The distant memories that solidified our love for motorcycling occasionally creep back into the forefront of our minds. They stir our passion and transport us back to the very moment as no piece of modern audiovisual technology could. The feeling of envy, the smell of carbureted exhaust, the first sighting of a machine you would never forget. All of these recollections combine to allow you another chance to live in that moment, however brief it may be. Rob van der Ende took a trip back in his mind’s eye and decided that he wasn’t content to leave the memories behind.
As a young man, Rob got his first glimpse of a Kawasaki Z1 in his high school parking lot. The rider pulled up, clad in leather and denim. The bike he rode was big and brash, with chrome fenders and a boat-tail rear section. He stopped only briefly; just long enough for the beautiful girl leaning against the tree outside the school gymnasium to join him and slide on a spare helmet from the back of the Kawi. She tucked in her auburn locks, mounted the motorcycle in one smooth, swinging motion, grasped the leather-clad figure in front of her . . . and they were gone. It’s a memory that has stuck with Rob ever since.
The acquisition of this 1974 Kawasaki Z1 is due in large part to a fortuitous phone call from Frank, a friend of Rob’s. This kind gent had discovered a chap in need of some quick cash who was selling one of his prized possessions. Upon hearing that a Z1 was available, Rob took advantage of the opportunity and Frank played the part of matchmaker for his good buddy. A deal was struck, and this period hot rod changed hands.
Most of the modifications to the Kawasaki were completed by a previous owner, and the bike came with invoices for almost all of the work. The bike had a 1015 cc, big-bore kit installed, smooth-flow Mikuni carbs, dual front discs and a 4-into-1 performance exhaust. The front end was raked slightly to improve highway stability, which seams a bit odd, as the stock bike is often praised for its stability at speed. I would guess that you need to be travelling at a very high rate of speed to take advantage of that mod; the addition of the LTD king/queen seat, on the other hand, would certainly have been welcome at any pace. The performance-oriented mods were tastefully balanced with cosmetic touches, like the custom laced wheels, extensive chrome work and a custom metal-flake paint job that has us thinking of our favourite root beer at the local float shop. In a sea of similar bikes, this period paint sets the bike apart from the crowd in all the right ways.
This past year, the CVMG national rally chose to honour 40 years of the Kawasaki Z1 – a bike that, in true Kawasaki fashion, had its debut delayed to increase the engine displacement so that it could outdo the Honda CB750, which had beaten it to the marketplace in 1969. With a 903 cc powerplant putting out 82 hp, the Z1 was introduced in 1972 to critical acclaim. The press praised its power, smoothness and engineering innovation; and so began the “Super Bike” era. Owners soon began to improve and modify the bike to their liking, and the Z1 became a favourite of performance enthusiasts. There was no shortage of examples on hand at the 2013 CVMG rally to prove this point.
Mojo is glad to know that Rob is riding and maintaining this street survivor. It’s a little bit of a time capsule for anyone who can’t quite swallow the pill that is the digital era. Rob is a proud owner, and expresses his feelings about owning this bike more poignantly than we ever could: “As I straddled the bike and prepared to don my helmet, a nondescript automobile pulled into the parking space alongside me. An attractive, middle-aged woman with auburn hair emerged from the driver’s seat and glanced toward me atop my 1974 Kawasaki Z1. “Cool bike,” she murmured as she passed and entered the convenience store. I pulled away with a sly grin, feeling that a circle had been completed and that all was right in the world.”