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1978 Kawasaki KZ400 ‘Elsa’

Posted on March 12, 2014 by Scott in Brat. 18 comments


Having two daughters of my own, I’m a sucker for a good father and daughter story ­– especially when it involves building a beautiful motorcycle. Sadie Glemza from Ohio has been brought up on the sweet smell of gasoline. She was four years old the first time her dad let her ride a motorbike. As she got older, Sadie started racing Junior Dragster, running 8.00’s in the 1/8 th mile. So when she came across a beat up old KZ400 for $400 she thought it would be a great project to do with her dad – who knows his way around a wrench set. “My dad has always been my go to person for anything about a car or motorcycle and it was only fitting we worked together on creating this gorgeous build” says Sadie. So with limited funds they got to work on the bike she calls ‘Elsa’.


The father and daughter team started by doing a complete strip down of the old non-running kwaka. They sand blasted, cleaned, and polished everything. To give the bike a lower stance, they shortened and chopped the frame lowering the whole bike almost two inches.


“We completely tore it apart and rebuilt the engine, welded in a skeleton key flush gas cap, hid the electrical and battery under the seat” she tells us. Living in an area of Ohio that has a large Amish community, Sadie commissioned their skills to upholster the seat – and what a lovely job they did.


They removed the front fender and relocated it to the back of the bike, almost touching the rear Dunlop K81 4.5 tire. They also powder coated the rims and frame black, added some classic clubman bars and then Sadie cut the leather and wrapped the grips herself.


To keep that nostalgic look, a 2-1 megaphone exhaust was chosen – and yes some pipe wrap as well. To finish the bike off, the tank was painted in blue and off-white by Dave Piscione.

We think Sadie and her dad have created a stunning and tasteful KZ400 on a limited budget. Not only did Sadie learn a lot about building motorcycles but she also learnt a lot about her dad along the way. We particularly love the little sticker that reads ‘Dad built. Not bought’. Priceless.

[Photography by B.Smitty]

  • E Brown

    Nice bike, and nice story.

  • Abe

    It looks ok, but I wonder how rideable it is with no fork bracing and the fender colliding with the subframe under any kind of shock compression.

    • itsmefool

      Yeah, good point…looks awfully close, right? Seems like it’d be bumpy as all get out!

  • Sadie

    The fender is mounted to the swing arm, all is well!

  • revdub

    Nicely done. The stance is great. Some really cool details, but the skeleton key gas cap is my favorite.

  • Jorgan

    Clean looking bike. Never understand clubmans and no rearsets though. Or the fact you need to show a picture of the owner only because it’s a female. Maybe a picture of the knowledgable dad would be more fitting…

    • If we were sent a shot of dad, we would have posted it. These were all the photographs we received.

    • Jojo

      I got rid of my clubman for some euro bars until I can figure out the rearsets fr my KZ, it really is uncomfortable I dont understand how people ride this.

  • Dave(killpiscione)

    The rear fender is swingarm mounted, this bike is daily rideable and beyond comfortable to ride

    • What paint was used?

      • Dave(killpiscione)

        All materials for the Fender and Tank were PPG.

    • whysoserious?!

      The fender may be swingarm mounted, but the clearance between the fender and the rear subframe/loop is not enough.

      It will bottom out if your ride it on any thing bumpier than Keira knightley’s chest!

  • Jim L.

    The paint and leather look fantastic. Having a cafe’d 81 kz440 I can say that the front fork brace isn’t really needed (not really doing the ton). Keeping the older controls and dials looks great; I’m sure the bike and owner turn head where ever they go. Dad definitely has talent, I’d love to see more builds from a homebrewed setup like this.

  • davmo

    Really great story, and a nice bike. Way to go, girl (and dad.)

  • woodie

    Nice, Nice, Nice. very good looking bike, nicely built, not too radical, nice paintwork
    …. BUT…. PipeWrap and Missing front mudguard(Fender), my two biggest bugbears.
    saying that I DO like it.

  • chris ordanez

    Killer stance on this little beast! The paint scheme is very classy as well.

    Enjoy riding it, Sadie!

  • Anna

    Love the story Sadie! I met your dad at this garage where my fiance stored his bike. He was telling us about this bike and about you. Glad I got to see and read about you! This is incredible!

  • Daniel Eduardo Bidot Betancour

    What rear view mirror and shock was used? Amazing bike! great work. Hope you have fun riding it!