The Kawasaki GPZ900R

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Are you like me in that when you see a Kawasaki GPZ you immediately think of Top Gun, fighter jets and aviator sunglasses!

My friend, Rory, has a GPZ and every time I see it, I drool over it. There’s just something about them!

I asked Rory a few questions about his bike.

This bike is a GPZ900R liquid cooled DOHC 16 valve. It is a 1985 A2 model. It is the second model of the GPZ, the first of which had problems with oil feed to the top of the engine. I’m no expert but that doesn’t sound good to me!

Kawasaki developed the revolutionary 16 valve liquid cooled inline four cylinder engine which was a world first and took six years to develop. The 908 cc four-cylinder engine delivered 115 bhp which meant the bike could get to speeds of 151 mph which meant the GPZ was the first stock road bike to exceed 150 mph giving it the title of the fastest production bike at the time.

GPZ’s were made from 1984 to 2003 and is the earliest member of the Ninja family of sport bikes. Kawasaki were still making the GPZ when the ZX9R came out in 1998, the GPZ is considered a revolutionary design that became the predecessor of the modern-day sport bike.

Indeed six months after it’s unveiling to the press in December 1983, dealers entered three works GPZ900R’s into the Isle of Man Production TT and finished an extremely impressive first and second place.

Specialist rider, Jay ”Pee Wee” Gleason, recorded a standing quarter mile time of 10.976 seconds.

Kawasaki were certainly paving the way in fast and stylish production bikes.

Rory has owned his GPZ for some five years now and it is a rolling project and a true labour of love for him as it came to Rory in a little bit of a sorry state.

This GPZ has advanced variable damping system aka ADVS but Rory has blanked this off on his bike although kept the system on the bike so as to keep with the style of the bike.

All the bearings on the rear suspension unit cannot be greased and when Rory got the bike they were dry and worn out but worse they squeaked! These were very quickly replaced as the squeak was driving Rory mad!

The front forks have been rebuilt and re-chromed at Philpots in Luton and then had new bushes and seals fitted which Rory did himself.

Both the front and rear calipers have been replaced and during the course of this job it was discovered that the master cylinder was in a bad state so this was replaced too. New discs were also put on the front.

It turns out the engine has been completely replaced! I asked why and apparently the starter clutch failed but it was cheaper to buy a working second hand engine (the replacement one had done 44,000 miles) than to rebuild the original one due to the location of the clutch. This is known problem of these engines. Rory has kept the original engine and will at some point rebuild this and put it back in the bike.

The water pump broke and has been rebuilt with new seals! Apparently it is very cleverly designed so that when it starts to go it spits out either oil or water! That is the signal that it needs replacing!

Rory also treated the GPZ to a new chain and sprockets and a set of tyres.

The GPZ is a lovely bike to ride and can, according to official stats, do 0-60 mph in 4 seconds! Almost as quick as many of todays big bikes. The bike is very stable and low – it has a 31” leg height and the bars are relatively high compared to modern sports bikes. Not long back Rory rode some 350 odd miles to Penzance in a day on the bike, with 10 hours of riding in total including petrol stops etc.

Rory says the bike is great for touring on and is quite happy to be ridden all day. He feels that the 16” front tyre means the bike turns into corners much quicker but it still benefits from counter steering as well.

The GPZ is not a bike you can just jump on and ride, you have to think about riding it.

The engine is the stressed member of the frame which allows the weight to be low down. However it is not a light bike compared to modern machinery, but then compared to the ZX9R (its successor), in my opinion, it’s not that heavy either.

Originally the GPZs came out of the factory with twin exhausts but ‘back in the day’ the thing was to convert the bike into a four in one and this bike was no exception. Rory hopes to eventually put it back to its original state.

I believe the GPZ is truly an iconic bike with a great heritage and here’s looking forward to seeing if it stars in the new Top Gun Maverick film alongside the Kawasaki H2 (complete with aviator sunglasses!).


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  1. Fantastic bike , first of a new breed. Can out of I recall the same year that Yamaha bought it the FJ 1100 , last of the old breed of air cooled engines. FJ was almost as fast , probably handled better with a 17 inch wheel and perimeter frame. Wold be great to see a back to back road test if you can find an FJ to borrow and ride ?

    1. The FJ1100 is a great bike too, Chris, looks good as well. I will have to find someone with an FJ and see if I can do a comparison 🙂

  2. When these first hit the streets I always liked their looks. I never had the finances at the time (never have kids….or a mortgage lol) to have one though. As you say, a very iconic bike.

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