Interestingly all the bikes of this series had a single colour, of course the KAWASAKI Green. And that was it. This particular green was so synonymous with Kawasaki, that the colour came to be known as Kawasaki Green, just like Ducati red. And it made Kawasaki a Kawasaki. But then you just couldn't get one back then and still now. Why? Because it was a limited edition bike, around 750 were made. Price was around $4400 back then and now it has just doubled up and thats quoting the minimum, a well kept KZ 1000R will fetch you around $12,000. And the 'thingy' is that it was named after one certain Mr. Eddie Lawson, the four-time winner of the 500cc World Championship during the 1980s, the 1981-1982 AMA Superbike champion and the 1984 AMA Pro Athlete of the Year. Mr. Lawson made a superb comeback in 1993 when he won the Daytona 200 for the second time after retiring from full-time racing in 1990. he had 31 wins and 78 podium finishes racing in the 500cc circuit and was inducted in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. With Kawasaki Superbike , he won the AMA Superbike Series in 1981 and 1982 and the AMA 250cc road racing National Championship in 1980 and 1981.
Kawasaki also built 30 'real' racers, named S1 which were given to some choosen racers. Although this was a limited rin, Kawasaki later revived the spirit of this brilliant machine by releasing a replica called the ZRX 1100. Come to think about it, the ZRX 1100 was actually a replica of a replica, isn't it? Well, it was further increased to 1200 cc and in 2005, the ZRX 1200R returned in the candy version of the original Eddie Lawson Replica - Lime Green!
The KAWASAKI GPz550 was launched in 1981. It was also a 4S, in-line four DOHC engine belting out 57 bhp @ 9500rpm. Transmission was via a 6 speed gear box. Okay now lets get down to business. The GPz550 was a stunner. Period. In terms of performance. It would blow off even hardcore Kwackers by its sheer speed. And to go with the firecracker, it was painted in red. It was stylish with the black mufflers and the term 'pocket rocket' was actually coined for this bike. It was later also known as the godfather of the crotch rocket.
All of Kawasaki bikes, well most of them had the 'K' or 'Z' series like KZ1000 or Z1100, now when Kawasaki wanted to add 'something' more to a bike (read added performance), it had to have a different moniker, so what better than the 2 alphabets "GP"! So, you see, this GPz550 was an upgrade of the street hooligan KZ550, with a hot-rod version of the old machine’s four-cylinder engine, an air-charged fork, adjustable shocks and a bikini fairing.
The new engine generated a claimed 57bhp at 9,500rpm, 4bhp more than the KZ’s power plant, and did a quarter-mile time of 12.65 seconds — a world record in 550cc street bikes.
But more of all, it was an allrounder. It could do twists and straights with equal aplomb. It was not a guzzler, the ergonomics were suited for every style of riding and even the pillion was comfortable. It set the middleweight class alight when it came out in 1982. Obviously the GPZ600R has largely replaced it, but the 550 still has plenty of fans who prefer its handling, lines and air-cooled integrity.
The GPz later evolved to become the Z550A1. While the basic engine configuration remained the same, a seven-spoke cast wheels and a slab-sided tank was put to improve performance and give more confidence to the rider. Later the 7-spoke were changed to 5-spoke and the final model in 1984 had a LCD unit set in the petrol tank, the three-spoke wheels and a frame-mounted fairing. Suspension was made easier to adjust and anti-dive went on the forks.