Yes, we are waving the flag for what could be argued as the less pure of the ZXR/pre-ZX-7R models, but bear with us…
We know that the H1 and H2 models of ZXR750 were real knockout blows to the opposition, even if it was really a developed GPX but with superb styling. For us, the J-model looked even better. Remember, this is 1991/1992… A Honda VFR750R RC30 would cost you £11,499, but a cool-looking ZXR750 J1/2 would set you back just £6379 new.
OK let’s sort the elephant in the room: power output. The J1/J2 of 1991/92 was neutered to just 100bhp in anticipation of a Euro-wide power cap that never came. In comparison the race-replica/RR/SP version the ZXR750K had the power – around 121bhp claimed. The K basically had different/longer duration cams, higher compression (11.5:1 not 10.8:1), 39mm flat-slide carbs rather than 38mm CV items and other bits and pieces, including a close-ratio gearbox. So, while the K would howl up to 12,500rpm, the J would lose out by 10-15bhp and go flat from about 10,000rpm. Interestingly, Ray Stringer’s pokey J/K-based racer would hit 140bhp and doubtless the ‘Team Green’ bikes had more as John Reynolds would take the British title on it in 1992.
Power (or lack of) wasn’t the only issue with the bike: the rear shock was rock hard and only worked on billiard-table smooth surfaces and at high speed. NWS sold many different rear suspension linkages in a bid to make things a little bit smoother at the back end of the bike. Thankfully, Kawasaki listened and for the J2 model Kawasaki reduced the spring rate and damping to improve things.
When you think that the FireBlade arrived by then (1992) you’d think the J would be utterly destroyed – especially with the water-cooled GSX-R750 WN arriving in the same year, but it wasn’t. Look at these pictures and you can see why. In an era of shell-suit paint jobs (Suzuki were the worst culprits) Kawasaki rounded off the hard edges of the H1 and H2 ZXR and gave the J a smoother look, but (thankfully) kept those signature ‘Hoover’ pipes that went nowhere…
Best of all Kawasaki got the colour schemes just right. Of course there was a corporate Kawasaki green/white/blue. It wasn’t overdone, but rather under-stated and beautiful but it was the solid colours that shone. One was a deep, metallic burgundy and the other a stunning blue: both colours copied the J-model’s baby brother the ZXR400 and in a time of retina-shattering hues they were ahead of their time… (don’t believe us? Then check out the 2004 YZF-R1 and the 2008 Fireblade…)
Of course the bike improved for the L/Mmodel and power came back in-line with the opposition (11.5:1 compression ratio, 120bhp+ claimed) but we lost the Hoover pipes and instead had a big, side-mounted air-scoop which could devour a partridge. We did have better suspension though, with a new linkage that gave 135mm of rear wheel travel compared to the J’s 120mm.
Prices: try finding a decent ‘J’ model. They weren’t around for long. When you do they start around £1500 for basket cases and rise to £3000-£4000 for nice ones. Weirdly, it’s easier finding a K-model. These were just £7699 ‘new’ in 1992 (about £1300 more than the J) and we’ve seen these up on the ‘Bay for between £6000 and £8000: compare that to an RC30 or OW-01…
KAWASAKI ZXR750J1-J2 1991-1992 SPECIFICATION
- Price new: £6379 (1992)
- Price now: £1500-£8000
- Engine: 749cc, liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder, four-stroke.
- Power: 100bhp @ 10,500rpm
- Weight: 195kilos (dry)
- Wheelbase: 1420 mm
- FOR: Not many out there, gorgeous to look at
- AGAINST: Lower power than rivals