Molly's Mental Monster

The foolishness, and thrill, of mounting an engine in a bicycle frame, strapping some fuel on the cross bar then laying across the assembly has never diminished for motorcyclists. And proving that the answer to "why?" is "because we can", Kawasaki Motors Corporation created the Z1R TC (Turbocharged).

The TC first saw light in 1978 amid average sales for the standard KZ1000-D or Z1R. The first factory production machine to feature a handlebar cowling, the Z1R was also graced with a 4 into 1 exhaust, Morris style mag wheels and three drilled disc rotors plus a “coffin tank” – more of that in a minute.

The Z1R TC was a USA only model and the fitting of the Turbo kit was done by the Turbo Cycle Company, run by former Kawasaki executive Alan Masek. The production process did not allow for the cylinders to be removed and the fitting of low compression pistons, so the TC was effectively a bog stock Z1R with a Turbo strapped on plus an adjustable wastegate and handlebar mounted boost gauge.

Most adult males have a hand large enough to grip both sides of a Z1R rear tire and here was a machine that – with no modifications to brakes or chassis – increased the claimed 90 horsepower of street legal bike to 130bhp, something unheard of outside drag racing circles in the 1980’s.

The original models had horizontal exhaust headers and a standard Z1R paint scheme while Gen 2 models wore a “spider” header and the famous black, orange and yellow paint scheme created by Rollin 'Molly' Sanders, the man also responsible for Kawasaki adopting lime green for racing.

Thanks to the suddenness of the turbo boost and narrow tires, a Z1R TC is an awesome weapon for only the most experienced rider. As a milestone on the road to motorcycle insanity, the Z1R TC has few rivals. Don’t waste time asking why they did it, just be thankful that they did!

issued: Monday, December 19, 2022
updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2022

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