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It’s A Mystery All Right: 1980 Vetter Mystery Ship Turbo (Kawasaki KZ1000)

It’s A Mystery All Right:  1980 Vetter Mystery Ship Turbo (Kawasaki KZ1000)

Yeah, I giggled a bit when I saw this bike but then I started to do a little research on it and realized it is a very interesting machine.  Craig Vetter (yes, that Vetter) wanted to produce his version of a racing motorcycle.  The Mystery Ship was the result.  200 were planned but 0nly 10 were built due to Vetter being involved in a hang gliding accident.  Yoshimura was even involved.  They offered 4 different stages of engine mods.  If that wasn’t enough a turbo charging option was offered.  It sounds like several of the 10 are already tucked away in museums around the country.

What we have here is one with that turbo charging option.  20 percent (or 2) were built with the turbo option.


Remember when you were a kid playing with Matchbox cars?  Everyone wanted the car with “turbo” on it.  As an adult you got a rash if you owned something with a turbo on it.  I think you could call turbo charging motorcycles a fad at best.  I have no idea how it works on the Mystery Ship, I’m just spouting off in general.


This baby wasn’t cheap back in 1980.  A Mystery Ship could easily run $10,000 while a standard KZ was less than $4,000 at the time.  I’m trying to think of a bike with a more “unique” styling and I’m drawing a blank.  I’m not sure where the dual purpose tires came from.


Here is the info on ship 6:

Musuem quality 1980 Kawasaki KZ 1000 Turbo Mystery Ship designed and built by Craig Vetter. Craig, known for his farring designs was to build 200 of these race prepped motorcycles but after everything was said and done, only 10 were built. This is #6 of ten with only 2 original miles. The bike has been stored in a climate controled facility for it’s whole life. This is one of two Turbo verisons that was custom built for a customer in Arlington, VA. The Mystery Ship was designed as a limited production streetbike or what Vetters referred to as “a streetable road racer, with all the right parts.”

The wheels were magnesium Dymags, the gas tank held 6 gallons. Rearset pegs and a Yoshimura four into one pipe also showed the bikes racing Heritage. The original order and all documented paperwork comes with this very rare bike

The following info comes from Kawasakizi.com and provides good details on exactly what you got.

Standard KZ1000 MKII frames were used, however, they had several modifications.
They were taken to Kosman’s where a frame jig was used to ensure accuracy, as the geometry of the Mystery Ship frames was to be the same as the Kawasaki KZ1000 racing motorcycle sponsored by the Vetter Corporation in the 1978 AMA Superbike Series.

The steering headstock was removed completely. It was replaced at 26° by a machined headstock fitted with 62mm tapered bearings.

The frames were strengthened, and all brackets that were not needed were removed. Rearset footpegs and a gear change linkage system were fitted. A shortened rear brake lever was used.

The mounting points for the Mulholland Force 1 rear shock absorbers were relocated further down the frame.

A box section swing arm was fitted.

3 spoke magnesium Dymag wheels were fitted with Michelin tyres, M45 front and M48 rear.

Standard Kawasaki brake discs and calipers were used with Ferodo pads.

A four into one Yoshimura exhaust system was fitted.

The bodywork was a two piece unit that covered a 6 US gallon fuel tank.

A Lockhart oil cooler was fitted into the nose of the fairing just below the headlight.

The Vetter Mystery Ship came supplied with a standard KZ1000 MKII engine, which, according to Yoshimura, produced around 75 BHP at 9,000rpm, however, for those with a deeper wallet, several Yoshimura tuning options were offered.

Stage I. $799. 1105cc with 10,000rpm cam. (101 HP)

Stage II. $1134. As above but with 10,500rpm cam with ported and polished head. (108 HP)

Stage III. $1348. As Stage II but with larger valves. (116 HP)

Stage IV. Superbike specification. Prices were available on application.

For those wanting a Turbo Charged option, for around $1,700, Vetter would work with Russ Collins of R.C. Engineering.



Nothing to see here.  You’d think it was an ordinary looking bike from the front.



I’m not even pretending I know what one of these bikes is worth.  It’s a rare version of a rare bike that has never been ridden and was designed by someone who is now in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.  On the other hand, how strong is the demand for the bike?  I simply don’t know.  At least 5 people want one as the bidding goes on but it has not yet reached the reserve price. What do the RSBFS faithful think?

Check out the auction.




  • “I’m not sure where the dual purpose tires came from.”

    Huh? Those are 100% street-spec, period-correct Michelins.

    Back in 1980, I thought these bikes were FUGLY. All these years later, I still think they’re FUGLY.

  • Fugly hits the nail on the head for me too !

  • This bike is rarer than rocking horse poop… I would guess it to be in the low to mid twenties when all is said and done,… Maybe more. I am getting in on this one for sure but it will be outside my comfot zone. This is a once in a lifetime bike! Enjoy the action

  • Please make it stop..

  • there is a major flaw in the description and listing on this bike. the pictured bike does not have Magnesium Dymags on it. The wheels on it are Mitchells, spum aluminum wheels that Cary Andrew used to sell.

  • The tires are Dunlop TT 100 K81’s. They were state of the art in the early to mid 70’s and named TT 100 because they were used to lap the IoM at just over 100 MPH. Congratulations to Craig for building one of the ugliest motorcycles in history…. maybe that’s why they are so rare. No disrespect to Craig by the way, he was a pioneer at that time.

  • “The tires are Dunlop TT 100 K81′s.”

    Yes, indeed, and the tires in the description are Michelin M45 & M48. Where did the dual-purpose thing come from?

  • Ok Trane, since you don’t seem to want to let it go. I thought they look like current dual purpose tires. I was trying to inject some sarcasm but it obviously did not work.

  • Sorry, Ian. Wasn’t busting your chops; I just thought I missed something. I do that from time to time. 🙂

  • Sweet Sci-Fi nightmare of a bike!

    I’m not sure which insider hippie-era song this bike’s name references, but one thing’s certain: Craig Vetter must’ve been roaming the desert on acid when he came up with this design.

    Specifically, the downward sloping fairing, coupled with turbo-liter bike power (even back then) and a rearward looking weight bias make me suspect that letting this thing loose could result in a bad trip.

    Maybe the mystery is how anyone survived riding it… or looking at it for that matter.

  • Riot,
    I’m jealous, I needed to come up with last line you wrote. Excellent work!

    No need to apologize, we all give it and take it here. It really isn’t much fun without the readers comments.


  • this is a very happy bike. a.k.a GAY. really need a number plate as big as the bike. dude put his heart and soul into this project, needs more stickers to make it work

  • Unfortunately the real name of this bike has been mis spelled throughout history.

    The correct name was the “Mystery Shit”……

  • RZ, you just tied Riot for best comment. I got a good laugh out of that one.

  • It’s only got 2 miles because the owner was too embarassed to ride it! That is hands down the ugliest bike I’ve ever seen. I’m glad they are extremely rare!

  • Having owned a Gl 1000 and a KZ 1000 Ltd w/ Windjammers, I can see the Mystery Ship as Craig’s attempt to make a bike that would be capable of totally leaving the ground at ton plus speeds… I’ll never forget my first tank slapper… Racing a Camaro into a corner on a four lane highway, starting to lean into the corner at about 95 and HOLY F^CKING SH*T!!!!!!! Had to wrestle the damn handlebars to get it back under control… probably nothing but luck I didn’t soil my shorts… By the time I got the Gl 1000, it was no big deal… Just keep the throttle nailed between 102 and 108 when it would settle down…Thank God I FINALLY quit drinking 12 yrs ago… Aerodynamically, this thing looks like tank slapper from anything over 70…

    I used to wonder how many riders “bit it” cuz of the Windjammers… Looks like Craig still didn’t “get it” when he designed the Mystery Shit (good one RZ!) er I mean Ship. Instead of just the front wanting to cut loose and go into orbit, the whole bike would want to take off. Maybe the Mystery is, “Who’s the blob of masticated bloody human pulp lying on the ground next to George Jetson’s M/C?”

    Anyone know what this bike sold for????

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