Bike of the Month Sept 2009.
1982 Kawasaki KZ750R1 (GP) AKA: GPz750 Kenton Russell, Ellis, Kansas, USA.
In the USA in 1982 Kawasaki marketed their (arguably) first true 750 sport bike, the GPz750.
The bike was a direct off-shoot of the reliable KZ750 motor, albeit with the market-popular GPz
suspension and cosmetics upgrades. Kawasaki had marketed the 550 and 1100 GPzs the previous year
with sales and performance success; the 750 was the next logical step to fill the ‘cc’ gap. Technology
was in high gear all through the 80s and each year saw some technological improvement in some capacity
that we still see in today’s sporting motorcycles. Add to the tech advancement the fact that Kawasaki
was smack-dab in the middle of the motorcycle performance war (and had been since 1973) and it’s
easy to see how it became possible that the motorcycle that every motorcycle magazine heralded
as “…the best sport 750 made…” became a ‘one-year-wonder’.
Although the 1982 GPz750 was unique its lines and bodywork connected it to the (USA market) ’81-’82
GPz1100 and the ’82-’83 KZ1000R Eddie Lawson Replica. If you could pick your relatives the ’82
GPz750 chose well. Regardless, this is the story of one of those bikes…a 1982 Kawasaki KZ750R1 (GP)
… aka the very first GPz750.
In 1997 I moved back to Kansas from Los Angeles where I had taken a 3 year vacation from law
enforcement as a profession. I got into grad school and was re-living the life of a broke
college kid. An acquaintance of mine contacted me and told me that he had just picked up a cherry ELR
and that I should come look at it. I reminded him of my financial situation and he said come look
anyway, he wanted my blessing.
I showed up at his wholesale auto business and we went to one of his
huge warehouses; in the far corner I could see what I suspected to be the bike in question. It passed
the 20ft smell-test from the left side in a low-lit metal building but when I got close something
wasn’t right. ELR aficionados would have pegged it from a sniff in the breeze, but it took me a few
minutes…it was a clone for certain, but what was it?...a 1000 J?...an 1100 GPz?, I just couldn’t
tell, but the lack of fuel-tank sticker, the black-not-gold wheels, the instruments and top triple
and handlebars…it was just ‘wrong’ and I couldn’t peg it…
until I got to the right side of the bike.
It was not the then-V&H; exhaust that sealed it, but it was the clutch cover. I told Terry it was an ’
82 750 GPz and we rolled it into the light to verify off the frame neck.
There were a lot of phone calls; Kawasaki dealer to un VIN numbers, police to file a report, and
numerous calls attempting to find the previous owner…it didn’t happen. The short of this already
long story is that the previous owner had been sharp enough to photo-copy his title, white out the
model descriptor, then rephoto-copy the modified photo-copy to make things look like a bad copy
machine duplicate. He took the duplicate to the DMV and they made him another title based off this
(a common and legal process in Kansas at that time).
The DMV kept the copy on record for a time
in the event just such a thing should occur. The kid took the bike to Terry and represented it as an
ELR; Terry had just enough motorcycle knowledge to make him dangerous.
He thought he was paying $6500 for a bike that he would certainly get $10K for…the bike had less
than 4K miles and it was a cherry at the time…
and he thought it was a Lawson. As any of us would be,
Terry was beyond angry. I bailed and wished him all the luck in the world on finding the little scab.
Much wailing, weeping,gnashing of teeth,and name calling ensued over the next several months and
I had nothing to do with it all except to tellTerry what I thought the bike was likely worth.
A year and a half went by and I got another call from Terry; again, he wanted to know what the bike
was worth and I told him. He said come take a look at it and I reminded him that I was still a year from
graduating grad school and I ate macaroni and cheese every day NOT because I liked the taste.
He wouldn’t let it go so I went back to the shop on a chillyFebruary day.
I told him the bike was probably a $2500 bike (give or take…more in the spring, less in the fall)
but that now it needed a battery and likely a carb clean and air in the tires…maybe even some attention
to the brakes. He said he’d “take it” and I reminded him I wasn’t offering, I was just trying to help a guy
who was a friend of many of my friends. He asked me how much I’d give and I started my ‘collegiate squirm’
again and he stopped me and told me that no offer would be insulting. Grudgingly, I opened my check book
and showed him an embarrassing $628.00 balance and explained to him that I needed most of that to live off of.
He looked at me long and hard and told me to dig deep into that tiny pile of pennies and make him an offer;
I said $500 tax included out-the-door, because I had to eat…he shook his head ‘no’ but said “… write the check
and get that sun-of-a-b#tch outta here … makes me sick to look at it.” I wrote the check and dropped from
mac-n-cheese to bologna-sandwiches-and-air for the remainder of the month…and I was low on bread!
So, that’s how I came to own a bike that I really admired; I was stoked! I cleaned the carbs and
rode the old girl and then I told a buddy of mine from L.A. about my “find” and he had to have it…
grrrrrrr…MISTAKE!!! Bye-bye GPz, off to L.A. for money that I needed and couldn’t refuse. 10 years
later he (same friend) lands a nice CB1100F and crowds his garage to 3 bikes and pisses his wife
off…bad; I saw the blood in the water and baited him with a set of now-unobtainable PM wheels and
rotors that directly bolted on to his CB … we traded … straight across. A smokin’ deal on
shipping got the girl from Rhode Island all the way back home to Kansas where she belonged and that’s
how she got back to me the second time.
My wife’s Hawk allowed me to keep my motorcycle
‘need’ filled … well, some-what, anyway … and the minor surgery began. Braided steel brake lines and
anodized fittings improved the braking and one-way brake bleed valves helped get the nasty fluid out
and the good stuff in without getting air back in the line and fluid on the floor. The Kerker Euro-
fighter look canister (abomination!) was polished and nasty looking…and although it’s still nasty the
aluminum has been scotch-brite cleaned for a satin-brushed look.
My friend had also done some
weirdness to the pegs and this required removal of the passenger pegs so that the new pegs could be
installed so that the Kerker canister could be routed where the stock passenger pegs had been. I
had mounting plates welded to the frame and ZRX passenger pegs mounted (also scotch-brited to
remove that ‘shine’). When removing the carbs for cleaning it became obvious that the intake boots
had hardened to a granite-like consistency; so, the K&N; round/oval tapered pods (black, not chrome
please) were next, which made the jet-kit mandatory. A low-mileage set of 750 Zephyr
adjustable rear shocks bolted-right-on and raised the rear ride height about an inch or so; this
quickened the handling a predictable amount (highly recommend mod!).
A new battery, removed some
stickers, and a general cleaning reminded me of why I get wood over these bikes.
That’s the good; the bad is that the last 10 years have seen some rough miles. The paint (that was
off by about 2 or 3 shades) now neeeeeeds re-doing, the seat needs reupholstered, and there are
“plans”. First will be the visually appropriate Kerker megaphone mounted to a proper ZRX right-side
passenger peg and then a connecting pipe fashioned to make it work. At the same time a proper set of
rear-sets will be installed for a variety of reasons, let alone to make it LOOK right (see the
Once the pegs are installed the connecting pipe that will link the megaphone to the
collector can be fashioned as much of the right side bracketry will be jettisoned. When the
exhaust is complete it will be sent to Jet-Hott (or similar place) for high-temp coating…black. Paint
the bodywork. And as those who know me will attest, it’s going to get 17”s…I GOTTA have a bike
that handles and the later-model stuff is just better…superior rubber, better brakes, etc… I have
a gsxr donor set waiting in the wings even as I write this.
Today, I’m a college professor and I live 12 miles from my place of employment; the GPz is my daily driver.
In the heart of the American mid-west this bike is the perfect ride; enough of everything and a great all
around performer. The GPz gets looks and questions to this day, I still enjoy the look it has, the comfort
and performance it offers, the 2 valve 4-cylinder sound out of the properly jetted and tuned carbs and
Kerker meg; and the wife is comfy on the back when ever she wants to go. It’s a cryin’ shame that
manufacturers don’t make a good looking all around bike like this anymore … but hey, if they did, then
this bike wouldn’t be such a great find! No, it’s not the Real Thing; but that right is reserved for the select
few …as it should be. I need to thank Tim Morrissey of WesTek Engineering in Topeka, Kansas for welding
workon the ZRXpegs and a large variety all sorts of welding/machine work done whenever I need a true master
machinist. Tim is the best machinist/welder that I have ever seen in my life and his work is absolutely perfect.
Also, thanks to Brian Lewis of Extreme Cycles also in Topeka, Kansas; Brian is THE performance
motorcycle expert in the mid-west and can do anything you can imagine … not to mention a proper
died-in-the-wool, green-blooded, Kawasaki-boy to the end! Tim and Brian are more than shop owners
with top-notch reputations; they are my friends … thank you guys!
Here is a pic of me on my KZ1000 J that I refer to as "The Clone"...have some plans for that one,
too, but all things in time.
On a side note, I am extremely flattered that my bike has been allowed to be on this site. Thank
you all for your indulgence on a motorcycle that is trying to imitate one of my all-time favorite bikes
and one of the greatest motorcycles of all time: The Eddie Lawson Replica.
We will be featuring a different bike each month on kz1000r.com
that we feel is deserving of the title "Bike of The Month."
Check back often to see what our pick is.
To nominate or submit your own bike for "Bike of The Month."
Send some info on yourself your bike and loads of pic's bigger the better.
PLEASE SEND IN YOUR INFO IF YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO OWN ONE OF THESE BIKES!
I really want to bring THIS Registry up to date so accurate number's left in circulation can be made available,
this will intern help us get a true market value for insurance purposes.
Please include the chassis number and the month of production printed on the headstock of your bike.
Your name and location. and most importantly a picture's of your bike.