Kawasaki GPz750R

Top Bike

By Vince, Written Sep 2005

Vince Poynter, in full motorbike clothing and boots, sat on his black and red Kawasaki GPz750R motorcycle, which is stood on it's centre stand on a grass mound
Top Gun style. Sat on my brand new red and black Kawasaki GPz750R

The Kawasaki GPz750R is a better known bike than many may at first think because it had a part in a top grossing Hollywood film.  The bike was Tom Cruise’s mount in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun.  But I had mine first.

The year was 1985 and I had recently met my wife.  We shared a passion for bikes and as she was prepared to share her greenbacks with me we had the chance to trade up to a decent steed.  Frankly I was fed up at the time with her ugly Suzuki GSX250.  It’s narrow seat and uninspiring performance wasn’t suited to the two-up riding we did and I hankered after a big sportsbike.

My Honda CX500 was now a distant memory and I wanted the misses to appreciate the benefits of big bike riding.  We considered a litre-sized machine as we felt the need, the need for speed and looked around for an interesting bike.  There was only one, the Kawasaki GPz900R.  It was the spiritual successor to the legendary Z900 series using a new water-cooled version of the firm’s famous four cylinder motor.  It eventually grew a big reputation for speed and handling and for a time looked to take the legendary title from the Zed.

We looked at getting the 900 version but the 750 was really big enough, looked identical, had cheaper insurance and came in a gorgeous piano black and red finish that looked so much better than the dull 900 options, which is probably why Tom had one as well.

B328 WOW was one of the new generation of sportsbikes that came complete with full fairing.  This, along with the heavy water-cooled motor in a frame set-up that preceded 500cc Race-rep styling meant for a long wheelbase and top-heavy tendencies.  Combine this with a large turning circle and small diameter front wheel and the result was a bike that preferred speeds of three figures to three-mph and it was this characteristic that explains the first anecdote.

The bike was brand new when collected and had been prepped by the dealer.  Because of the danger of theft by leaving the tax disc stuck to the inside of the screen the dealer had helpfully put it in a plastic holder but using a decision that could only be made by a blind grease-monkey connected it to one of the fairing screws slap bang in the middle of our shiny new black and red fairing.  It was an eyesore that the misses and I vowed to eradicate just as soon as we got home to our screwdriver set, which as usual was waiting patiently in the shed ready for more screwing action.  No I’m not going down that route!

A black and red Kawasaki GPz750R motorcycle, which is stood on it's centre stand on a grass mound
Such a beautiful bike, spoilt only by a naff plastic tax disc mount in the middle of the fairing

Anyway, before we got home we had to visit various family and friends and show them what fantastic people we were by showing off our shiny new bike and one of the first was my wife’s auntie.  We did the visit and were rewarded as expected with a nice cup of tea then set off on our merry way to the next (dis)interested family member.  As we were leaving the auntie’s the trouble and strife decided to take the helm and I obediently climbed on the pillion seat.  We pottered off and headed for the main road, a sharp left turn two hundred yards from auntie’s.  The misses carefully pulled up to the junction and waited for a clear moment to join the traffic.  A gap soon appeared, she let out the clutch then the water-cooled engine spluttered and stalled.  She had hardly commenced the turn so was in mid lean with no power.  We had dropped below the hard-deck and there was no choice but to let the damn thing fall over.  Personally, I stepped off the back.

We were distraught.  Our shiny new bike laying at 45 degrees, resting in the pavement, dribbling fuel.  One day old and a new fairing seemed to be needed.  We lifted her up [the bike, not the wife] and inspected the damage.  One broken plastic tax disc holder – but that seemed to take the entire brunt.  That blind grease monkey had inadvertently saved us 700 quid!

The story might imply that the love of my life is an incompetent buffoon on a bike and I must have been one Tomcat short of a carrier for letting her anywhere near the front seat but that cannot be further from the truth.  After mastering the idiosyncrasies of the bike she went on to pass her Advanced Motorcycle Test on the beast, raising major praise in the bargain and could turn tight consecutive figure of eights on it at slow speed.  In the same way I was mimicking Maverick at speed she was proving an equal exponent in the guise of Ice-Man.  We later realised that the keeling over incident was caused by fuel starvation that occurred when leaving the bike for an hour or two after riding which resulted in fuel evaporation in the feed pipes to the carbs, well that and the top-heavy balance.  Well at least that was the reason when I dropped the thing outside the in-laws a few hours later.  Luckily I held it before it actually grounded this time as there wasn’t a tax disc holder on the right.

The GPz750R always was kept in quite spectacular condition, receiving almost as much cleaning as riding and stayed in pristine original condition.  In fact it was so clean that when Ice entered it into a concours competition it won first place.  Admittedly it was only a smallish local car-group competition but the judges did consider age and it was only one year old.  Our friend with the 15-year old Beemer was not amused and claimed unfair play but the judges couldn’t fault our bike no matter how hard they looked.  I told my mate with the BM that he should have at least washed it!

I too, took my Advanced Motorcycling Test on the bike and passed.  I don’t recall much about the test apart from the poor weather and the tea at the Little Chef afterwards.  In fact I recall many a Little Chef visit on the bike as it took us on adventures all over the country.  It was a great bike to buzz the tower with.  Cars were eaten alive with its rapid acceleration and our riding got quicker and quicker.  It was built in the days before tyres became fatter than Pavrotti so it’s skill was in fast open road riding rather than track-day scratching although I did ground out the pegs on roundabouts sometimes.

The dials of a Kawasaki GPz750R motorcycle
The dials go up to 160 so that must be it’s top speed [said every pimple-nosed boy]

In fact it was the incredible speed that eventually killed off our relationship – the Kwaker and me, not the misses.  The buzz was getting too intense and risks were getting more and more hairy.  I recall one of the last rides, destination unknown.  It wasn’t hard to overtake cars on single carriageway roads, in fact it was easy to blip past two without dropping a gear such was the power.  However, when dropping a peg or two in the gearbox acceleration was phenomenal.

Car drivers have no idea how different a big bike can be to a car when accelerating.  Most car drivers haven’t experienced supercar acceleration which smash through sixty in fewer than six seconds.  Bikes are twice this fast and the power is there from any speed.  Enough to quite literally take your breath away.  For anyone with fuel in his or her veins experiencing this is a must.  And I used this force on many an occasion.  Drop two gears and even if the road is short you can sail past cars, one, two, three at a time.  When the road opens up, and providing there are no turns, getting past four or five at a time becomes possible and it’s addictive as hell.

Even modern busy roads help the motorcyclist in a strange way.  Because there are so few chances for an average sub-1400cc tin-box to get past another car drivers tend to drive in a monotonous mode, not ready to pounce when the road does open up.  They think that even if they wanted to pass by almost certainly there will be someone coming the other way.  So they drive on the bumper of the car in front, not looking any further ahead than the bootlid of their predecessor.  I sometimes think that you could cause multiple suicide just by driving slowly then off a cliff as every car in the queue behind will follow.  For a keen biker all these cars are collectively known as mobile chicanes.  And one day I came across one of these target rich environments, a slowly moving train of cars and decided to overtake two or three of them.

Said cars were all pootling along in a queue at about 45mph, with me following.  I rounded a corner, knowing that the road would probably open up and I might get past a couple, so I dropped a couple of cogs.  Before the corner had unwound I saw the straight and had passed my first victim, this gear took me past the second as well and the third now looked a likely sure-fire bet.  By now I was probably travelling about 70mph so passing the others was quick but at this stage a keen car driver may have started to spot the overtaking opportunity and I was on the highway in the danger zone.

Idle drivers never check their mirrors so the good rider is keeping a keen eye on all the tell-tale signs of overtaking, and none of them usually include actually indicating or looking.  The signs are in an exhaust puff of smoke, a twitch of the front tyres, possible re-positioning, putting a second hand on the steering wheel, all that sort of thing.  In short second sight.  Luckily for me car three was so close to car four that I assumed the towrope was invisible so I treated cars three and four as one.  By now the revs had reached the point where the dial turns from black to red but I wasn’t looking anywhere but the road and cars ahead.  The slight tail off in power gave me the incentive to snick up a gear and I snicked away.

Passing car four I was probably travelling near to 90mph but now a lorry had trundled into the distance.  I read this as a good sign.  The lorry wasn’t travelling fast so I now knew how much space I really had, after all an empty road could mean a potential fast car, one blocked by a moving lorry is a calculable, albeit reducing, gap.  Add to this the presence of oncoming vehicles usually dissuades cars from overtaking.  I had an open road, the best view, a line of cars who weren’t about to overtake, a gap to aim for and a powerful bike that was singing tunes only racers usually experience.  I flew past cars five and six like they were stationary and in all fairness comparing my speed to theirs this wasn’t far short of the truth.  In fact it now looked like I could actually get past them all.

It is a strange fact that for some reason we all secretly believe that if only we could pass one more car or lorry then we might actually be at the front of the queue with no more traffic ahead, ever.  On the kind of road only seen in car adverts.  Common sense trashes this theory but common sense didn’t make me pass six cars at these speeds.  That was caused by adrenalin and I had it in bucketfuls at this moment.  One more vehicle lay ahead, the box van heading this little queue.

Naturally I made the narrowing gap, I’d been through the fire and came out the other side glowing – but only just.  You probably wouldn’t be reading this now if I hadn’t.  I glanced at the speedo after I swept through the gap and it was coming back down, through 125mph.  I had just passed seven vehicles in one twist of the throttle in a space where no car could get by, exceeding the limit by a factor of more than two.  And it was raining.

I was Maverick, I didn’t want to be Goose.  I told the misses and we sold the bike.  I’ve never owned another sportsbike since then.

Although on those hot summer nights when I feel like playing with the boys I get that loving feeling…

The soundtrack to this webpage is available on Columbia Records

Footnotes and Feedback

Vince Poynter, in full motorbike clothing and boots, standing at the rear of his black and red Kawasaki GPz750R motorcycle, which is stood on it's centre stand on a grass mound
Looking back on my time with the bike, it was one hell of a ride

Note originally added December 2006

Since delivering this fine piece of writing I have received word from sources abroad that Mr Cruise’s bike was probably a nine-hundred.

According to my source’s knowledge the seven-fifty wasn’t marketed in the land that used to be passed from Red Indian father to son.

This fact was delivered by a Kawasaki nutter [Niek’s words, not mine] from the Netherlands so it may be double-dutch.

Are you reading this Stateside?  If so pop into your local dealer and quiz him mercilessly until he squeals out the truth.  Then let me know.

Or are you in the movie industry and know the truth?  In which case stop arseing around reading this and sign me up to write your next blockbuster.

Or are you Tom Cruise, in which case stop arseing around and send me Nicole’s number.

More note originally added March 2011

A lull in my schedule allowed me some time to net-hop and I typed in Honda CX500 to see how far up the Google chain [my bikes] webpage was.

During my search I came across a link to the Internet Movie Cars Database.  Here I hastened to the Kawasaki GPz750R and 900 links and discovered that it seems Niek seems indisputably correct.

The bike that TC rode in TG was a 9 but as suspected was mistaken for a 7-5 because it was a special in 750 colours for the movie.

imcdb gives some info on the matter but the full convoluted and strange story is told by Mik Anderson who seems to be an obsessive fan.  And without these types the net would be rubbish.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Bikes section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 3 May 2018
First Published: Version 2.02 in Sep 2005
The four images show my red and black Kawasaki GPz750R motorcycle shortly after being purchased brand new, stood on the crest of Toot Hill, Romsey, with me posing by it’s side.  All photographs taken by my wife around the beginning of Aug 1984
The movie Top Gun had a US release in May 1986 but wasn’t released into the UK until Oct 1986
The soundtrack to Top Gun was released by Columbia Records in 1986
The Internet Movie Cars Database resides under the URL of imcdb.com
Mik Anderson’s article about the GPz900R featured in Top Gun can be found at http://mikandersen.dk/index.php/top-gun-motorcykel/top-gun-bike-english-version 2018

Favourite TV and Films

Celluloid Choices

Given the amount of time that I dedicate to watching TV (don’t we all) I found it very difficult to put together a list worthy of assembling into a top ten.  In fact only a few series stand out and no individual programmes.

It’s not that I’m particularly difficult to please.  Most nights there is ample entertainment or education on offer but very little remains in the mind for years afterwards.

However, this page would be pointless without making an attempt so check out my choices below.

Films are a much easier subject to schedule.  Good films do leave an impression and I’m spoilt for choice and our cupboards are full of reminders in the shape of DVDs lest we forget.

So scroll down to see what lit my rocket on the big screen.

Television

Thunderbirds

Vince playing with Thunderbird 2
My fascination with Thunderbird 2 goes back to the sixties

My first choice is from my childhood and shares nothing in common with the big screen version.  At least that’s my opinion judging by the shape of Thunderbird 2 on the movie posters.  Although I must admit that, as at the time of writing I haven’t seen the film version.  My memories go back to the puppetry of Gerry Andersson.

I suppose Mr. Andersson only got away with it because it was the sixties and we all thought we’d be in rockets by 2004.  The rockets were fantastic and Thunderbird 2 (the real original version) is still my aeroplane of choice but the characters were abysmal.

Even at five years old I saw that.  Those lips.  Still, it’s nice that Alan Hanson got another job afterward leaving the show.

Of all the heroic characters I most associated with Brains, not because he was clever but because he looked like a dork.

And I’d still love to drive FAB 1.  Yes, the Rolls not the 2004 pink Ford (groan) Thunderbird.

Just one criticism of the programme.  Why does everyone say FAB?  I never recalled this as a catchphrase, and still do not know what it means.

Blue Peter

My second choice is also from my childhood, it just isn’t the same now.

My era was the John Noakes, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves years.  I recall Blue Peter being the first programme for me to call my own.  I knew what time it was on and always made an effort to watch it.  Other members of my family used to have their programmes and I had mine.  It seemed a lot more interesting than my Dad’s stuffy Panorama.

I particularly recall an episode in which John Noakes went deep into the Amazon forest and met the locals who got him razzled on their local version of snake-bite and coke and tried to persuade him to jump from a tree attached to a fixed twine.  This was their idea of a manly initiation and in the spirit of these sort of things the bravest were commended by the tribe, although the best appreciation was saved for those that actually broke their neck.  I can’t recall if John Noakes did the jump, or if Shep did it tied to his lead, but this stuck in my mind as it pre-dated bungee jumping by years.

The decline of Blue Peter started when Valerie Singleton was replaced, sorry Leslie Judd but you just weren’t Valerie.  A big disappointment for a growing lad.

Of course, all of my favourite presenters have now moved on.  Valerie announced that she was a lesbian and started making serious programmes about money (presumably for my Dad, lucky man), Peter Purves got a part time job as a dog show presenter, which presumably kept the wolves from the door once his starring roles in Wacky Races had dried up and John Noakes, as far as I can tell sailed up the Orinoco in a coracle never to be seen again.

However, I may be a bit out on these facts.

24

Quite a leap from the heady days of 1960’s British TV to this modern all action American series.  Just goes to show what a load of crumbs that I’ve watched over the years.  But when I tried to think of any influential programmes in the past this frenetic thriller leapt out.

I’m talking about the first series mainly, although the second kept up the quality, it just wasn’t so fresh and new.

As for the third series it got swallowed up by (spit) Sky TV so I haven’t yet had the pleasure.

For those who are not familiar with this adrenalin rush of a programme imaging watching three TV’s at once whilst reading a book and setting your hair on fire and you’ll be somewhere there.

Keifer Sutherland was always an also-ran jobbing actor until this series and I now look upon him as my first choice in a crisis.

The supporting cast was equally excellent, even, and I’m going to be slated by the fans for this, Jack’s daughter.

Particularly outstanding was the presidential portrayal of the President (how else would he be portrayed?) by Dennis Haysbert although his whining wife was a pain.

The West Wing

Vince by The White House
Not sure which way was west

I love words.  You may have gathered this from this page alone.  And The West Wing is full of them delivered at such a cracking pace.

There have been other intellectual dramas but this one, more than any I can recall, does not wait for the audience to keep up.  If you miss a bit, tough, you just ain’t got what it takes to be in the White House with the team.

My favourite character is C.J. played sexily and intelligently by Allison Janney.  And she should be proud to take such an accolade from this fine group.  Clearly a demonstration of how quality is contagious.

However the true star of the show must be the creator and main writer, Aaron Sorkin.  Aaron, you are a writing genius.

So, am I West Wing White House material?  No way – I have a life.

The Green Wing

When looking for a comedy to include in my list I initially thought I was spoilt for choice.

Classics such as Some Mothers Do ‘ave Em, Fawlty Towers and the Blackadder series were strong contenders and programmes I’ll watch time and again but true timeless classics – I don’t think so.  They do not rise significantly above others such as Red Dwarf, The Young Ones or even The Good Life (mainly watched time and again for Felicity Kendal).  An excess of choice perhaps, or just that the standard is so high.

So I have chosen, somewhat illogically, my latest favourite instead.  After all, new comedy is really the best flavour.

The Green Wing shares little in common with the West variety above but does break genuine new ground.  Although set in a hospital, a venue that is hardly in short supply on British TV, and without much of a narrative the programme still seems fresh and exciting, as well as hilariously funny at times.

The edited pace changes suit the format of a comedy where some things need relishing in detail and others can be sped up to get to the next comedy moment.

It helps that most of the actors are relative unknowns so you don’t get the tedious David Jason’s in it factor, each actor can be seen as the character rather than the personality.

If you haven’t seen it catch it soon.  It will be repeated several times I’m sure and like Fawlty Towers that is a good thing.

Favourite TV Programme

So what is my favourite of all time?  My vote goes to The West Wing.

Nothing on TV comes close.  Nor anything in real life by the look of it.

Gutter TV

And finally, the worst TV programme I can think of.

My first thoughts are the modern ‘gentle’ comedies.  By gentle read not funny.  These are the modern day Sunday night lightweight dramas, usually starring Alan Davies, a quite funny man when he does stand-up.

Or if they are even more ‘gentle’ then starring Sarah Lancashire.

But none of this vacuous TV wallpaper can top the condescending John Craven’s Newsround.  I’m starting to yawn now.

Films

The mark of a great film is the enjoyment when watching it over and over again.  Repeated showings engrain the movie into the psyche and thus it becomes a classic.

This is a difficult task for the films that are story driven as familiarity destroys any surprise that had such an impact when the film was first shown.  That is why there are so many action films in my list.

And so few comedies.

Airplane

It is a true credit to the makers of Airplane that it features at all in this list.  But the litmus test of a film being accepted on repeat performances stacks up as there always seems to be something else to note when this film is played.

Quite possibly the funniest of all films.

Bridget Jones’ Diary

On pure comedy this film would not have featured.  The laughs are not clever enough to sustain repeated performances so the credit for this film’s inclusion is in the performances of the characters, both central and supporting.

It is a feel good movie and I can’t fault something that makes me feel good time and time again.

Con Air

Some critics have argued that this movie is nothing more than an adrenaline rush with no depth and poorly constructed two-dimensional characters.  Even if it is – so what.  I’ve never regretted watching it.

I’m quite happy to leave my brain switched off if the rest of my aural and visual senses are so well rewarded.

James Bond

Vince stood in Tuxedo 1
The name’s Blond.  James Blond

I thought carefully about including one of the Bond action films in my list and realised that individually some are very good, if not great but as a series it is up there with the best.

My favourite is usually the latest and unlike most commentators my favourite Bond is Timothy Dalton.  Sean and Roger are just so yesterday and Pierce’s version has no edge.

However, one nagging doubt remains.  Arnold Schwartzeneggar’s True Lies ‘Bond’ film is more watchable.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park, for me, was the beginning of modern epic cinema.

As a child I loved the rubber dinosaurs of Ray Harryhausen but it took a theatre’s leap of faith to really believe in the effects.

Even modern efforts such as the re-make of King Kong left me wondering at the animatronics rather than the gorilla.

Jurassic Park was one of the first films I could really immerse myself into and believe that the monsters were real.  And I do like to feel that sense of fantasy.

A first in effects, lifetime memorable scenes all coupled to a fascinating subject just about makes up for the ‘oh, look the cute kids are in danger’ slushiness of the script.

Life of Brian

Another amusing film worth repeated viewings, this time set against the biggest myth of modern times.

I don’t take religion seriously at all so a parody should fall flat on its face.  The fact that it doesn’t is testament to the inspired writings of the Monty Python team.

I was just too young to appreciate their TV shows (I had to go to bed at nine, or I’d be a very, very naughty boy!) so there wasn’t even a comfort and familiarity to ease me into the film but I got it all the same.

Now, if only they could do the same for the writings of the Koran.

Midnight Express

For a long time I used to class this film as my favourite of all time.  I loved the realism and haunting Ennio Morriconi score.  Now there have been so many better movies that I don’t make this claim but its previous position should earn it a place in this list.

Midnight Express is probably the least know film in this list and if you haven’t seen it yet get hold of a copy, you will not be disappointed.

Mind you, it was on the TV recently and I watched Big Brother instead.  Oops.

Reservoir Dogs

The only thing that could improve Quentin Tarantino’s blood fest Reservoir Dogs would be a menu option on the DVD to allow the viewer to see the film time-sequenced.

I am not a fan of flashback concepts and the Dog’s is riddled with time discontinuity.

I would just like to know if it would still have as much impact as the director’s cut.

Or even Michael Madsen’s cut.

Ronin

Ronin has the best car chase scene ever.  Better than The Driver, or Bullit.  Do I need to state another reason to keep it in this list?

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects is one of those rare films that having seen it you would like to watch it through again immediately. the clever script is wonderfully played out by a talented team of actors, engaging the viewer’s attention.

The only downside being Benicio del Toro’s unintelligible accent.  Method acting too far I feel.

Top Gun

Tomcat
Tom’s cat?

Possibly the best film ever and I include ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in that assumption.

Wonderful Life had no aerial jet dogfights for one thing.

One of the most quotable movies, filled with the phrases that became the cliches.

Tight story-line plotting, economy of language, foot tapping music and stunning visuals.

Top Gun is so good I still look out for films by the same producers.  And that is rare, usually I judge a film by itself not it’s actor, director or key-grip.

Favourite Film

So what is my favourite of all time?  My vote goes to Top Gun.

Cheesy perhaps, but I like the taste of cheese.

Author: Vince Poynter

From the about section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 11 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005, with photos added in 2018
The first photo shows the author in 1966 playing with his new 5th birthday present, a plastic model of Thunderbird 2
The second photo shows the author stood outside the barriers fencing off The White House, in Washington, North America in May 2015
The third photo shows the author dressed in a Tuxedo whilst stood in a cabin on board the QE2 in October 2005
The final photo show an US Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat, designation AE 212 in flight and was taken around 1975