In 1980 the motorcycling world was awash with the very latest in performance packages from the land of the Rising Sun. Rev counter needles flirted with double digits and power outputs nudged three, yet there were some surprising alternatives to the heavyweight four-bangers of the day. Kawasaki confused the market, and probably its own showroom staff, by offering a KZ750 in both twin and four cylinder formats. With nearly 60 ponies on tap from the twin version, one could question why we don’t see a glut of KZs in the ‘Shed. Thankfully, this one by New Zealand’s Pacific Motorcycle Co. should stoke the eBay frenzy, but therein lies the problem, donors are rarer than honest politicians.
Alan, proprietor at PMC had taken a call from a guy called Richard, who wanted to commission brat-tracker build based around a KZ650. As is often the case in the custom world, phone calls are cheap, deposits and orders are what pays the rent so Alan thought nothing more of it. Until a more lucrative call came in, Richard had got carried away on an auction site and bagged a purple monstrosity complete with fibreglass fairing and fitted luggage. But when the bike landed it was soon clear that the diamond in the rough was a low mileage motor and well serviced mechanicals.
Richard shared his Pinterest board of ideas and it was clear, he needed a street tracker in his life, although Alan didn’t warm to the rather non-racy colour choices of olive and moss green. Perhaps arms could be twisted further at a later date. Once the strip down was complete Alan could turn his attention to the aesthetics, but not before upcycling one of the panniers into a new mailbox for the workshop, every cloud and all that.
The slightly bloated, and now rusty, fuel tank was chopped up and blasted before being carefully welded back together, forming a lithe and sporty shape much more akin to those flat track classics of yesteryear, yet still maintaining the original Zed silhouette. Whilst in coach builder mode, Alan rolled out an aluminium tail section that suits the build perfectly and neatly houses the tail light.
The frame also required modification but with an eye on retaining the original looks. An infill piece bridges the gap between seat and tank, negating the need for an awkward shaped saddle. An added bonus is that a small lithium battery and a bunch of wiring is now hidden by this plate, leaving the rear triangle open. Perhaps a little too cavernous Alan thought so the corners were gusseted to lessen the visual impact, and offer future fixing points should Richard want to add side panels.
There’s a practical rear mudguard too, modded from a CB350, which frankly makes complete sense on this type of build. Seeing guys on the side of the road squeezing water out of foam filters at Wheels & Waves this year testament to style over function not always being cool. Continuing with the sensible vibe, the subframe rails are bunged with LED indicators.
Despite the years of maintenance the Zed’s ponies were corralled by carbon and gunk so a top-end rebuild was required to set them free once more. Whilst at it, the barrels and cases were vapour blasted and painted. With all new cap-head fasteners replacing the original made-from-cheese cross-heads, the finished product looks more modern and robust. Slight geekery, but the use of domed versions to mount the rear brake master cylinder makes me happy, satisfying to know Alan thinks about these things too.
Modified and re-machined GSX-R1100 rearsets not only look the part but should see Richard sitting in a proper position with feet somewhere in line with his hips. That is unless he finds a trail, and then it’s left leg out and open the taps.
So as not to make the muffler a focal point it has been relegated to an underslung position utilising an in-house design of a triple chamber, stainless oval box with exits pointing either side of the rear tyre. The result is deep and sonorous thunder rather than obnoxious bark.
Whilst rebuilt forks and replacement YSS take care of the suspension, the wheels required more thought. Initially stock 19″ front and 18″ rear were considered but slightly chunkier rubber choices became an issue so a 17″ Triumph Thruxton alloy rear wheel, complete with brake assembly, was fitted. Up front an 18″ Excel hoop on the stock hub was a pain to line up but looks the part finished with a 120 section Shinko 705 Trail Master.
Despite Alan still not being overawed by Richard’s colour choice, there’s no denying that this is both an accomplished and handsome looking bike. The grey frame allows the black bits to look properly black and the painted bits to subtly stand out without needing to scream Kawasaki Team Green.
Richard has now moved to Wellington so if you are one of those who pronounces biscuit a bit weirdly and live nearby keep an eye and ear out for the N-Zed blasting between cafés.