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‘76 Kawasaki KZ400 – Tattoo Custom Motorcycles

Posted on August 6, 2014 by Andrew in Bobber, Café Racer. 26 comments


Some of us dream of throwing in the towel on our day jobs to do what we truly love. Whether it’s building custom bikes, opening a café or just taking more time to focus on your family, it’s a fantasy that’s as common as slap bass in Seinfeld. But as with most things inline, there’s another option to consider. What if, instead of leaving one job for another, you just combined your passions and did both? Sounds impossible, right? Well don’t tell that to North Carolina’s Tattoo Projects, who are currently a successful advertising agency and a custom bike shop. It might seem crazy, but when you consider that they count Victory Motorcycles amongst their clients, you can kind of see the logic of it all. And what have they been up to when they weren’t standing around with whiskey and cigarettes Don Draper-ing? This is what.


We’ll let Rudy Banny – Tattoo’s Founder and Creative Director – kick things off. “Born from the Tattoo Projects Ad Agency, Tattoo Motorcycles applies the same principles of creativity to customs as we do to making ads for our clients.” On any given day at Tattoo, bikes are being made right alongside tv spots, print ads, and package designs. The Tattoo team suggests that this kind of creative influence produces bikes with an unusual and memorable style… and hopefully some decent bike ads, too.


“There’s a few things that characterise a Tattoo bike. A lower stance. A stretched swing arm. A better-proportioned profile. Fatter, gnarlier tires. Powder coating. An exhaust sound you can feel. Great seats. We do whatever it takes to bring out the soul of the bike,” says Rudy.

This build was a joint venture with their mates at 2topia Cycles. They agreed to do a steam punk-influenced design on the Kawasaki and things were kicked off with the removal of the bulky rear end and the modifying the sub frame to provide a cool, solid foundation to build on.


“We went the solo seat route and attached some clip-ons, rear sets and Ohlins shocks. She was really starting to take shape. We had a custom triple-tree machined by Stephen from Toaster Tan, we powder coated the wheels and we strapped on some gnarly Pirelli Scorpions.” That’s right about when the boys recruited the help of Nate Hamlin and Bob Iwankow of 2topia to do their magic on that damn, pesky wiring.


Nate and Bob hooked the KZ up with a complete rewire and buried most of it in the frame while they were at it. Seeing the rather impressive results, it stood to reason that they fit the bike with some slick Motogadget components. And to wrap things up, they broke out their deft fabrication moves to build some bespoke custom fenders and an exhaust set-up. We’re not sure about you, but we’re really liking the twin trumpet look they’ve achieved.


But is it a Mac or a PC?

If you like what you see, then be sure to check their stunning 1970 BSA Lightning we featured back in 2013. Eighteen months later and it still manages to bring a smile to our faces and an itch to our throttle hands. Nice, huh?

  • revdub

    Very nice. Another knockout. I love those trumpets. That custom rear fender is classy too. Mmm.

    • Thanks revdub. I wanted something nasty that jutted out one side and this is what Nate at 2topia fabbed up. I think he nailed it.

  • PaulB

    I have to ask … I have a ’74 KZ400 cafe I’m finishing up. I have rearsets on it. What kicker arm did you install on this bike? I need to find one so it will clear the footpegs when I give it the boot. Terrific build overall.

    • Hey PaulB, while I’m a true fan of kick-starting a bike, I have to say, I’m dependent on the starter to fire this bad boy up. I just left the kicker on for looks.

      • Mike

        Oh it`s really wonderful !. A lackluster pedestrian bike doled up to look like something else. Sorta like the “advertising principle”, paying to get less than you thought you were getting so someone can make a profit. So I guess these businesses are a perfect match. Kick Ass ?. That plonker couldn`t kick it`s own ass or get out off it`s own way.

        • Thanks for your killer take on the principles of advertising Mike!. And since I don’t sell the bikes I build, my only profit is the wonderful conversations I get to have with awesome dudes like you!!!

          • catalyst385

            Hahaha! Oh man, that’s a losing proposition, if I’ve ever heard one! Excellent build, Rudy!

          • Thanks catalyst395!

          • SteHughes

            Great reposte Rudy, don’t know what it is with some people, if everybody wanted arm tearing speed then we would all be on R1’s. Cracking build, love the rear fender.

          • Apologies Rudy. Some of our ‘guests’ can get a little opinionated at times. Punctuation train wreck, anyone?

          • Yep! But the craziest thing is, Andrew, I don’t think you’ve EVER offered up a bike that didn’t KICK ASS! And when you include any of my builds among all of these amazing machines, I’m especially honored and incredibly humbled.

          • It seem that it’s not only Luis Suarez who likes to bite, hahaha!!!!
            Your machined triple tree is a real kick ass Rudy!

          • Ha! Thanks GoeKan! I got Stephen at Toaster Tan Custom Top Braces to step out of his comfort zone with BMW’s to machine this one up for the #kickasskawi and he killed it!


      • PaulB

        That’s OK. I’ll keep searching. I need the kick option “just because.”
        That exhaust pipe is killer … if any details on it are willing to be shared I am keen on learning I’d love that setup on mine. Again, killer!

    • Turo G

      Hey i have a 75. How did u take care of that issue and what rear sets did u buy?

  • Incredible bike ! Great details !

  • Kurt Darden

    I saw this build in process when I dropped by 2topia one day. Awesome to see the completed work & thanks Bob for taking time away from it for a bit to explain a bit more about the wiring you just beginning the day I saw it… Top Notch!!

    • That explains the delays in getting the bike out of that the 2topia shop, Kurt Darden!!! Jk – Bob did a phenomenal job on this bike. He also just wired up our latest build, a ’72 /5 Scrambler!!!

  • Nickcycle

    I am looking for tyres for my kz400 boardtracker build. Rudy- I love the scorpions but my wheels are both 18″ & seems like pirelli doesn’t make a scorpion in 18 for the front…?

    • Good catch Nickcycle – they do not! I used a rear on my front and it handles beautifully.

      • Andrew Potter-cobbold

        Hiya first off can I say from the uk your build is incredible. I am building a similar style z250 and was wondering what wheels you used for your build.


        • Thank you, Andrew Potter-co. These wheels are the oem’s that I had powder coated. Good luck with your build!

  • SlideImage

    Can’t fault this. Especially like the Tattoo graphic on the forks.

  • Turo G

    Awesome bike! Hey i cant seem to find a triple tree anywhere like this one or anything close to it. Any ideas where i can get my hands on one guys.