Kawasaki Z1300 Six Cylinder From Japan

Six cylinder motorcycles are rare. They have an incredible engine note and are very smooth to ride. Today, six-cylinder motorcycles are amongst some of the most desirable classic machines available.

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Kawasaki Z1300

Kawasaki Z1300
John H Glimmerveen Licensed to About.com

Introduced at the Koln motorcycle show in Germany in 1978, Kawasaki produced the longest manufacturing run of street bikes with a six-cylinder engine known as the Z1300. The bike was produced from 1978 until 1989. Although the basic model underwent a number of changes, the same bike was essentially in production for eleven years and gained an enviable reputation for reliability. 

Bucket and Shim Valve Adjustment

The Z1300s had a water cooled DOHC 1286-cc 4-stroke engine with two valves per cylinder. The cams operated against a bucket and shim system for valve clearances (over bucket type) which were chain driven (chain tension was automatic via a spring loaded plunger). This valve clearance control system has proven to be one of the most reliable and accurate systems ever invented. 

Ignition was fully electronic while carburation was via three dual barrel CV style carbs.

Final drive on the Kawasaki was via a shaft, a system ideal for the long-distance touring rider.

Service and Maintenance

Maintenance on the Z1300s is relatively easy. The ignition systems were a welcome change from the points and condenser systems fitted to many of the four-cylinder machines of the time. The valve clearances needed periodic inspection but rarely needed any change of shims before 10,000 miles. The carburetors on these machines require regular balance checks to ensure fuel economy and performance but is a relatively simple job for the home mechanic with a set of vacuum gauges.

The six cylinders were arranged horizontally (across the frame) making the Kawasaki a very wide motorcycle which resulted in a lack of ground clearance during cornering.

At 653 lbs(297 kg’s) the Kawasaki was a heavy motorcycle but this was only evident at low speeds or when maneuvering around a workshop. Intended as a long range touring machine, the Kawasaki Z1300s were not easy to flick through bends but did offer a degree of comfort on long corners or on interstate highways.

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Oil System Problems

 It should be noted that Kawasaki experienced some oil systems problems on their early Z1300s (the sump capacity was increased to 6-liters (from 4.5 liters) on the A2 model starting at engine number KZT30A-006201.

1981 saw the Z1300A3 being built at Kawasaki’s factory in Lincoln in the US. The new model had gas rear shocks and an updated electronic ignition system.

The single biggest change to the Z1300 came in 1983 with the introduction of the Voyager. Referred to as the “car without doors,” the Kawasaki came fully dressed for touring with a full fairing, side panniers and numerous touring related components aimed squarely at the US touring market.

In 1984 the Z1300 was modified to include fuel injection. Besides making the bike even smoother to ride, the fuel injection increased the HP to 130 and improved its fuel economy.

An early version (1979 A1) in excellent condition is valued around $5,000.