Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo – Best of the Turbocharged 80s Bikes

Of the big four Japanese manufacturers, Kawasaki was the last to put into production a turbo charged motorcycle and I would say arguably the most successful. 

The ambition was to create a turbo charged middle-weight wonder that could compete with the fastest motorcycles out there. With the release of the Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo, they succeeded with their mission.

Well worth a deep dive into, let’s take a look at this Kawasaki 750 turbo charged beast from where it all began to how much it will cost to own one today.

Table of Contents

History of the Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo

Turbo-charged motorcycles for years had only been in the domain of custom builders and drag racers who seeked extra thrills from the turbo conversions bolted on to the big Japanese four-cylinders. 

Suddenly in the early 1980’s Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha all released production turbocharged 650cc motorcycles and none were an overwhelming success in the market.

Kawasaki GPz750Turbo
The image at the top of the page is a Kawasaki GPz750 turbo taken by Cédric JANODET and is kindly licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The idea was simple: take a well-loved inline four and add a turbo power unit and reap the benefits of big power. For some people the new technology and promise of power was enough, but for the masses it wasn’t, as none of the offerings had so far been perfect.  

So, while late to the Turbo party, Kawasaki had taken the time to develop a motorcycle that really fulfilled the expectations of what a turbo charged motorcycle should do.

Choosing the GPZ line as their base was a clever move as it was the line of bikes that was winning races across the different classes. Adding a turbo charger to an already fast bike made sense. Design work started to take place in 1981 using a 650cc before development in the process led to Kawasaki moving on to use a 750cc. 

Upon its release the 1984 Kawasaki GPz750 turbo was equipped with a 738 cc air cooled, four stroke, turbocharged, transverse four cylinder, DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder engine with a 5 speed box. The power plant pushed out 112 hp at 9000 rpm and 99.1 Nm of torque. Top speed was around 146 mph and the quarter mile was covered in 10.9 seconds. Performance was on par with Kawasaki’s own GPz1100. 

The stand out piece of engineering was in the design and mounting of the turbo charger unit. Instead of following the likes of Honda and mounting the turbo unit behind the engine, it was mounted in front of the cylinders, right up next to the exhaust ports. Four heat resistant pipes from the ports to a collector ran then to a small Hitachi turbo charger which reduced any turbo lag. 

Leaders in fuel injection for modern sports bikes the new motorcycle was equipped with a Mikuni digital fuel injection system and a computer which measured and monitored engine speed, throttle opening, temperature etc which all ensured the turbo ran at its best.

The chassis was nothing special, aside from the sleek fairing which had an integrated aluminium frame member which made the frame more rigid, not only improving stability but protecting the turbo unit itself from any potential crash damage.

Front suspension was handled by air adjustable forks while the rear suspension used Kawasaki’s Uni-Trak air adjustable anti dive single shock giving the rear wheel 104mm of travel.

Parts were sourced from the conventional GPz750 and GPz1100 such as the front forks and brakes; the complete cylinder head assembly was however, from the Kawasaki KZ650. There were also some things that were solely produced for the GPz750 turbo to account for the extra performance such as the pistons and strengthened gearbox internal parts. 

The wet weight was 531lbs which was nearly 30lbs more than the standard GPz750 but it could be forgiven for being a bit heavy when it pumped out 35 more horsepower.

So, all of this was packaged up nicely and presented in 1983, remaining in production only until 1985, but how did it perform?

Performance

The GPz750 Turbo was unveiled in Austria at the Salzburg-ring circuit and made quite the impact. According to Cycle World a journalist from Motorcyclist magazine did 150mph on the turbo which was quite a feat. 

Kawasaki themselves lauded the new model as ‘the fastest production bike in the world’ and yet in the US only 3,500 units were sold over its short 2 year run. Maybe the turbo fever had run its course by the time Kawasaki introduced their version; or maybe it was just ahead of its time, for whatever the reason the turbo now has a cult-like status and is highly collectable and prized.

Cycle World in the March 1984 issue said “No normally aspirated 750—and few normally-aspirated anythings—can best the turbo Kawasaki’s pressurized acceleration, its headlong rush, its willingness to leap from 60 to 120 mph in what seems like less time than it takes to read this line.” 

In the same article “And it is different from the Turbos sold by Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha because it makes lots and lots of power.” Kawasaki had achieved their ambition to make a turbo motorcycle that was the fastest available giving 1000cc plus machines a run for their money and wiping out the competition. 

$4,599 was the US price tag which converts to around $12,000 today. With the likes of today’s H2 costing in excess of $30,000 it wasn’t a bad price for people to own the fastest motorcycle available. 

Buying a GPZ750 Turbo

To get your hands on one today, there are two things you need to be aware of. One is they are increasingly collectible therefore not the most common bike to find on the market and two they don’t come particularly cheap particularly in Europe. 

However, if you are after one don’t be put off. I’ve found a few nice examples available as of writing this article and if you want a turbo charged 80s motorcycle, well in my opinion this is the one to go for. 

For those in the UK first, Car and Classic has 3 adverts in the UK and 2 in Germany, prices start from £7,600 and rise to £14,500. Prices across the board do seem to average out at £9,500. 

In the US the average price seems to be around $5,000. Smart Cycle Guide has a few adverts on at the moment and prices vary from $1,800-$7,500. A nice example of a 1984 Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo with only 11,000 miles on the clock is on for just $3800

Many of those advertised are in need of some restoration work and therefore are priced accordingly.

a 1985 Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo
At the end of 2019 Bonhams sold this 1985 GPz750 Turbo for $11,500

Restoring a Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo

Restoring a GPZ Turbo isn’t a terribly difficult task to undertake but it isn’t necessarily for the faint-hearted either. With many parts plucked straight off the conventional GPz750 and 1100’s, that widens up the bank of parts to choose from. 

However, the actual turbo unit and associated tech such as the electronics were model specific and could be a bit trickier to find if needed. You may need a specialist to work on certain components, which increases costs. 

A quick note, many of these motorcycles would have been pushed to their limits when new to really test out the revelation of the turbo; this means that you will want to ensure that your donor is taken apart completely and checked over. Your bargain ‘barn-find’ may turn out to not be quite the bargain if you need to restore everything from the ground up.  

If price isn’t everything and it shouldn’t be because what a boring life that would be, the GPz750 Turbo is a great motorcycle to restore and who doesn’t want to work on something different.

Is a GPz750 Turbo a Good Investment?

Earl Classics in Kent has one Turbo for sale at £14,500. It is fully restored from the ground up and by all accounts in showroom condition. 

Depending on how cheap you can find your base motorcycle and if the restoration can be done at an affordable price and to a good standard there is likely room for some profit to be made. However, it probably isn’t the project to jump into with a mindset of making a lot of money. 

On the flip side, getting hold of one of these turbo monsters and keeping hold of it for a few years, as they slowly get harder to find isn’t the worst idea. Value is increasing and collectors will pay more to get hold of one, especially in good condition. So as a financial investment the GPz750 Turbo isn’t a bad shout. 

As I often say too and this holds more true with the Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo, buying one and riding it is where the investment is to be found. Take it to a drag strip and let it rip; or grab your mates on modern machines and you will get to see their awe when they take their helmets off because not only will you keep up, you will leave some of them in the dust. 

Verdict

What a machine, late to the turbo party only to then dominate it, even if it was just for a short while. ‘The fastest production motorcycle in the world’ title was well-deserved and even by today’s standards the Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo is no joke.

Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo - Best of the Turbocharged 80s Bikes

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