Turbo Bike – 1979 Kawasaki Z1R-TC

In Japan, Sport by Mathieu Guyot-SionnestLeave a Comment

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Post Listing Update: This Z1R-TC did not meet reserve despite 4 bids up to $15,099 on eBay.


When we talk about turbos on bikes, we usually think about Japanese attempts in the ’80s like the GPZ750 turbo from Kawa or the CX 500/650 turbo from Honda. Most riders forget that Kawasaki had their first try in 1978 with the Z1R-TC. At the time, turbochargers were in development for many automotive makers, and the solution permitted a considerable increase in the engine power without doing too much modifications to the engine itself. In the late 70s, Kawasaki was a bit stuck with an aging Z1, a new KZ1000 that lacked modernity, and a Z1R that did not sell very well. Therefore, Kawasaki executive Alan Masek thought it was a good idea to add a turbo to the poorly selling Z1R.

Using surplus Z1R units, the Z1R-TC project used the same handlebar fairing, squared lines and coffin-tank. Kawasaki simply replaced the header exhaust pipes with a new collector to feed the turbo unit and installed a new open exhaust. Decals were installed and a boost gauge was implemented on the dashboard. A notice also said that the bike had to be used by experienced riders only…TCs were sold with a contract saying that the powertrain was not warrantied. Neither the chassis nor the engine were ready to welcome that much power, which created a lot of issues. Plus, the turbo was not perfectly adapted, creating “turbo lag” that added some hesitation to acceleration. You had to be experienced and patient as a rider to use the bike. For the 1979 model, other than the disco bodywork, a better collector was implemented to permit a better low rev attitude and to reduce turbo lag. As far as numbers, the engine produced around 130hp, which could take the 560lb machine to speeds higher than 130mph. You can read more information about the Z1R-TC on Motorcycle Classics.

The Z1R-TC presented in this article is in very good condition showing around 33k miles. The seller bought the bike from the original owner so he has a rather clean story of the bike. The body parts have been repainted and the seat has been recovered. Other than this, the bike is supposed to be original but there’s a cracked fin on the motor. Tires are new, chain is like new, every gauge works and the seller has the owner’s manual. The bike will probably need a new battery and the carburetors cleaned and adjusted.

Find this Z1R-TC in Warwick, Quebec, Canada with an unmet starting bid of $14,000

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