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Puffed Up: 1978 Kawasaki Z1-R TC

In the 1970s the Kawasaki Z1 was the big dog of the sporting world. Long in the tooth as the decade neared to a close (the Z1 platform was introduced way back in 1972), Kawasaki introduced an updated model – the Z1-R. Largely a warmed-over refresh rather than an all new design, the R model had the looks to help it along in the showroom, but lacked the technology, refinement and performance that competitors were offering. Enter a unique partnership between Alan Masek and his newly formed Turbo Cycle Company and Kawasaki. Masek was a former Kawasaki executive – and knew that the Z1-R was faltering in the showroom. That meant there was a stockpile of bikes that Kawasaki couldn’t sell. By marrying these unsold units to an American Turbo Pak kit and selling the bikes through the dealership network, Kawasaki was able to put itself back into the horsepower game with relatively low risk. Thus the Z1-R TC was born.

1978 Kawasaki Z1-R TC for sale on eBay

Beneath the sticker kit, the TC model was all Z1-R. Same brakes, suspension, controls, engine and trans. Outside of the bolt-on turbo and boost gauge, wastegate and associated piping, there wasn’t much else. Your $1,400 premium to the already expensive Z1-R bought you graphics and outrageous horsepower. And voided your warranty. And while the Z1 platform was robust for its time, the lack of any engine controls (no fuel injection, no rev limiter, etc) meant that you were only one missed shift away from mechanical catastrophe. Keep in mind that all other engine internals were shared with the standard Z1-R. Therefore it was suggested that new owners upgrade to stronger valve springs, weld the crank and upgrade the clutch if the bike were to be used aggressively. Did I mention it also voided the warranty?

From the seller:
This 1978 kawasaki Z1RTC bike is one of 220 made and sold through kawasaki dealers. This bike is in good original condition and has had several new oem parts. Bike has been stored in climate control house garage. Lights and turn signals horn and other electronics work including the fuel and amp gauge. This bike has not been repainted. Worse thing on it is the fuel tank does have some light few chips in the paint by the neck. The engine cases are the original ones for the bike. It does have brand new correct size tires on it. New battery also. It is ready to ride. The motor has been rebuilt with new gaskets, seals and new paint on the cases. They are the only thing that has been painted. Has correct gas valve and wind screen. The seat is in excellent shape and comes with the hard to find kicker, the rubber is there for it but I do not have the bracket to hold it. Brakes have been all rebuilt front and back with hard to find parts.the turbo is in excellent shape also.

The wild paint scheme you see here was introduced on the second generation of TC bikes. These are identified by the “Molly Designs” logo on the tail section. Numerous small upgrades were incorporated on the Gen II bikes, including an upgraded collector and exhaust system, and a factory-limited wastegate (now set at 6 PSI, rather than adjustable). This was all in the name of making the bike more rider friendly, and to aid in the ultimate longevity of the mechanicals. And while the TC was certainly fast, it was by no means a showroom winner. Sure, it gave Kawasaki street creds and horsepower bragging rights – but it was a “for experts only” motorcycle that commanded a serious premium. Many were pressed into service as drag bikes – and endured a difficult life full of breakages and modifications. Today finding a totally clean and stock Z1-R TC is a rare sight.

This particular 1978 Z1-R TC looks to be in pretty nice shape. Wearing original paint and still holding onto the stock boost gauge, decals and info plates, the bike looks very close to original. The engine has been gone through (not surprising given the age and the history of the model), but no information as to any potential internal upgrades (i.e. welded crank, etc). With fewer than 10,000 miles, this forty-something year old wonder is looking for a new home. This is an iconic motorcycle in the annals of turbo charging, as it was the first TC bike that was officially offered by a major manufacturer (even if it was a partnership and not a full fledged in-house model). Prices for these bikes continue to rise, given the rarity and importance of the model. This particular one jumped quickly above $12k – with more to come and reserve still in place. Check it out here, and then jump back to the comments and share your thoughts on turbos. Good Luck!!


1 Comment

  • eBay shows sold for $19,750.00


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