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Kawasaki KZ400 Street Tracker

Posted on April 19, 2011 by Scott in Tracker. 23 comments

“The customer is always right.” We’ve all heard the saying. It’s based on the thought that if a company really wants to get ahead, they need to listen closely to what their customers want. Most of the time you dredge it up when your stuck in a tricky situation dealing with an airline hostess or rental car attendant. You know the feeling; you just want that second damn bag of tiny little peanuts and it just so happens that no, you don’t care so much about the one-small-bag-of-nutty-snacks-per-passenger-rule thank you very much. So when a good customer of Maindrive Cycles in Texas asked them to build a street tracker using a Japanese bike, they needed a little convincing before they started. You see, Cory Hebert from Maindrive specialises in good ol’ American bikes, and had never built a Japanese bike before.

Andy Hines (the customer) wanted something unique and one of a kind to reflect his individual style — he wears a suit to work… a full body suit tattoo. “Andy, really digs Japanese bikes for their light weight, reliability, and overall ease of riding” Cory says. “He knew that I did custom motorcycle fabrication — typically for American customs — but wasn’t sure if I would take on a foreign build. It took a little bit of convincing on his part, but he finally talked me into it… and I’m glad he did. Andy had a pretty good idea of what he wanted in his head, so it was just a matter of me executing his vision, and adding whatever influence I could as it progressed.”

The custom tail section is what Cory is most proud of on the bike. “I looked at a few pics of other tails, and they all seemed so ‘generic’ to me” he says. “I knew a ‘bolt-on’ tail wasn’t gonna cut it, so I got busy hand forming the tail from steel, so it would truly be an integral part of the bike. The underside of the tail also provided a great spot to stuff some of the electrics, too. I also found a smaller battery that had similar power specs to the stock unit, so I built a box for it, and mounted the remaining electrical components to it.”

Andy spent a lot of time cleaning up the motor and getting it to look like new. He also had every nut, bolt, and washer re-plated, and got all the remaining parts powdercoated to his liking – which made it a lot easier for Cory. “This being my first Jap build, I was REALLY surprised as to how many parts actually make up these deceptively simple-looking machines. It seemed like I had a million parts laid out on my garage floor!”

The tank and tail section were given to Scott Hoepker from The Backstreet Bucket who did the killer paint job.  “Getting the motor back into that freshly-painted frame was a total pain” says Cory. Finally the black leather seat was crafted by HardLuck Designs – the name ‘Slack Stealer’ came from Andy’s son. “It’s a phrase I overheard my son using. He and his older brother were fighting over a blanket while watching TV. The younger one yelled, ‘Gimme some slack, you ol’ slack stealer!’ My wife and I looked at each other and started laughing, and it came to me: ‘That’s the name of my bike.’ My son takes credit for it at every opportunity.”

After completing this Kwaka there was only one thing left to do, take it for a ride. “Honestly, I couldn’t believe how much fun this bike is to ride” he says. “It really opened my eyes to a whole other world of motorcycling. I’m actually looking to build one for myself now!”

You can also check out the complete build pics on Cory’s Flickr page.

[Via Chop Cult]

  • zoran

    Beautiful! Did see it before on the twin forum but these pictures are great!
    Big help too since I'm doing a custom kz400 aswell, not as slick as this one but hey.
    Can anybody tell me what kind of exhaust this is?


  • Thanks, Zoran! Those are stock header pipes with BUB Bad Dog mufflers (for Harley) welded on. Those mufflers are hard to find, as they're not made anymore.

  • jack

    the tail section is bloody good, not that fond of the tank, it sort of looks like a mini version of a sporty tank, but considering Cory usually works on custom american bikes it makes sense to use it.

    the bike looks so awkward though in that second last picture, with no rear fender that battery and the air filter are gonna get a beating.

    anyway, this is a really nice bike Cory, it sort of subscribes to the latest in the japanese custom style, but with a little americana twist.

  • Jay Allen

    Love it! It looks so raw, and keeping the electrics while looking very minimal, great job

  • RennyRacer

    Back in the day, my first bike was an RD, and my good buddy Matt, who showed me the light about two wheels, rode the mundane ol' KZ400 and always bitched about the dealer talking him out of the KH400 two stroke triple. Well, wait till he gets a load of this little gem! The "custom" paint's a little much for my taste, but the lines of the bike are all business. Lean and mean. What a transformation!

  • Lance

    Great work guys… Love the fact that this came from our great lone star state as well. I am currently buiding a CB360 in a similar fashion and this really gets my juices going! I love American bikes as well, but affordibilty really helps out on these little metrics. This thing has to be a blast to ride. Awesome in my opinion. Would love to see some of your American creations as well. Keep it up.

  • Ratchop

    Really just a nice piece of work all around. And yes Jack. That is in fact a cut down sporty tank, which I think really makes this build. I dont personally like the style of street trackers, but this one was pulled off well. Looks like something Id ride for sure, and im more of a bobber guy. Firestones do it for me.

  • Paddy

    Love the paint, after giving it some time. Love the exhaust as well. Too bad the muffler ain't made no more. Can't get into the broken neck look of the tank being at that high angle tho. And I don't care for the tooled seat. But the tailpiece is great and the bike looks tough over-all.

    Love to see more Kawis built like that. C'mon Cory. You're on a roll!

  • Absolutely gorgeous…I keep sseing these customs with powerplants left stock looking, so I wonder how much better this one might
    look with the engine sidecases black..or even the same green as that stripe!

  • Kenoath

    I quite dislike the paint and the line that the tank and seat follow other then that it's a pretty sick build!

  • Andy Copeland

    I love the clean look you have achieved.
    It looks very functional, it makes you want to jump right on without hesitation for a busy burn around the city streets without having to take a personal tour to figure out eccentrics that you often find with a modified bike.
    The lines of the rear are perfect however i cant lend the same feelings to the tank.
    The paint is great, it really lends itself towards a brat look. I would call this a brat cafe.
    Great to see a stock colour scheme for the engine it embraces the Jap heritage at the heart of the bike, it really highlights the modifications surrounding it yet sits there with pride without detracting from the bike nor trying to hide.
    I would really appreciate it if you could share the wheel and tire size, thank you for the inspiration.
    Nice build.

  • AlwaysOnTwo

    It's a superbly clean looking bike. Nice workmanship.

    I don't think it's the shape of the trimmed down Sporty tank that puts a damper on the 10 of 10 rating, it's the rakish mounting angle forced by the backbone. It would take a ton of rewelding to the tank tunnel and offsetting the fuel cap to get the tank down in the front and smooth things out. And then you'd want to stretch it out so there'd be more than a teacup of fuel for racing around the block. Decisions, decisions….I'd throw a cheater sprocket on the rear and just ride the beeJayzus out of it!

  • P.F. Flyer

    It needs a tank that will cover up the ugly frame. Kenoath is right, the lines of the tank and seat are wrong, which just goes to show you the customer is not always right!

  • "Crossover Custom" mixed chopper/tracker features, bit o' "Brat
    syle into the mix. And I don't think i've ever seen show-quality on a
    tracker-style bike before

  • ford car engine

    It is a unique bike with lots of style and a well design one.

  • "Great to see a stock colour scheme for the engine it embraces the Jap heritage at the heart of the bike,"

    Actually, i think some powdercoat or paint might bring out the shape of that side cover, that "apostrophe on it's side" is really
    quite lovely,but if everything's the same color it blends into the rest of the engine…and by no means would I be suggesting covering
    up the Kawi logo… Alternatively painting the engine fins and the top of the crankcase black would do the same thing.

  • ..As to the tank placement, having it tip up like that and expose the front of the frame is fairly typical chopper design, just not seen on
    Cafes, streettrackers and the like. A "thinking out of the box" solution to that open triangle of exposed frame might be to fill it in a with a gusset and bolt up a new larger headsteady to the gusset.

  • HJ

    cool nice job

  • hl

    looks like somebody found a photo of nikki's kz(built by chicomoto). the original is a better look and certainly more deserving of a feature here.


    How come they can't produce motorcycle engines as beautiful as this one anymore? All the modern engines look like the guts of an industrial washing machine. They've completely lost all engine aesthetic sensibility. I think it is due to the fact that the entire bike industry is now influenced entirely by motorcycle racing whereas one time the "street bike" was the prime mover.
    Modern bikes are ugly. Thank god for Triumph, Norton and Moto Guzzi. Honda wimped out and decided not to offer their new CB 1100 in North America, ….tools!!

  • bubba – you are wise! i completely agree. why is it that to track down an attractive motor, you have to looks to the 70s and beyond. way beyond for harley.

    i like this bike. it may not be my style. it may not be my choice for paint scheme, but overall I dig it! it's like a dirt track brat – cool combo and it looks like a BLAST to ride. how's that 400 turn those tires Andy?? I always use big tires. Getting them going seems to work ok, slowing them down seems to be a different story. lol one other question – that's kick only right? just wondering why you had to go w/ such a large battery.

    may start looking for a KZ! wonder if they're easier to find than an sr500??

  • Rebecca

    I own a little 440 although nothing as sweet as this one! Beautiful work. What carb rack is on there? That doesn't look like the standard carbs on 440's.

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