The Yamaha Seca Turbo was a result of the Japanese manufacturers’ brief flirtation with boost in the 1980’s. The forgotten Kawasaki Z1RTC began the trend at the end of the 70’s, but it was not developed in-house and was not ready for prime-time: massive turbo lag, fragile engines, and hair-raising handling made the ride an experience that was exciting in ways the factory had not intended.
The early 80’s brought a raft of factory-developed machines from the other manufacturers, as TURBO became the buzzword for car and motorcycle performance. But while turbos gave car manufacturers a way to boost performance and fuel economy, it didn’t work as well for motorcycles. These later machines were considerably more developed than the earlier Z1RTC, but turbocharging technology was still in its youth, and made little sense for bikes, other than as a novelty.
The Seca Turbo was powered by a modified version of the regular Seca’s 650cc four-cylinder, with a turbo fitted in front of the rear wheel, behind the transmission. What looks like a twin-pipe exhaust system is misleading: the right hand pipe is actually plumbing for the turbo’s wastegate. Performance gains were minimal, but the bike had a midrange surge that made it feel like a much larger bike, significantly increasing the “smiles-per-gallon.” While the bike represented an impressive engineering achievement, the turbo set up added expense and complexity. A simple bump in displacement would have done the same job more effectively.
There’s still quite a bit of time left on this, and bidding is very low so far, with the reserve still not met.
From the very spare eBay listing: 1982 Yamaha Seca Turbo for Sale
This bike came out of the famed Bortz Auto & Motorcycle collection in Chicago. As you can see, all plastic is in great shape and the wheels are perfect. It starts and idles like a new bike! Since I have owned it I have changed all fluids and installed a new battery. The carbs have been rebuilt by Mike Nixon, the guru of Japanese carburetors.
At the time, turbocharged motorcycles were an answer to a question no one had really asked, a technological gimmick. But today, these very 80’s designs are becoming more and more collectible and, while they may not actually be faster than the bigger-bore machines they were designed to compete against, their addictive, boosted engines are definitely entertaining! The styling is an acquired taste for sure, but I’d love the chance to take one of these turbo space ships for a spin.