A bit of history and some stories about vintage bikes for sale

’78 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo

I remember the first time I saw a Z1R Turbo, a guy rode into the Kawasaki dealership I was working at wanting to trade it in on a new Kawasaki GPz1100. The bike was in good condition, the owner simply thought it was too much for him, he didn’t like the turbo effect. As he and I were talking, the dealership owner suggested that the customer and I trade bikes and go for a ride. I just happened to have a GPz1100 at the time. Well, actually it was the dealer demo bike that I got to ride everyday. After signing the release papers, the customer and I left for our ride heading to a really fun curvy road close by.

I had never ridden a turbo bike so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had heard of the ‘the hit’ when it comes on boost, and I’d heard of ‘turbo lag’, that’s the time between when you twist the throttle and the bike takes off. It was like twist the throttle, count to three then hold on for dear life and hope there is nothing solid right in front of you. What a rush, in every sense of the word. That big Kawasaki literally lept forward. Right then, as my life was passing before my eyes, I understood the attraction of a turbo bike and the fear. Long story short…forty five minutes later when we returned to the dealership I was glad to get my GPz back and the customer was filling out the paperwork for his new bike.

Before the Z1R was fully serviced and put on the floor for sale, I got a chance to spend a couple of days with it. Sunday was the regular ride to Newcomb’s Ranch up on the Angeles Crest Highway for breakfast. I knew the road very well so taking an unfamiliar motorcycle up there seemed the right and fun thing to do. The Z1R tc and I got along just fine. Before I get into adapting to the motor, let’s talk about how the Z1R rides. The Z1R is a big heavy motorcycle. Handling is less than stellar and it takes a lot of muscle to hustle this beast around on a twisty road. The chassis has that typical Japanese ‘hinge in the middle’ feeling, the seating position is actually quite comfortable, but the seat itself leaves something to be desired after about 50 miles. Brakes are adequate and the stock tires are not what you would call confidence inspiring for a bike with this much power. Take all those factors into consideration and you can see why the Z1R and especially the Turbocharged model, were so popular with drag racers.

The big Kawasaki turbo is a very easy motorcycle to get along with. The motor is plenty powerful enough without spinning up the boost that you can ride the bike very normally around town or on a mountain road with no drama at all. But…when you have the need for an adrenaline rush and have plenty of open road ahead of you, twist the happy handle and hang on!

I found this very nice Z1R turbo on ebay today and the first thing I will say here is, “the owner is fricken nuts”. That being said, what about the bike. The bike has been sitting for 31 years, it only has 1600 miles on it and it’s 99.5% stone stock. When the owner pulled it out of storage he did all the right things. A bike that has been sitting that long needs going over and through before trying to ride again. The bike was taken to a shop where they replaced gaskets and seals (the things that dry out and crack while in hibernation then leak when woken up), the turbo unit was sent out for a rebuild, and a general going over. This is not a restored bike, it is an original in original condition. It’s not perfect, but close.

So, why do I say the owner is nuts? The asking price is $25,000. Yes, it’s rare (only about 500 were made); yes, it’s in great condition and he put a fair amount of money into to make it nice for the next owner, but $25,000 worth of rare and nice? No. Remember one thing about the Z1R tc, the only reason it was built was because the standard Z1R wasn’t selling. The bike has been up for auction for a few days and there are no bidders, that right there tells you something about the pricing. His starting bid is a little high but not too far off the mark. The bike would be a good value at the starting bid price. Click on the pics for more pics and more info. The Z1R is probably the very best of the turbo bikes that came out in that time period. Oh, and one more thing about turbo’s…change the oil a lot!!

’78 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo


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