Monday, April 02, 2012

Top Gun: Kawasaki GPZ900R

Kawasaki GPZ900R
The 1980s GPZ900R still looks damn cool and, yes, we still want one!
Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R

After the very successful Z1, which Kawasaki launched in 1972, the company started development work on its next ‘superbike’ in the late-1970s. For this, Kawasaki evaluated various engine options, including V4, V6 and inline-six configurations, but ultimately decided to go with their tried-and-tested inline-four format. The result was the 1984 Ninja GPZ900R, the quickest, fastest production machine of its time.

The GPZ900R was fitted with an all-new, 908cc liquid-cooled, 16-valve DOHC inline-four with chain-driven cams – the first such engine ever used on a production streetbike – that produced 115 horsepower at 9,500rpm and 84Nm of torque at 8,500rpm. The bike’s top speed was about 250km/h, and during its press launch in December 1983 – at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California – the then reigning AMA superbike champ Wayne Rainey put in a few fast laps on the new GPZ. His best lap time on the stock 900R streetbike was a 1:16, which wasn’t too bad compared to the 1:10 he did on the Team Kawasaki GPZ750 racebike.

A week before the press launch, professional motorcycle drag racer Jay ‘Pee Wee’ Gleason also did a 10.55-second quarter-mile on the stock GPZ900R and said he thought he’d be able to get the time down to 10.4 with more testing. Phenomenal, for a stock mid-1980s sportsbike, and clearly quicker and faster than both the Kawasaki GPZ750 Turbo as well as the GPZ1100.

The GPZ900R’s running gear was cutting-edge stuff by early-1980s standards – six-speed gearbox, hydraulic clutch, diamond-type steel tube chassis, air-assisted anti-dive front forks (with progressive damping that varied according to the speed and distance of front wheel travel), fully adjustable air-assisted rising-rate ‘Uni-Trak’ rear suspension and drilled brake discs front and rear. When the bike was launched, it came with 16-inch (front) and 18-inch (rear) wheels, though this was later revised to a 17-inch front hoop. And while the front tyre size remained at 120/80, rear tyre size went up from 130/80 to 150/80.

A modern, competent sportsbike, the GPZ900R probably did not need too much help in the sales department, but it got a big marketing boost anyway in 1986, when Top Gun came along. In the movie, hotshot fighter pilot Tom ‘Maverick’ Cruise is shown hooning around on a GPZ900R when he’s not flying F-14A Tomcats across the Indian Ocean. Fighter jets, cool leather jackets, cool sunglasses, hotshot pilot with equally hot girlfriend, a pulsing 1980s soundtrack and the GPZ900R – Top Gun went on to become a massive hit and along with the movie, the 900R gained cult status, cementing its position as a motorcycling icon of the 1980s.

In the years that followed, the GPZ900R was followed by the GPZ1000RX, ZX-10 and ZX-11 / ZZR1100, but none of these could replace the 900R. With revisions to its wheels, tyres, brakes and suspension, the GPZ900R remained in production till 2003, which was quite a feat. Even today, we think the bike looks super-cool in its own 1980s way, and enthusiasts in Japan build some pretty amazing 900R-based specials that look and sound awesome. And, yes, we still want one in our garage.

Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R

And here's a whole bunch of very hot looking GPZs that have been modified extensively:
Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R Kawasaki GPZ900R

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