At $4,500, Could This 1985 Kawasaki GPz900 Ninja Make You The Top Gun?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Once made famous by Tom Cruise in the movie Top Gun, the Kawasaki GPz900 Ninja like to today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe example is still modern enough that it could still fill a staring role in anyone’s driveway. Let’s see if its price is equally a maverick move.

Have you ever noticed how some automakers turn from hero to near zero by releasing just a few tainted models? Take Maserati for example. That company once sat at the same table as Ferrari and Lamborghini, with almost the same cachet to its name. Then came the Biturbo and a drunken tryst with Chrysler and look at them now. Or don’t.


The same situation can arise for once venerated models that have seen the glow of adoration dimmed by a parent that just can’t seem to stop embarrassing itself. An illustration of this could be yesterday’s 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO. That was the last generation of the rally inspired model and by the time Mitsubishi got around to its tenth iteration it was pretty obvious the company’s corporate heart (if there is such a thing) really wasn’t into it anymore. Today, Mitsubishi is a hollow shell of what it once was and the EVO is but a dulled memory.

Few of you were willing to pony up $25,000 for such a trip down memory lane, and the last of the EVOS lost in a staggering 79 percent Crack Pipe denouncement.

Consider if you will any device that represents the cutting edge of technology or design for its particular era. Now ask yourself how that particular device stacks up against today’s standards. Some do particularly well. Case in point, the Eames chair, which was introduced in 1956 and which today still stands as a paragon of design and comfort.


Today’s 1985 Kawasaki GPz900 Ninja is another good example of a highpoint of design, in its case that of the performance motorcycle. So cutting edge was the Ninja of the ‘80s that it was chosen by the film makers of Top Gun, the Tom Cruise actioner, because it best exemplified on the road the adrenaline rush that his fighter jockey speed junkie character craved.


Today, it’s still a pretty capable bike, albeit with certain old school caveats. It also happens to be a notable bike outside of the Top Gun connection for a few factors.

For one, the Ninja was Kawasaki’s first liquid cooled 16-valve four, and its ominous black-painted motor and gearbox spoke to its form and purpose in a way that its polished predecessors didn’t.


The 908cc DOHC four was also designed with its cam chain on the left side of the engine rather than down the middle between the center two bores. A sequential six-speed sits just aft, sending power to the 18-inch rear wheel via a standard simplex chain. On the other side of that equation, a quartet of 34mm Keihin CVK carbs do mixologist duty with the fuel and air.


As equipped, the Ninja offered up around 110 horsepower which could move the 529 pound bike to sixty from a standstill in a reasonably heady 4 seconds. Handling is also okay for so heavy a bike, made possible by a set of 41mm front forks and Unitrak monoshock suspension in back. That’s all attached to a welded tubular frame with the alloy engine acting as a stressed component. Braking is handled by a dual-disc setup in front and a single rotor in the rear.

This one comes with a clean title, more than 34,000 miles on the clock, and a color scheme that’s reminiscent of the bike that Cruise rode in the airplane flick. The overall look is decent with no major boogers apparent and the claim that it has always been garaged and consistently meticulously maintained.


Modifications include a Corbin saddle, Supertrap slip-ons, and a Vance & Hines ignition advancer, which helps the bike off the line. That’s is a big deal for an engine that doesn’t really wake up until you’ve given it about 5,000 revs to play with.


On the downside, the seller says it’s dripping oil—maybe from the filter gasket, maybe from someplace else. It also suffers form a crack in the center faring which would necessitate repair and probably repainting. Most egregiously however, the bike doesn’t start by way of its electric starter.


There’s no kick start on these so that means you’ll need a bit of runway to get ‘er going and a deft hand at popping the clutch while not letting the bike get away from you.

It’s my understanding that the starter clutch replacement—a common problem on these bikes—is an engine-out operation. That might explain why the seller hasn’t tackled the fix prior to clicking that Craigslist go button.


I won’t hold that against him. I’ve bought plenty of stuff that I knew needed work. I always paid less for them as a result, and I was assured that the fix would meet my standards and not those of someone whose only goal was to minimize the time and expense of the repair.

With that in mind, let’s now consider the seller’s $4,500 asking price for this Ninja. He claims that’s mid-low for a bike in decent shape, however that’s from Hagerty. As we all know, we’re also some pretty good arbitrators of value so we’ll now take a crack at it.


What do you think, is this nice but flawed GPz900 worth that $4,500 asking? Or, does this Ninja’s price and starter status mean it’s a washout?


You decide!


San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Jed for the hookup.

Help me out with NPOCP. Hit me up at and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.