Kawasaki GPz550

The Kawasaki GPz550 set the standard for middleweight sport bikes of the early Eighties

| November/December 2005

1981 Kawasaki GPz550

Years produced: 1981-85
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 57bhp @ 9,500rpm
Top speed: 119mph
Engine type: Four-stroke, in-line four-cylinder, twin overhead cams
Weight (wet):  211kg (469lb)      
Price then: $2,599
Price now: $800-$1,500

For Brian Goodwin, it was the motorcycle equivalent of the woman who left Roy Orbison growling and saying, “Mercy.’’

Goodwin was 14 years old when he swung a leg over a Kawasaki GPz550 for the first time in 1984. A Firecracker Red sport bike in a sea of black and maroon factory custom cruisers, the bike was designed to make testosterone flow and checkbooks fly open. Goodwin would never forget it.

"The first thing that caught my eye was the red color," Goodwin says. "Then I sat on one and it fit me, so that really put the thought in my head that I wanted to have one someday. I just loved the look of it: It was so ahead of its time."

From its twin front disc brakes to the tips of its gloss-black mufflers, the GPz was a pacesetter in style and function during the early Eighties. The motorcycle press called it a wrist rocket or a pocket rocket; later, it would be recognized as the godfather of the crotch rocket.

Introduced in 1981, the GPz was an upgrade of the KZ550 street bike, with a hot-rodded version of the old machine’s four-cylinder engine, an air-charged fork, adjustable shocks and a bikini fairing.

The new engine generated a claimed 57bhp at 9,500rpm, 4bhp more than the KZ’s power plant, and propelled the 469lb machine to a quarter-mile time of 12.65 seconds — a class record — in a test by Cycle World.

2/14/2009 3:31:29 AM

I just picked up a 1985 GPZ 550 for practically nothing. It needs a carb cleaning and new battery to be running again. While I prefer the look of the 1981 GPZ, the 1985 model looks similar to the turbo GPZ 750 which was a cool machine too!

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