Everything You Should Know About The Kawasaki GPZ 900 R From 'Top Gun'

Movie budgets can be absolutely mind-blowing. In February of 2023, per Forbes, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" became the most expensive film in movie history. It cost an outrageous $446.6 million to make, and that's with tax breaks from the U.K. government. It's little surprise, then, that Hollywood often takes the opportunity to show off some truly dazzling hardware.

The "Fast and Furious" franchise alone features enough magnificent vehicles to keep petrol-heads salivating for decades. Elsewhere in the wide world of movies, though, even more intriguing examples await.

"Top Gun: Maverick," for instance, hosts the formidable SR-72 Darkstar. Lockheed Martin worked on this (sadly fictitious) aircraft, but Tom Cruise doesn't spend all his time in the air. In the original "Top Gun" movie, he rides a Kawasaki GPZ 900 R. This motorcycle, too, has carved itself a place in movie vehicle history — and it's a bike worthy of such, too.

The story of the Kawasaki GPZ 900 R

Kawasaki explains that its acclaimed GPZ 900 R rose from the ashes of the company's big early success story in the motorcycle arena: the Z1. The Z1 model debuted in 1972, and by 1980, the time was ripe for "a brand-new, high-performance, next generation motorcycle ... applying everything Kawasaki engineers had learned through their Z1 experiences."

The GPZ 900 R was, for its time, a little too high-performance — to the extent that aspects of its design had to be abandoned, reconsidered, and innovated. A DOHC quad-cylinder and quad-valve 900cc engine hadn't been utilized before with liquid cooling, but this ferocious new motorcycle simply generated so much heat that its performance demanded it. 

A body of aluminum and tensile steel lent the bike the right blend of low weight, security, and power it needed to achieve two things: to be super fast, and to handle well while doing it. This Kawasaki certainly accomplished that goal: The GPZ 900 R was the fastest motorcycle in the world at the time, with a 0 to 400m of less than 11 seconds, and hitting a 240 kmph (149 mph) top speed.

A legend is born

As powerful as it was, the relatively modest yet aesthetically-appealing body of the GPZ 900 R made it practical to ride as well. Performance and style can be difficult elements to blend together, but Kawasaki certainly knocked that out of the park with this model.

Famously, Tom Cruise took this very bike for a spin in 1986's "Top Gun," but the USS Enterprise's "Maverick" rode a model that was rather different than the one that entered production. Kawasaki branding was removed from both of the models that were used in the film (which had been supplied by a San Diego source), but it was unmistakably a 900 R Ninja

Those who hadn't recognized it prior to the movie's release would certainly become familiar with it afterwards. The movie was a smash, and the motorcycle was, too: it was the best-selling bike in the world during the height of its acclaim.