Now, we know the H1 and H2 were the first models and the ones that really gave us a cheaper option (along with Suzuki’s GSX-Rs) compared to Honda’s VFR750R RC30 and Yamaha’s OW-01, but we reckon the J-models looked the best of all the early 1990s race-replicas…
OK, so maybe back in the day they didn’t actually GO the best, compared to the opposition. Why? Well, the J1 of 1991 was sadly castrated on the power front (100bhp only, to fit in with a draconian EU directive) and – yes – the rear suspension was very harsh and pummelled yer posterior… but… well, check out the looks!
The aesthetic design itself was shared with its smaller capacity sibling the ZXR400, this meant it looked gorgeous. And – similarly to the later Honda NC35/RC45 – the smaller bike had a faired-in headlight while the bigger bike didn’t, which some say gave the smaller bike the cooler look. But – just look at these Kawasaki pics from back in the day – how good does the twin-light ZXR750 J look more than 25 years on?
Today, we like to think that (by now) the awful rear suspension would be sorted on any well-looked after J-model. Back in the 1990s, NWS sold many different rear suspension linkages in a bid to make things a little bit smoother at the back end of the bike until things were improved with the J2, when Kawasaki reduced both the damping and the spring rate to improve the ride somewhat. And then there was the neutered motor: the cams and compression of the J-model meant that real-world BHP was down to about 95 horses.
Despite the onset in 1992 of the first Honda CBR900RR FireBlade, many still lusted after a Kawasaki ZXR750. Call it looks, call it race pedigree (thanks to Kawasaki’s Rob Phillis and Scott Russell) call it that planted front-end (which lasted well into the ZX-7R era) there was something just ‘so right’ about the Kawasaki ZXR750 J1 and J2. Not least the ‘Hoover tubes’. These pipes were seen on number of bikes, including the OW-01, and just seemed to look so good even if they didn’t really go anywhere! And then there were the colours: as well as Kawasaki’s white/green/blue scheme, there was a classy solid blue and rich, deep (Ron) burgundy.
If you’re really lucky you can find yourself a ZXR750R K1. The K-model had the full-monty 121bhp motor, thanks to different cams and an ally-welded tank. It also had flatslide carbs and a close-ratio gearbox and single-seat complete with black number board. It wasn’t the road bike the J was, but in 1992 it also had the British Superbike title with John Reynolds on-board: kudos was guaranteed! Back in the day it also ‘only’ cost £7699 at the time compared to the J1’s £6129, today you can find the K for the same money – around £7500 – a big saving over an OW or an RC30. For a road-going J, you’ll find that just two years on-sale means they aren’t common. You may be able to find a basket-case for less than a grand, rising to £2000 for a good one but – while they come in cheaper than the more popular H-models and better L-models – they aren’t too expensive overall.
KAWASAKI ZXR750J1-J2 1991-1992
- Price new: £6020 (1992)
- Price now: £800-£2500
- Engine: 749cc, liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder, four-stroke.
- Power: 100bhp @ 10,500rpm
- Weight: 195kilos (dry)
- Wheelbase: 1420 mm