess that you have, simply because you’re reading RideApart. Cool vehicles can really make a movie (or sometimes, a franchise) stand out. Occasionally, they’re even the best things about otherwise unforgettable movies and TV shows, with chase scenes that live on as video clips long past when you forget the whole plot.
Anyway, our fine and hilarious colleagues at Donut Media love nothing more than making connections between vehicles and pop culture. In James Pumphrey’s most recent hyperbolic, frenetically edited video essay in Donut’s Up to Speed series, he takes us all on a rollicking journey through the history of the Kawasaki Ninja.
From the rebellious movie biker images portrayed on the silver screens our grandparents enjoyed, up through the Ninja movie bookends of Top Gun and the upcoming sequel, Top Gun: Maverick (which has now been pushed back again to a May 2022 release), this video neatly condenses over 40 years of history into just 25 minutes of your time.
None of it would have happened without the 1971 introduction of the Kawasaki Z1, of course—but, in turn, as Z1 designer Norimasa Tada himself acknowledged, Kawasaki wouldn’t have pushed him to design the Z1 if Honda hadn’t first come up with the CB750. While competition doesn’t always breed innovation, the Japanese motorcycle industry from the ‘70s through the ‘90s was a prime example of four firms constantly trying to out-innovate each other while bike enthusiasts reaped the benefits.
Once Team Green embarked down that GPZ900R path, there was simply no going back. As the sportbike wars heated up, a new generation of motorcycle enthusiasts found bikes that spoke to them. For their part, Japan’s Big Four were only too happy to oblige their performance-oriented fantasies. Kawasaki effectively supercharged the way long before it ever dreamed up the H2, and that’s no exaggeration.