Not the first time
Last year a guy by the name Bob Kelly called Sean Skinner, the top-gun and at Motorelic, couldn’t stop raving about a previously built 1979 Kawasaki KZ he saw on the internet. He asked if he could ship a donor bike and get started. At first his thought was “Ugh, that was so much work to get that tank to fit and all of the other fabrication”. Part of building one of a kind bikes is that only one has to be built. All of the work in design and fabrication is forgotten about after that first real ride. While talking to him, his mind had flashbacks to all of that but without too much convincing Sean said yes, under 3 conditions. They needed to find a 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000 that already has spoke wheels, they would use shaft drive side covers and it can’t be silver. Bob said absolutely and before Sean knew it, a bike was on its way from Colorado.

Kawasaki and Royal Enfield love child
Since this build was to look similar to the 1979 Kawasaki the Virginia based outfit already built before, the new project really didn’t need to much designing. Bob shipped a Royal Enfield Continental GT gas tank to Motorelic and Sean got to work cutting it up to fit the KZ frame. The tanks outside dimensions fit the bike very well. The tunnel, not so much. It requires a completely new tunnel to fit the KZ’s frame; the frame needed new mounting points. Once the tank was fitted and had the right clearance to the forks, the seat could be built. The new seat needed to be able to lift up using the stock lock and modified hinges. It received a new black leather cover, upholstered by Counterbalance Cycles. The subframe needed to have a cafe style loop welded in to finish off the look and help hold the custom rear fender which houses a Motone tail light.

This particular Kawasaki didn’t come with a right side brake caliper and rotor. Finding a good used caliper for the right side can be difficult and expensive. Sean lucked out finding one on eBay that was mislabeled as a left side, what are the odds?!. He hit the buy-it-now button quickly! Another rotor was quickly sources and the whole package got sent to TrueDisc to be resurfaced and drilled. The KZ1000 is not a soft kitten, so the braking power is much needed. Sean lowered the front forks internally about an inch and a half and used new Ikon Dial-a-Ride shocks on the rear to give the bike a nice stance.  This Kawa should have the handling it deserves.

Kawa in Red
Once the fabrication was finished and the lines of the bike were to Sean’s liking, he dove into disassembly. All of the parts that would be black were cleaned up and taken to Right-a-Way Powder to have that gloss black applied. The body work was given to Danny at Knights Kustoms. Bob, the owner of the Kawasaki, had chosen to paint the bodywork Ford Raptor Red. It’s a beautiful color that showcases the classic look of the bike. Since everything was out getting shined up, Sean got started on the engine rebuild. The top end got removed for inspection, turned out that everything was well taken care off. New pistons and rings were installed and the cylinder got honed. All new gaskets and seals were used and fresh paint was applied to finish it off. Browning Polishing added a bright new shine to all of the engine covers and new stainless hardware fastened everything down.

Some assembly required
The fit and finish on this Kawasaki is extraordinary. The wheels received new stainless-steel spokes and a set fresh set of Conti GO tires were wrapped around the black rims.  The classic MotoGadget mini speedo looks the part and a new wiring harness made all the electrics work as designed. Biltwel grips and some aftermarket switches cleaned up the bars.

Culmination of hard work
When the project is coming to close the excitement builds and you go over the mental list of all that you have done or have to do. You have touched every single part and you hope that all went according to plan. Adding gas to a freshly welded, sealed and painted tank. Adding oil to a just rebuilt engine. Brake fluid in rebuilt calipers. These are all things that have the potential for hiccups. But once the bike was running and Sean heard the sweet 1000cc sound ripping through the new Delkevic exhaust and all the fluids stayed in their place, the stress levels immediately dropped. Taking the bike on its first couple rides sheds light on anything that needs to be addressed. But this time the only thing was a main jetting change and it was ready to be shipped back to Colorado. With long distance builds, the only thing Sean could wish for is seeing his customers’ first reaction, like a kid at Christmas, opening that one special gift.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Thorpe

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About the Author: Adnane Bensalah

Adnane Bensalah is a motorcycle enthusiast from the highest order. Ever since he swung his leg over a written-off Gilera Citta that he salvaged with his brother at the age of 13, his love for two-wheeled combustion engine powered vehicles has only grown. From that day on, riding and wrenching on motorcycles is all that he can think of. After pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering, Adnane ended up working for a major oil & gas company. This allowed him to travel all over the world and meet people from all walks of life. Adnane loves to interact with people and loves it even more to share his experiences. Adnane calls himself a “motorcyclist” instead of “biker”, because he thinks it sounds fancy. He has owned over a dozen of motorcycles in different categories, but his true passion lays with retro bikes, café racers and scramblers. Adnane’s philosophy is that any motorcycle can be considered perfect, it all depends on the size of your smile when you ride it. Having worked on many bikes himself, Adnane is a true autodidact and trained himself in being a mechanic. “Anybody can disassemble an engine, but to assemble it back again in working order, that’s what makes the difference.” Perhaps that is why he enjoys to write about bike builds and the people behind them. Adnane owns a Moto Guzzi V7 Special as a daily ride, a Royal Enfield Classic 500 that has been tuned to race.

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