Turbocharged Kawasaki KZ650

Kawasaki KZ650 Turbo Cafe Racer

We spotted this incredible 830cc, turbocharged Kawasaki KZ650 at The Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas.  Come to find out, it was built by Ezio Covelli of Magnum Opus Custom Bikes in our hometown of Wilmington, NC–what luck!

As we’ve said before, we are big fans of the KZ650, sometimes known as Kawasaki’s “Baby Z1.”  In this case, however, the baby has grown into a fire-breathing monster, with a period-accurate big-bore kit and turbocharger that would blow away all but the legendary Z1R-TC, the world’s first turbocharged motorcycle released to the public.

We will let Ezio give you the full story on this incredible build.

Kawasaki KZ650 Turbo:  In the Builder’s Words

Turbo KZ650 Custom

This is Ezio Covelli owner at Magnum Opus Custom Bikes in Wilmington, N.C. As requested, here are the specs and pics of my latest bike, a resto-modded 1978 KZ650 Turbo.

It started as a regular KZ650, but the upper case and the cylinders have been machined to fit an MTC 830cc big bore kit (sleeved) from the late 70s.

In addition we where able to locate, acquire, and install a period accurate turbo kit (intake manifold, turbocharger RAYJAY F40 and exhaust manifold) from ATP (American Turbo Pak) company–the same one that equipped the kawasaki Z1R-TC back in ’78-79. We installed Dyna-s electronic ignition and Martek ignition coils as well.

KZ650 Turbo

The main idea with this build was to achieve something classier while keeping the bike still sport-oriented.

The paint job design and striping comes form its bigger brother Z1.  This machine in fact wants to be a bridge between the most wanted and discussed Kawasaki motorcycle, the Z1 and the Z1r-TC turbo.

The lines have been cleaned up, wiring reduced to the bare minimum, instruments and controls replaced with more minimalistic-looking ones.

We adjusted the stance of the bike by installing longer shocks in the back and slightly lowering the front of the bike.

We wanted to give the buyer the opportunity to reverse everything to original so we didn’t get into the chop and weld game this time, the frame is still OEM.

KZ650 Turbo

The bike can still run the side covers even though all the electronics (lithium battery included) have been “hidden” under the seat into a custom tray (in order to free the “triangle” from all the electronic devices).

There’s a beautiful article about a very similar built (but they use a smaller 717cc kit) in Hot Bike, back in January 1978 Volume 2 No.1.

We currently set the turbo at 5-6 psi to let the motor break in before pushing it a little more, but the bike is capable of handling 10psi of boost with an estimated output of 105/110 HP at 10,000 rpm.


Ezio Covelli
Magnum Opus Custom Bikes

Photo credit:  Rare Air Werx in Wilmingtion NC

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  1. Pingback: Custom Bikes Of The Week: 17 April, 2016 | Bike EXIF

  2. Dave Solomon

    Lovely that ! ….proper ‘butchered classic’ “!

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