Class of '84: Suzuki Katana 1100 v. Kawasaki GPZ900R

1984. A great year for films, a seminal year for music, and the year Kawasaki stole Suzuki’s Katana 1100 thunder with their all-new watercooled GPZ900R. Overnight, superbikes had suddenly entered the computer age

Posted: 7 June 2009
by Colin Goodwin

I read George Orwell’s 1984 when I was 13, when getting my hands on a copy of Shaven Haven was a more important literary task, so my memories of Orwell’s famously pessimistic look into the future are scant. Perhaps younger students with fresher memories will be able to tell me whether George predicted the arrival of the watercooled four-stroke motorcycle engine or the 16-inch front wheel. I certainly hadn’t seen them coming because my first sight of a Kawasaki GPZ900R left me reeling.

One day while riding along the Thames embankment I stopped next to an unfamiliar red Kawasaki. Almost all bikes left my MZ of the time standing but this Kwacker seemed to disappear into thin air when the traffic lights changed. Shocked, I visited my local Kawasaki dealer and organised a test ride on the new GPZ900R. Everything about it was incredible: its power, its handling, its brakes. I knew that I had ridden the future and I couldn’t afford it.

The GPZ900R that we have here is absolutely stunning, despite having 43,000 miles on the clock. It’s still a good looking bike; solid, purposeful and subtly aggressive. And totally different to the Suzuki GSX1100 Katana that joins it in this battle of the eighties’ giants. But then the Katana is different to everything that came before or since. If you want to learn the development history of the Suzuki Katana, then first warm yourself up with a simpler task like mastering mandarin Chinese, because the Katana story is complicated with various different engine sizes and appearances of particular bikes.

The most excellent Katana Central website tells us that no motorcycle company had used an outside design house to pen one of its bikes and that Suzuki, in commissioning German crayon meisters target DESIGN, was the first. Not strictly true because Ducati asked car designers Bertone to design a bike in the early 1970s, the result of which was one of Ducati’s ugliest ever bikes, the 860 GTE. Suzuki launched the GS1100S Katana in the UK in 1980 when bikers tucked their trousers into their boots and still folded white socks over boot tops; the BMF rally was massive and Belstaff made kit for bikers rather than toffs with shotguns. The Katana came as a bit of a shock and left most people rather confused.

Numerous Katana-style models came and went during the 1980s, including 550s, 650s, 750s and including, in 1984, the GSX750 S3 Katana with a pop-up headlamp. Surprisingly the 1100 Kat we have here wears a W-registration which means that it was registered in 2000. I didn’t know they were made that recently but Katana experts will have already observed from the black engine that this bike is one of the 1100 Japan-only limited edition GSX-1100SYs built in late 2000. With less than 4,000 miles on the clock it is in as new condition.

Bike nostalgia takes several forms. First, there’s the bikes you dreamed about as a kid – like my Kwacker H2. Then there’s the bikes that you want because you owned one in your youth and you want to recapture those days long before grey pubes and having to stop for the loo before needing petrol while riding a Ducati. And lastly there’s the nostalgia for bikes from an era that you missed out on that was obviously a hoot. Which is why young Urry is mad about 350LCs even though he had yet to learn to pee standing up when the Elsie made its debut in 1980.

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"the alternator mounted behind the cylinders is common now but was radical for 1984."

Honda must have been revolutionary then, because they fitted the CBX 1000`s alternator, driven by a multiplate wet clutch, 6 years earlier in 1978! 


Posted: 08/06/2009 at 17:22

scorpio24v wrote (see)

"the alternator mounted behind the cylinders is common now but was radical for 1984."

Honda must have been revolutionary then, because they fitted the CBX 1000`s alternator, driven by a multiplate wet clutch, 6 years earlier in 1978! 


Now you'll be confusing the children if you go pointing out all the gaps in their knowledge. 

(Can't be bothered to research it - but I have a feeling the original MV Agusta 750's had an alternator behind the cylinders back in the 60's too.....) 


Posted: 09/06/2009 at 08:34

I bought an 84 900 Kawi brand new. It was $3300 us out the door. I remember the first ride and how it felt like it was on rails compared to the KZ.

I also purchased a Z1r Kawi New in 1978 that was only $2800

The real gem was the 1979 Z1R TC with the Black Molly Graphics


Posted: 11/06/2009 at 07:52

A little trivia for you. we all remember Tom cruise raceing down the runway in Topgun on Kawasaki Gpz900 but because of his hight they used a gpz 500 mocked up to look like a Gpz900.This is what i read in another motorcycling mag P.S A Katana is a single edeged sword not double.wink wink

Posted: 21/06/2009 at 19:48

"A little trivia for you. we all remember Tom cruise raceing down the runway in Topgun on Kawasaki Gpz900 but because of his hight they used a gpz 500 mocked up to look like a Gpz900.This is what i read in another motorcycling mag"

Sorry, but that's wrong! Please refer to http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_6406-Kawasaki-GPZ-900-R.html . I've had to debunk this myth all over the net.

Scott Lewis (scott19) 


Posted: 30/10/2009 at 13:17

      HI YOU LOT OUT THERE I DONT WANT TO UPSET YOU BUT I HAVE A GPZ900 

     IN BLUE I BOUGHT IT NEW IN THE WALWORTH ROAD LONDON I THINK

    THE SHOP WAS CALLED COSMAPOLITAN THE BIKE HAS ONLY DONE

      3500 YES 3500 MILES IT IS AS NEW IF THERE IS A BETTER ONE IT MUST

      STILL BE IN ITS BOX IT HAS HAD ONE TRIP TO THE ISLE OF MAN NEVER 

      MIST A BEAT WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM OTHER GPZ900 OWNERS OR

     ANYONE WITH BIKES IN BLOOD  ALSO HAVE A BONNIE SILVER JUBILEE

      WITH 2300 ON THE CLOCK WITH CERTIFICATE HOPE TO HEAR FROM ALL 


Posted: 12/11/2009 at 18:38

http://www.vintage-motorcycle.com/image.php?image=dscf9700.jpg


The dynamo on my 1938 AJS350 was chain driven behind the barrel. 

It would have looked a bit silly on the end of the crank, mind.


Posted: 12/11/2009 at 20:38

Pic of a GPZ900 at the IOM TT 1984 like it was yesterday:

http://www.iomtt.com/Photo-Gallery/GalleryPicPreview.aspx?image=5506&ref=&aid=1b89966b-0e9a-4cde-81be-6c32ec73bb0e

Even has indicators fitted!


Posted: 12/11/2009 at 21:13

A few years ago, you had to work hard, a subtle dig here, a sly comment there and then you'd have them ranting after an hours hard work and make them look stupid. Nowadays, one post has the bleeding heart, "the world is out to get us poor hard done by bikers" frothing at the mouth.

 long island asian escort:tel : 516-532-9888
http://www.nyorientalescort.com


Posted: 13/11/2009 at 02:26

Everybody knows that the bike in Top Gun is a GPz750R.

Except the people that don't.


Posted: 15/11/2009 at 08:35

Who cares! They never once suggested that Cruise was riding a 900R anyway!

Apparently the paint scheme was standard for US market 900s...


Posted: 17/11/2009 at 20:45

The Suzuki in your test is one of the Final Edition of Katana's made for 1994 to 2000.

http://www.suzukicycles.org/GSX-series/GSX1100S_Katana_b.shtml

Whiy does this matter?

Well The test bike is about 20hp down from the early 80's one & have less torque too.

GSX 1100 SY Katana 2000
Overall Length: 2 250 mm (88.6 in)
Overall Width: 740 mm (29.1 in)
Overall Height: 1 515 mm (59.6 in)
Seat Height: 775 mm (30.5 in)
Wheelbase: 165 mm (6.5 in)
Dry Weight: 232 kg (510 lbs)
Engine type: Air and oil-cooled 1 074 cc inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves. 95 hp(70 kW)/ 8,500 rpm, 84 NM (8,6 kg-m)/ 4,000 rpm.

GSX 1100 SD Katana 1983
Overall Length: 2 260 mm (89.0 in)
Overall Width: 715 mm (28.1 in)
Overall Height: 1 205 mm (47.4 in)
Seat Height: 790 mm (31.1 in)
Ground Clearance: 175 mm (6.9 in)
Wheelbase: 1 520 mm (59.8 in)
Weight: 232 kg (510 lbs)
Engine type: Air and oil-cooled 1074 cc inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves. 111 hp/ 8,500 rpm, 9,8 kg-m/ 6,500 rpm. 5-speed.
 

I have a 82 GS1100 with engine mods & it easily goes 170 mph (limited by rev limiter).


Posted: 04/02/2011 at 16:45

Jay M 3 wrote (see)

The Suzuki in your test is one of the Final Edition of Katana's made for 1994 to 2000.

http://www.suzukicycles.org/GSX-series/GSX1100S_Katana_b.shtml

Whiy does this matter?


I don't suppose it matters to many people now since the thread was started in 2009.

Were you searching or did it just turn up?


Posted: 05/02/2011 at 09:25

Actually searching for RF900 material. I have been  Suzuki (except 1 FJ1100) guy since I graduated from RD350's and am allways looking for info on RF's & GS/GSX bikes.

I currently ride a GS1100E w/1200cc kit megacycles cams, 36mm flat slides dyna 3 ign. welded crank ect.............

I just bout a lightly crashed 94 RF9 for $500  am getting another one , a 96 for 5-6 hundred & come springtime 1 will run.

I allways thought the GS1150 was was badder than the GPZ9 but to each his own. 


Posted: 05/02/2011 at 12:16

The only bike with a soul in 1984 would be the suzuki rg 250

That and my mates jota which he managed to turn into a cafe racer ....gorgeous they where 

http://www.bikez.com/motorcycles/suzuki_rg_250_w_1984.php

http://motorcyclepictureoftheday.blogspot.com/2009/11/1977-laverda-jota.html


Posted: 13/02/2011 at 20:26

i got out of motorcycling in 1985 for18 years. i did not like the new water cooled kawa. at the time i had a nice 1982 GS 1100 e . i liked it a lot. simple to work on .

 fast forward  i now have a 2004 Z 1000 . it might be water cooled but buy todays standards it is a simple naked bike. love it.


Posted: 22/02/2011 at 18:18

I had a 1984 GPZ 1100 A2 1st Unitrack model. Went to the '84 TT with it and saw the GPZ900 on the road for the first time. I had a play with a couple and they seem evenly matched. It wasn't until I got one of my own some years later I realised how much better the 900 was. Still a great bike now.

Posted: 22/02/2011 at 19:36

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