The early 1980s were a bad time for speed. With a very few exceptions, cars had spent the previous decade becoming wheezy, lumbering and compromised. Motorcycles were yet to fully cross the Rubicon from being either quirky runabouts or the steeds of tattooed heathens to the mounts of true enthusiasts. And then in 1981, Kawasaki decided they had had enough, and unleashed the GPz550 on the public.
Just in time for Eddie Lawson to take home his first AMA Superbike title and second AMA 250cc road racing title, the GPz550 carried on the fine tradition of Kawi’s two-stroke triples with staggering speed, but added what at the time was laser-precise handling. Imagine crawling to your office job in some horrible, oversprung, Naugahyde-upholstered slug only to have one of these come screaming past.
The little air-cooled four-pot produced a stout 55-ish horsepower, and exhaled through an evil-looking set of blacked-out pipes. The bikini fairing was enough to set the thing apart from the sea of CB750s, but Kawi made sure the message landed with scarlet paint set off by a pair of navy and silver stripes.
The power meant 12-second quarter mile runs and a top end damn near 120 mph. To give you some context: It would be another nine (9) years before a stock Chevrolet Corvette would drop back into the 12s.
This 1981 Kawasaki GPz550 shows well, but carries some signs of its age and use. There are spots of corrosion here and there, some paint chips and the fork seals reportedly leak. The carburetors apparently were recently cleaned and the clutch adjusted, so with some minor fettling it should be ready to go.
For the full litany, check out the auction on BringATrailer. The auction is no-reserve, which means the high bidder goes home with this piece of sportbike history. Get in line while you still can.