1978-1979 Kawasaki Z1R-TC Turbo
1978-1979 Kawasaki Z1R-TC Turbo
Suggested price in 1978
transverse turbocharged four-stroke in-line four/128
DOHC, 2 valves
per cylinder, adjusting shims over buckets
One 38mm modified
Facet pumper (modified by ATP)
16 wet plates,
3/8 x 3/4 inch
travel twin shocks
558 lbs (253kg)
Best 1/4 mile
@ 130 mph (
200 yd. top-gear
accel. from 50 mph
(250 silver-blue in '78, 250 black w/ Molly graphics
Sold only in
Best press quote:
"And its performance--well, it's absolutely shocking. We've never tested anything that accelerates so fiercely."
Motorcyclist, August 1978
By 1978 the "King" -- a.k.a Kawasaki's legendary Z1 -- saw its prior performance supremacy eclipsed by the competition, mainly Suzuki's GS1000, Honda's CBX, and even Yamaha's XS1100. A bold stroke was needed -- and fast (pun intended). Hence the Z1RTC Turbo. Though not a true "factory" product, the Z Turbo nonetheless was the harbinger of future factory Turbo efforts to follow.
The Z1RTC was built by the Turbo Cycle Corporation (the TC in Z1RTC) utilizing American Turbo-Pak (ATP) turbocharging kits. TC Corp., headed by former Kawasaki marketing director Alan Masek, essentially bought the turbocharger units from ATP, bolted them up to existing Kawasaki Z1Rs and sold them through "select" Kawasaki dealerships, without warranty (you're on your own, kid). The kits were essentially basic Z1 kits sold over the counter, however they featured an improved (No. 370F40) Rayjay turbocharger which utilized a thicker heat shield separating the turbine and compressor housings and a new center-bearing that offered improved lubrication. The turbocharger's wastegate came pre-set to operate at 6-8 lbs. of boost, but could easily be insanely increased via an adjusting screw on the bottom of the wastegate. But since the Z1RTC's crank pins were inexplicably not welded -- a common Z1 performance modification -- your $5,000 investment wouldn't last very long if you got the urge to "boost up." And you'd undoubtedly need to run racing fuel to keep the engine from grenading.
In '78 silver-blue trim the Z1RTC was not exactly a sales success. So TCC painted the remaining warehoused Turbos jet black and added racy red/orange/yellow Molly graphics in an effort to make the bikes more appealing. The marketing ploy worked, but some of the credit had to go to the bike's growing reputation as a two-wheeled hellraiser. TCC even added an improved "spider"-type header to replace the ugly "log"-type unit and the Z1RTCs sold out quickly in '79. But the euphoria over the bike's new-found showroom success was short lived as a new law in California made it illegal for dealers to sell any motorcycles with a modified exhaust system (and a turbocharger is about as modified as you can get). So there were no Z1RTCs in 1980 and the "experiment" was dead.
The Z1RTC performs like you would expect any overly-modified, hinged-framed, skinny-tired, inadequately-braked motorcycle to perform. But if you like being scared this is the Turbo for you. Every card-carrying Z1 collector should have one in his/her garage. But, alas, there aren't nearly enough to go around. So expect to pay $7,000-$8,000 for a decent example, if you can find one.