Super Man and the GPZ
Text: (briliant one) by Gabriel Marazzi
The year was 1982. I had just graduated in engineering and started my two-day job, accumulating the journalistic duties I had started in 1976 with the work of my new profession. Some friends joked that I had a double life, like superheroes or secret agent movie stars, but that was a bit of an exaggeration. But the fact is, that its “double life” lasts to present day.
My first real job as an engineer, not counting some stages and a first experience of only a month, was in the construction company of Chiquinho, an entrepreneur of the nightclubs who was also an engineer. Another double-life character, who would later become my friend. He once told me why he chose my curriculum, among hundreds of others (we were going through the worst crisis in the industry, the engineers who were trained were going to work in banks): Chiquinho had done the primary and the gym In the Liceu Coração de Jesus, a traditional Salesian college in the district of Bom Retiro in São Paulo. Like me.
I spent some time like Clark Kent, hiding the Superman alter ego, so my new boss would not send me away. Yes, test motorcycles, for a young man like me, at that time, could be compared to flying around in blue colant and red cape. And with his underwear exposed.
Meanwhile, across the city, the domestic motorcycle industry was still starting and we had nothing more exciting than the Honda CB 400 to test at Duas Rodas Magazine. The foreign magazines and leaflets of foreign motorcycles that arrived at the newsroom, left us even more frustrated with this reality. This material made me to discover, among other wonders, the brand new Kawasaki GPz 1100, a super motorcycle that ushered in the era of reliable gasoline electronic injections.
I would do anything to try on such a motorcycle, even look to another job. That was what happened one day, in my oooooooother work, Chiquinho, who always paraded with newly released national automobiles (the first Chevrolet Monza hatch I saw on the street was his), arrived in the office with a gleaming Kawasaki GPz 1100. Shiny Was just a form of expression, since the motorcycle laundered another novelty, the black chrome (this was the GPz 1100 II, because the first version, from 1981, still had the darkened components painted with black paint, like the engine and the exhaust) .
How do I ride this motorcycle? The fellows from the magazine would freak out (that term did not even exist at the time). You could not just say, “Boss, can I borrow your bike for a ride? Or maybe a big ride, including a photo shoot for a magazine?”. It was time to reveal my true identity by showing the journalist’s card from the planet Krypton.
It worked. Surprised, Chiquinho not only liked the idea, after all, his motorcycle would appear at Duas Rodas Magazine, as he became my friend. And them, I wear my red and white super suit (just missing the blue cape) to make a few shoots with the great photographer Mario Bock. It was published in the Daily Planet of April 1983.
The big idea of the new Kawasaki GPz 1100 was the electronic fuell injection, something unthinkable for us Brazilians, even for automobiles. Contrary to what has spread, this was not the first motorcycle to have electronic injection. Since the previous year, in 1980, Kawasaki produced the latest versions of Z1000, model of great success, with exactly this analog injection system from Bosch.
The importance of the Z1000 was enormous, as it was its predecessor, the Z900, that dislodged the Honda CB 750 Four from its place on the highest pedestal of motorcycles. The Z900, better known to us as “Kawasaki 900”, was produced from 1972 to 1976, being replaced by the Z1000 in 1977, which lasted until 1980, the latter already with injection. And you already saw that bike out there: it was the motorcycle driven by the Australian police officer Goose, from the first Mad Max movie, a 1977 Kawasaki Z1000.
Well, let’s get back to Kawasaki GPz. The GPz 1100 B1, from 1981, had engine and other components painted matte black and analogue electronic injection. Chiquinho’s bike was the GPz 1100 B2 from 1982, which gained many improvements, starting with the digital electronic injection, which shifted the former mechanical airflow meter through electronic sensors, including an throuttle position sensor. The power did not increase much because of that, it went from 108 hp to 109 hp, which was already a lot for the time, but the whole injection system became more precise.
Visually, the GPZ 1100 B2 also evolved, compared to B1. Engine and exhaust systems have won the modern black chrome treatment and a small fairing has covered the headlight and dashboard. This, in turn, became more elegant and started to have liquid crystal fuel marker, to accompany the digital injection. It is that the dashboard clocks also showed a little of the new technology that came up at the time. In B1, the voltmeter was conventional, analogue, with a magnetic pointer, while the B2 had a little secret: a button on the panel turned the tachometer into a voltmeter.
In those days the small batteries of motorcycles were not so reliable, so these new motorcycles equipped with electronic systems could leave the user “in the hand” if they presented an unexpected failure, so the voltmeter was so important.
In my reportage for Duas Rodas Magazine, April 1983, the tone is a bit of enthusiasm with the beautiful GPz 1100, including the description of details that today are commonplace even on entry level small motorcycles. It’s just that Kawa, for that moment, really was the super-sumo of motorcycles, even in relation to the best motorcycles available in the world market.
Thirty-five years later
Those distant 80s were cruel to those who liked good motorcycles. With imports banned in Brazil, very few good motorcycles were able to enter the country, legally or otherwise. So the enthusiasm every time we had access to one of them.
Even today, these models from the 1980s are rarer for the same reason, but the current retro wave, which has also hit the bikes, is causing some of those lost rarities out there to return to the public eye. This is the case of the 1981 Kawasaki GPz 1100 B1 from collector Ricardo Pupo, who lent us his motorcycle for some photos. Of course, it was not possible to test the bike because it was a 35-year item and also because the owner was “watching”. But it was possible to remember the past, from the time when everything was less technological, but everything was more exciting. There is no comparison here with the current motorcycles, after all, more than 35 years have passed, but you can still feel that it was a very special motorcycle. Compare the photos made with GPz B1 with the photos published in the magazine.