This article was originally published in the October 1996 issue of Sport Rider.
The AMA Superbike wars of the early '80s were fought with fire-breathing, 1025cc beasts that howled the dying cry of an era coming to a close. By the 1983 season, the AMA had reduced the displacement limit to 750cc, and Superbike racing has never been the same.
The Kawasaki camp in the early '80s included an innovative tuner making the transition from dragracing and dirttrack to roadracing (Rob Muzzy) and a quiet dirttracking kid from California with a steely-eyed stare (Eddie Lawson). Together they would defeat Honda's mighty Red Army to win consecutive Superbike championships in '81 and '82.
During those legendary years, race fan Dave Turner looked on from the sidelines: "I used to stare through the tent at the nationals and watch Rob working on the bikes," Turner said. "I wanted [a KZ1000R] when I was younger, but I couldn't afford it." Years later, Turner, now working for Muzzys, was strolling through the parking lot at the AMA national in Charlotte and stumbled upon a clean KZ1000R with a "For Sale" sign on it. By Monday morning Dave's dream was reality.
Being one of the more collectible Japanese bikes ever produced, most KZ1000Rs are gathering dust like they were savings bonds. Not Turner’s, though; he started racing it in the vintage class at Portland International Raceway, but disaster struck when the Green Machine hit the guardrail at 80 mph, totaling the bike. Fortunately, Turner was able to obtain the last remaining KZ1000R frame from Kawasaki’s inventory. The R model frames had 29 degrees of rake and a long 114mm of trail for locomotive-like stability versus 27.5 degrees and 99mm for the standard KZ1000J model. Then, as Turner described it, “I was putting it together and started changing this and changing that and, basically, this is what happened,” he said, pointing at the bike with a smile.
Of course, with Rob Muzzy as his boss, Turner was able to learn a few tricks. Like the brake rotors, for instance—they’re KZ1000 Police Bike items, which are larger than stock KZ units, combined with AP four-piston calipers. The stronger-than-stock fork tubes come from the Copcicle as well. Muzzy installed a windage tray to reduce the power loss of the crank splashing through the crankcase oil and ventilated the cases between the crankcase and transmission to equalize the pressure between the two. The cam cover is from a Canadian model that lacks the reeds found on the American model. The net result is a surprisingly light 416 pounds (with 2.8 gallons of fuel), and 146 rear-wheel horsepower (within about 10 ponies of what Lawson’s motors made).
The KZ1000R is now back on the track and running stronger than ever; it’s been clocked at 163 mph up Portland’s front straight, as a matter of fact. It’s nice to see a KZ1000R owner with Turner’s enthusiasm for riding: “I fell in love with these things [back in the early ’80s]. Lawson and those guys used to wheelie everywhere. Every corner they came out of they were sticking straight up in the air.” But even Turner is getting a little protective of his precious Eddie Lawson Replica: “It’s in semi-retirement now. I’m just going to use it for fun track days where I don’t have to worry about a bunch of 600s knocking me off the track.” Our concerns were put to rest, however, when Turner revealed his ulterior motive. “I’m working on putting together a monster [Ninja] 900 for Portland.” We can hardly wait.