Growing up, Andrew Komurka was a self-professed gearhead fascinated by planes, trains, cars and motorcycles. It’s no surprise what his reaction was to this Top Gun motorcycle replica, a 1985 Kawasaki GPZ900R.
- Engine: 908cc liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke 4-cylinder, 72.5mm x 55mm bore and stroke, 11:1 compression ratio, 113hp @ 9,500rpm
- Top speed: 154mph
- Carburetion: Four Keihin CVK34
Because of this fascination, he and his friends watched movies such as Gone in 60 Seconds and Top Gun dozens of times, and they’d often joke and say, “Wouldn’t it be cool to own Eleanor, the Mustang from Gone in 60 Seconds, or the Top Gun motorcycle the Kawasaki GPz900R?” Then they’d all laugh.
Now 29, Andrew lives near Detroit but grew up north of Milwaukee in West Bend, Wisconsin. His dad, Van Komurka, was president of the Wisconsin chapter of the International CBX Owners Association. “My dad gets the credit, or the blame, for introducing me to motorcycles,” Andrew says. “He rides late 1970s and early 1980s Japanese bikes, like Honda CBXs and Suzuki GS1000Gs.”
While his dad was very interested in motorcycles neither Andrew nor his brother, Joel, rode their own machines when they were younger. Instead, they’d ride two-up with Van, and also helped work on the two classic cars in the family garage, a 1963-1/2 Ford Galaxie and a 1993 Mustang. They started out simply holding the work lights and transitioned to more technical tasks as they became confident with the tools. But for Andrew’s high school graduation, his parents bought him a suit to attend the ceremony, and also paid the fee for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course. With his motorcycle endorsement, Andrew started riding a Suzuki 550 nicknamed Pablo because it’s essentially pieced together and reminds the family of a Pablo Picasso artwork — because nothing “quite matches.”
Soon, he was off to college to earn his mechanical engineering degree and didn’t fully establish his motorcycling career until 2015 when he bought himself a 1993 Yamaha FZR600. He put 1,500 miles on the odometer the first season, and about 3,000 miles in 2016. Late that summer, he found a Top Gun motorcycle replica 1985 Kawasaki GPz900R Ninja, just like the one actor Tom Cruise rode in the Paramount Pictures film, released in 1986.
“I was searching Craigslist,” Andrew explains, “which is sometimes a dangerous thing to do. I was typing in ‘CBX’ and ‘GPz’ and I found this Top Gun replica Kawasaki for sale about three hours away from home. Uh oh, what do I do now? I wondered.”
At the time, Andrew was living in an apartment and his FZR was stored under a cover in the parking lot. He didn’t really have a place to land another machine, but he contacted the GPz’s seller and got more photos and information. “I talked to my dad because my logical engineering brain was telling me this wasn’t the time to be buying another bike,” Andrew says. “Then my dad said, ‘I’ve looked at a lot of motorcycles over the years, and I’ve never regretted going to see any of them. The ones I regret are the ones I never went to see.'” So, with that piece of advice, Andrew and his roommate got in the truck for the long drive from Detroit to the village of Shreve, Ohio, to see the Kawasaki.
The first Ninja
Introduced late in 1983 as a 1984 model, Kawasaki’s GPz900R was the first production motorcycle featuring a liquid-cooled, transverse 4-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. With a 72.5mm by 55mm bore and stroke, the powerplant measured in at 908ccs and made a claimed 113 horsepower at 9,500rpm. It featured internal counter-balancers and Kawasaki drove the dual hollow camshafts by chain on the left side of the engine.
Intake duties were handled by a bank of four Keihin 34mm CVK carburetors and exhaust gases were channelled through a 4-into-2 header system with mufflers each side of the machine. Chain final drive fed power from the 6-speed transmission to the 18-inch rear wheel, which used a single disc to help slow the plot. To keep the mechanical mass quite svelte, ancillaries such as starter and alternator were located aft of the cylinder block.
Instead of mounting this engine in a cradle-style frame, it was mounted lower to reduce the center of gravity and used as a stressed member in a hybrid three-piece chassis that combined a steel tube main frame with aluminum rear subframes. Also aluminum was the rear swingarm and its linkage to the single air-assisted shock. Up front, the air-assisted fork was fitted with new technology dubbed the Automatic Variable Damping System, or ADVS. A 16-inch wheel with dual discs fit between the fork legs. Five instruments were atop the fork, with a fuel gauge at lower left, a large tachometer above it (with voltmeter included in the face), smaller speedometer at top right and temperature gauge below that. A fairing that wasn’t quite full provided wind-cheating qualities and left enough of the black-painted engine visible to make it a prominent aspect of the bike’s overall visual appeal.
Big performances from the Top Gun motorcycle
That powerful mill made this a very fast production motorcycle, with Cycle magazine reporting an 11.08 second pass down the quarter-mile with a speed of 125.17mph. Kawasaki enlisted lightweight Jay “Pee Wee” Gleason to push the GPz900R down the strip, and he managed a 10.599 second pass.
That adrenalin-inducing speed and refined handling also added to the appeal, but it didn’t hurt that the Ninja moniker was bestowed on the bike thanks to efforts by U.S. distributor Kawasaki Motor Corporation. Since 1984, Kawasaki has used the Ninja name on a number of different sized models, but the GPz900R was the first to wear the tag. When Paramount Pictures needed a motorcycle for actor Tom Cruise, who portrayed Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun, they selected the new GPz900R Ninja. Two identical machines were delivered by San Diego dealer Chris Dolan and all Kawasaki decals were removed. Replacing them were a selection of Navy Squadron and civilian stickers, which provide the iconic Top Gun visual. The film certainly helped promote the new Ninja in America, and even years later, as in Andrew’s case, the machine garnered significant interest.
Bringing it home
While Andrew and his friends might have been joking about owning one of the vehicles from their favorite movies, no one’s laughing anymore. That’s because after driving to Shreve to see the replica Top Gun Kawasaki that was for sale, Andrew bought the machine.
“I’m 6-feet 6-inches tall,” Andrew says, and continues, “and I fit on that bike. After I came back from the long test ride, my roommate said, ‘Well, you look comfortable on it,’ and that sold me. I haggled a little bit with the seller and got it with a box of spare parts and a matching Maverick jacket and helmet.”
Andrew was told the Kawasaki had recently been treated to a top end rebuild and the cooling system had been improved. And, with the deal concluded, Andrew rode the Kawasaki home, sticking to slower back roads to follow the engine break-in schedule. This meant Andrew didn’t get home until around midnight.
He says, “I still had to go to Walmart to buy a cover for the bike, because I had nowhere else to keep the Kawasaki but my apartment parking lot.”
Over the next six weeks, Andrew got used to the Kawasaki and added more than 1,000 miles to the odometer. Most of that time was spent riding two-up, with his then-girlfriend Elisabeth as a passenger. In fact, he says one of their early dates was her first real ride on a motorcycle when they toured through a local Detroit Metropark. A year and a half later, Andrew proposed to Elisabeth at the same spot. She said “yes,” and the pair were married late in 2018. “The Yamaha wasn’t comfortable two-up,” Andrew says, “but the Kawasaki is a surprisingly good tourer with a passenger.”
Andrew managed to store his two motorcycles in a friend’s garage over the winter of 2016 into 2017. During the summer of ’17, he rode them both frequently and, as he says, finally moved into a spot with a garage where he could store his two machines. That soon became three motorcycles, because after riding as a passenger with Andrew, Elisabeth decided she’d like to take up the sport. She took the MSF course and bought herself a 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 500.
However, all was not happy with the GPz900R. Late in 2017, as Andrew was riding the machine, it began to run rough, and would stumble badly under any application of throttle. He managed to limp the machine to Café Racer, a small shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan, that focuses on selling and servicing vintage and contemporary motorcycles and scooters. There, it was determined the GPz required another top end rebuild.
“To be honest, I don’t really know what happened,” Andrew explains. “I don’t know if it was that previous top end rebuild that was the problem, or if it was any break-in associated with it. But the bike is almost 40 years old, and things sometimes just need fixing.” While the Kawasaki was at Café Racer, the mechanic who was performing the work recalled owning a 1985 GPz900R that he’d bought from his father. And this is where the story gets a bit more interesting. The mechanic’s dad came to visit the shop while Andrew’s bike was on the bench. “He took a look at the throttle area, where there was a small threaded hole to accept some kind of cruise control mechanism,” Andrew says. “And he recalled doing something similar once to a GPz900R. When he got home, he checked his records and the VINs matched; my bike was indeed the Kawasaki he, and then his son, had owned.”
When the father/son duo owned the Kawasaki, it was not done up as a Top Gun replica. That conversion was done sometime between their stewardship and the Craigslist seller. “I think it might have a bit of a checkered past,” Andrew admits, but that doesn’t detract from the bike’s fun factor.
Shortly after getting the Kawasaki back from Café Racer, in 2019 he took it to the RADwood Detroit car show. According to their website, RADwood is “The premiere automotive lifestyle event celebrating the 80s and 90s,” and hosts displays in numerous cities across the U.S. When Andrew rolled up at the Detroit event on the Top Gun replica, he was promoted to RADwood Royalty parking and was aptly awarded Raddest Motorcycle. That’s fitting recognition of a machine that helped define the mid-1980s and added fuel to the then rising popularity of sport bikes.
Now, in this year’s release of the sequel Top Gun: Maverick, actor Tom Cruise is aboard yet another Ninja, this one a Kawasaki Ninja H2 Carbon. Equipped with a centrifugal supercharger, the 998cc H2 Carbon makes close to 200 horsepower — almost double that of the original Top Gun Ninja.
One of the limited-order $34,000 H2 Carbon examples isn’t likely in Andrew’s cards. He’s perfectly happy with his replica, and Andrew reports it’s running well after the Café Racer rebuild. He’s got just over 22,600 miles on it now, and given Andrew and Elisabeth’s courtship aboard the bike, it’s a machine she says he’s never allowed to sell.
To any gearhead, that ought to sound like a romance straight from the movies. MC
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