The written history about the Z/KZ400 is not easy to come by. And when you study the books about classic Japanese motorcycles you will find very little written about it. Often only a comment about its existence. The KZ400 had a rather anonymous life through its 10 years of production history that started in 1973, and ended in 1983. My guess, and that is a personal point of view, is that this was possible because of the bikes modest size and performance, and the fact that Kawasakis' sales strategy was aimed against customers in the commuter market rather than the typical biker of the days. And it was not appealing to those who wanted a high performance bike.
Today the situation is a bit different for the modest 400 . Now there are a strong growing interest in collecting and restoring Classic Japanese bikes all over the world. And the KZ400 are one of the models that both in looks and engine construction are getting more and more popular.
It has got the classic look, and the engine is easy to rebuild and maintain, and the prices are so far modest compared with other classics. And since very few had any interest in tuning and modifying the KZ400 back in the 70's and 80's and very few tunig parts were available at the time, there are still a large number of running bikes that can be found. Also the spare part availability is better than for many bikes from the same era. And with the growing interest for Classic Japanese bikes there are a growing number of clubs, both national and international, for those who are collecting and riding those classics.
On the road, the bike was very easy to manoeuvre and it handled well on twisty roads and at corners. It was very easy to ride in city traffic, and could also cope with the speed on the highways, despite its modest size. There where some remarks about the handling and comfort though. The suspension could have been better and the seat was to narrow for longer trips. But all in all journalists were pleased with the bike.
And what about to day? Does the KZ400 still stand the test?
The KZ400 was never a performance bike. But it was not made to be. It was made as a commuter bike, and its performance was adequate for its purpose. It has got its downsides, just like many other bikes made in the 70's. But properly maintained, and with rigid oil and filter changes the reliability is pretty good. Trash it, and neglect the maintenance and oil changes, and it will wear down pretty fast. But that can be said about a lot of bikes. I know of well taken care of KZ400's with more than 60 000 miles on the clock. And there was a divergent view about the bike's reliability in England and USA that still exists today.
But since it was launched in 1974 and up till March 1st 1982 Kawasaki had sold 219 284 Z/KZ400's and 440's. Only the Z/KZ900/1000 was sold in a larger number. So something had to be right with the bike.