|FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. (September 16, 2016) – As Kawasaki celebrates 50 years in the United States, it’s fascinating to look back at the 25th anniversary in 1991 for perspective. At that time, a slender 16-page softbound book entitled The Glint of Chrome in Young Men’s Eyes detailed numerous people, product, and racing high points from 1966 through the silver anniversary. Although the book contains just eight photos and one illustration, thousands of words take readers on a deep dive into the colorful events that defined Kawasaki’s early years in America.
For instance, outside of racing, Kawasaki products had multiple brushes with fame through sports and entertainment. Mark Spitz, the world’s most decorated swimmer after the 1972 Olympics, organized a celebrity JET SKI® watercraft tournament while 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner appeared in a JET SKI® watercraft film of which photos were featured in Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Peoplemagazines. In 1978, Ted Mondale, son of US Vice President Walter Mondale, raced a KX™250 motorcycle for Beltway Kawasaki in Washington, D.C. After, Tom Cruise rode a 1984 GPz900R Ninja® sportbike in the movie Top Gun (1986); he bought two Ninja® 1000 motorcycles and four JET SKI watercraft from Burbank Kawasaki in California. Finally, from 1985 to 1986, Catherine Bach, star of the television series Dukes of Hazzard, served as Kawasaki’s official ATV spokesperson.
Many enthusiasts know Kawasaki’s pivotal early products like the Samurai A1 and mercurial Z1 superbike, the Ninja® sportbike and Vulcan® cruiser, the JET SKI watercraft and MULE™ utility vehicles. But what was the best-selling model? In September 1, 1991, that honor went to the little two-stroke KE100 dual-purpose bike, with 211,727 units wholesaled. For its part, the thrilling 500 Mach III H1 was the 10th best-selling bike in 1991, with 69,279 units wholesaled in aggregate.
In racing, as the silver anniversary concluded Scott Russell had just won the 1991 AMA Supersport title and Mike Kiedrowski had likewise claimed the AMA 125 Motocross crown. While in streetbikes, the Ninja® ZX™-11 offered what The Glint of Chrome called “the most incredible internal-combustion performance ever offered to the public.” A section in the book entitled “The Next 25 Years” left the door open for advancement, admitting that, “It is difficult to even speculate the roads KMC will travel on their way into the next century.” Clearly, Kawasaki hadn’t met the future yet. Cycle World magazine calls the supercharged 2016 Ninja® H2™R superbike "the most powerful mass-produced motorcycle on the planet.” That’s some kind of new world!
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