1980 Mystery Ship
Craig Vetter's Limited-Edition Rolling Artwork
The late 1970s were heady times for motorcycle innovator Craig Vetter. The man who had changed the motorcycling world with his line of Windjammer fairings in the ’70s sold that successful company in 1978, and moved on to other pursuits.
That year, he sponsored two-time AMA Superbike Champion Reg Pridmore on the road-race circuit, and the combination resulted in a third straight title for Pridmore. But Vetter wasn’t just looking for a championship. He also used the team to develop concepts for a project he called the Mystery Ship.
The Mystery Ship would be a limited-production streetbike, or what Vetter referred to as “a streetable road-racer, with all the right parts.”
To create the bike, Vetter took a stock Kawasaki KZ1000 and disassembled it. He removed all the unneeded tabs and brackets from the frame and welded on struts and gusseting to strengthen the structure. He also bolted on a box-section swingarm for strength and installed “laid-down” shocks for more travel and progressive action.
The wheels were magnesium Dymags, the hot ticket of the era. The gas tank held 6 gallons, the maximum allowed in AMA Superbike racing. Rearset pegs and a Yoshimura four-into-one pipe also showed the bike’s racing heritage.
But what makes the Mystery Ship unique is the full bodywork, which is essentially just two pieces: the nose fairing and the body.
Of course, all that hand-work didn’t come cheap. While a stock KZ1000 of the time cost $3,500, Vetter’s Mystery Ship was offered at $9,995.
From the beginning, the bike was planned for a limited production run. In the end, only 10 of these exclusive machines actually were built, each bearing its production number on the side number plates.