Hang On For Dear Life: 1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo for Sale

1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo L Side

Today’s one-owner Kawasaki Z1R-TC is a potentially combustible combination of explosive power, unpredictable handling, and overtaxed mechanical components, a milestone in the Japanese motorcycling industry’s efforts to distinguish itself and find a truly distinctive voice. Turbo bikes were, in general, a bit of a dead end: the added complexity of turbocharging and non-linear response of a boosted engine didn’t outweigh the power gains.

The TC ended up being an exercise in self-control: keep the throttle pinned and the bike was hideously fast, but you’d also be almost guaranteed to be picking engine parts out of your chest. Because the ZR1-TC wasn’t a refined, heavily tested factory bike: it was a lash-up put together from stock machines sitting on showroom floors by a third-party turbo manufacturer. And without modern electronics to moderate boost and ignition, simply slapping a turbo onto an otherwise stock motor is a recipe for disaster.

1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo R Side Rear

But that’s what Kawasaki sold the public. Sure, beefed-up internals were available for purchase, even recommended… But how many buyers plunked down that extra dough for what amounted to a fully-built engine? Not many.

So you have an engine that will almost surely grenade itself if you actually, you know: use it. And Kawasaki’s safeguards to make sure you don’t mess with the technically adjustable boost setting? A sticker that says, basically: “Don’t adjust the boost level. No seriously: don’t. You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you? Stop thinking about adjusting the boost level!”

1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo Dash

And an even bigger problem with adding 50% more horsepower to the Z1R was that the bike really couldn’t handle the original 90hp to begin with: the frame was outdated and notoriously bendy. The bike was heavy and clumsy, with handling that varied wildly, depending on tire choice, but at least it had triple disc brakes to try and bring the whole thing to a halt if things started to get out of hand.

When things started to get out of hand…

1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo L Side Detail

In the original listing, the seller suggests it’s a “TC1” but this looks like it’s a “TC2:” that stripey paint job and “spider” style header were both second-generation additions. First generation bikes were painted a very cool silver-blue color and has a much simpler exhaust.

From the original eBay listing: 1978 Kawasaki Z1-R TC for Sale

All original only one owner. Has new tires, chain and sprockets the entire exhaust system was just rechromed and added factory ATP water injection system. This bike will sell itself it is amazing shape never get to ride and enjoy as much as I would like anymore cause of health reasons. hate to sell but want someone to enjoy it. I still have every invoice and all paper work for any work done to the bike dated back to when I bought it. it has 14,650 miles motor has never been out of the frame. I’m the only person to drive this bike and still dives like I just bought it a week ago every thing works no issues. Oil has been changed every 500 miles and never been rode rough.

This Kawasaki is in very good shape for 38 years old. The bike shows its age on lower front end tubes but paint looks good to be original paint and speedometer has small crack but not very noticeable

1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo Engine

It’s very cool to see that water-injection system that’s been added, which should help keep the engine from blowing itself to bits when used enthusiastically. It’s obviously not perfect, but it’s very nice and, perhaps even more importantly, is all original.

Bidding is active with four days left on the auction and is north of $14,000 with the Reserve Not Met. While recent prices of many 1970s Japanese bikes have seemed a bit outrageous, considering how many were originally produced, this is one classic that is truly rare and very special, if slightly dangerous.

-tad

1978 Kawasaki Z1R Turbo R Side

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1 Response

  1. micky says:

    A friend had one. He used to throw it down the road on occasion. I think he finally did himself in on it. That was the last bike I ever rode pillion on. I made a deal with God, he kept up his end of the deal and I’m keeping up mine! Scary stuff. I think it would pull about 80 in 1st gear. Seemed like it anyway. I owned several ZX750Es, much more stable but still scary.