Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

‘Project Z’ Kawasaki Z1000 – Sur Les Chapeaux De Roues

Posted on July 14, 2016 by Andrew in Café Racer. 38 comments


Written by Martin Hodgson.

There is something about the Glemseck 101 1/8th mile sprint that brings the best out of so many builders, static competitions are one thing, but when the rubber hits the road everything on the bike is truly tested. The German motorcycle festival draws massive crowds of up to 75,000 people and is billed as “the meeting point for international designers, engineers, developers and their bikes.” For Yann and Manu of Sur Les Chapeaux De Roues in Brittany, North Western France, it was a chance to create a truly unique machine that showed off their full array of skills. But their Project Z Kawasaki is more than just a bike for competition, in the true tradition of Hot Rod Motorcycles it can do it all, win trophies as a static display, give a perfect ride on the beautiful back roads of Brittany and then go to the strip and lay down a great number in competition; our two French friends are simply brilliant at everything they do and this is their creation.


The pair came to meet when Manu was working in a big motorcycle dealership in Rennes and Yann was applying his trade as a spray painter at a car body shop by day and as a street artist by night. But both men desired something more, a change from the mundane tasks of working on standard vehicles and a place where their full engineering and artistic talent could be expressed. Together they decided to form their own small garage, and with Manu’s Grandfather giving them use of an old pig barn it was the perfect place to set up shop. In many ways their operation is a throwback to times gone by; two young men in trucker caps and dirty overalls, the walls decorated with parts and old school memorabilia and all the work is carried out in-house, largely using techniques that have been with us for a 100 years. For Project Z, Yann sat at his small table in the corner and with just a felt tip pen and a piece of paper hand drew the entire design for the build.


To get the project underway, a rough as guts 1979 Kawasaki Z1000 ST was picked up. So rusted and busted was it that a blow torch was required to remove many of the larger bolts. But this was of no concern, as the only parts to be used were the frame and the tank. Stripped of absolutely everything else, the old bare frame was cleaned up, sanded back and the entire rear section cut off. With just the tank then laid on the backbone, it was from here that Yann’s drawings began to come to life.

“The design of the bike was inspired by an old Cadillac from 70’s, then we’ve created aluminium bodywork from scratch.” It started with Yann taking a measuring tape to get his dimensions and then with body hammer and sandbag he began beating sheets of raw aluminium into shape. It’s a labour intensive process, slowly getting the shape and then offering the panel up to the bike before pounding on the metal again. But even unpainted, the finished front clip fairing and tail section that combine with the tank to form the body work look incredible, totally handcrafted and arrow straight.

Being a spray painter by trade it was down to Yann to apply the paint, and up close the bold white with multi-coloured pinstripping work is incredible. But as Manu explains, there is something even more special to it than just a show quality finish. “Yann’s painting skills allows us to make new and original designs, and here, we go for an optical illusion, where you can read SLCDR if you’re far enough away from the bike.” With the major aspects of the look taken care of the little details don’t miss either, the seat is the only part of the build not done in-house and the black rolled leather fits into the bodywork just right and the dark hue works amazingly well with the custom paint. The large front opening is filled with a small projector light that is surrounded with an industrial gate like front grille finished in black and the opening above left for a little something special Manu had up his sleeve.

While Yann hand been busy with panels and paint, Manu was over at the bench working on the mechanicals and although they normally leave their bikes relatively tame in the horsepower department, this build was all about more ponies and being competition ready. Starting with an 1100cc Kawasaki GPZ block the decision was taken to follow the old adage there is no replacement for displacement and Manu managed to take the engine out to 1200cc. For him it was the hardest part of the build but with high-compression Wiseco pistons, big valve cylinder head and racing profile camshaft on board the short block is something special. To fuel the thirsty big block, Manu fitted up a bank of four 42mm Mikuni flat slide carbies that all draw air through their own individual K&N filter. Kerker exhausts has a long history of R&D for Kawasaki’s, so their 4 into 1 system in ceramic black with a single high flow rear muffler made perfect sense for the build.


But before the engine was dialled in and given a final tune for maximum power, there were still a few special touches to come. The first is an engraved side cover from a good friend of the boys ‘Stick Your Cycles’ who marked in the company name in a design drawn up by Yann. The final touch is a brilliant piece of form and function that utilises the opening Yann left in the front fairing; here Manu has mounted the engines oil cooler for maximum air flow, with braided lines running back to the engine. To get all that power to the ground and reduce twist the wheel base has been extended with a longer swingarm from a Yamaha XJR1300. Controlling the new rear end and allowing for fine tuning is a set of big dollar Martis remote reservoir rear shocks. Such a comprehensive rear end deserves a lot more than the original skinny forks and a set of rebuilt 2006 ZX10R units get the job done in style.


To bring the whole show to a halt has been made a lot easier with some excellent sponsors on board, one being Beringer Brakes. One of their high quality master cylinders sends power down new lines to the big pot calipers that clamp a set of wave rotors. Out back the XJR setup with a drilled rotor and underslung caliper for quick wheel changes is powered by a new Brembo rear master cylinder. This, along with the job of clicking gears, is taken care of thanks to new custom rearsets that are mounted as far back on the frame as possible for a tucked in position. The steering duties fall to adjustable position aluminium bars thanks to e-Nov and with just the custom levers and new grips the rider’s office is all business. Having replaced the gas cap with a recessed pop-up cap, Yann took a similar approach with the Motogadget speedo that is frenched into the body work for an ultra-clean fit and finish.


The rolling stock was given a coat of Bronze paint before being adapted to fit to the modern suspension and with Avon tyres as part of the sponsorship team their sticky rubber wraps both ends. With the power-packed Kawasaki off the work bench and out on the road, the boys were able to fine tune the suspension and engine until they were completely satisfied and they couldn’t be happier with the end result. And neither could we, quite frankly.



Customer builds can be a compromise, budgets have to be factored in, a client’s taste and desires accommodated but for Yann and Manu Project Z is “exactly the way we wanted it to be, aggressive, original, eye-catching and really powerful.” Already proving to be a rocket ship on the French back roads when it comes time to run at the Glemseck 101, the SLCDR Kawasaki will be a tough bike to beat.

[Photos by Alexis Le Naour]

  • Bas Rovers

    Saw this bike at Classic Le Mans last weekend. In one word: Awesome! Exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. As I was paying attention to the details, I never noticed the SLCDR in the paintwork, that’s how subtle it is.

    Well done guys!

  • revdub

    And now for something completely different! I really like the fairing and bodywork. Reminds me a little of the work of Thrive, with the square fairing. And, that is a compliment. This is one of my favorites featured this year so far. Awesome work.

  • MayDayMoto

    Love the concept and execution. It’s understated and elegant, the design is smart and unusual. The only unfortunate compromise is those oil lines. They are draped nicely at least, but it seems to me like a poor solution. Routing them up and under the tank / fairing somehow would be much more preferable.

  • Damn this is soo cool!

  • ElectroBaby

    There are just so many things right with this bike! That fairing and paint job is so well done! It’s original, thought out, and visually a treat. They managed to balance out some really hard visual elements with this bike. And the fact that its built for speed?! So radical. This is one of the reasons I come to pipeburn.

  • I am sick & tired with all the comments lately nagging about innovation, authenticity, creativity, same ol’ boring stuff, blah, blah, blah, etc.
    Well today, with THIS bike, I can say with a salty dose of irony, and a pint of revenge: “In your face keyboard warriors!”
    The new wave custom scene is here to stay, no matter it’s cons and some questionable fads it has. Enjoy the moto-spring we are living and don’t be grumpy 😉

    • Never been a better time to be into custom bikes.

    • GK, I respect your views and I enjoy different, new and innovative, but weird isn’t always better. Pushing the envelope with factory “Concept” cars and bikes breeds even more ideas, but usually the theme is striving for space, aerodynamics, power, weight savings or just plain cool factor to get buyers interested. This “moto-spring” seems to be absolutely buried in copycat weird art. This bike is odd looking for sure. One criteria I use when building and or thinking about a build, is how can I make it better to justify digging in and cutting metal. Antique tires (or knobbies with clip-ons on the street), no inner fenders and open carb intakes on “Scramblers, flat seats, pipewrap and all the other required trend/mods are very puzzling to me. What will come next? If this is the best thing going (the trend, not this particular bike), it’s discouraging to say the least. Luckily I still know lots of people that are into motorcycles way more than weird motorcycle art. Just my observation.

      • Richard I believe you know that the respect is mutual, and I do agree with you on almost every technical aspect you mention. My comment was referring to all these ‘keyboard warriors’ who aaalways focus on the negatives only, and I bet that they haven’t ever build anything in their life!
        I consider all the known ‘trends’ not puzzling but funny to say at least, (and in some cases even dangerous…), but I don’t mind because I am not willing to follow any of these, and I know that the ultimate judge is who else: the road.
        For sure everybody is free to build what he wants but when the wheels start rolling, if your choices are lame and your parts cheap, then you may look cool, but your ride will suck and this ain’t cool in the end. I am an old school myself also and I do get your objections. You are right, we see a lot of the OCC mindset in the new wave custom scene and this is dangerous. The danger is what you say ‘what will come next?’
        Heck we have already seen a cart trolley on wheels as innovation, (LOL!), but at the same time I see interesting design in some builds, like this one. I see some builders are pushing the boundaries and I salute them with warmth. I am pretty sure that time will test everyone, and in the end quality will prevail. You can’t go far with weird motorcycle art.

  • Jim Roberts

    “Klaatu barada nikto”

    • lemieuxmc


  • Jim Roberts

    “style”…”design”…”cutting edge”…”perception is reality”. I Love Lucy, about 1957 when lucy and ricky, ethel and fred went too, coincidentally, france. a practical joke ends up with the ladies parading around with feed bags on their heads. and true to form, the lemmings are following right behind. i wait in eager anticipation for the next two wheeled feed bag

    • rein skugler

      J C JR, WTF?

    • revdub

      “Is there any way that you could share with the rest of us whatever it is that you’re smoking…any tracers or hallucinations…do you know where you’re at?”

      • Jim Roberts

        no, yes, no

    • Dacron Aorta

      Listen, if you want to complain it’s “cookie cutter”, “impractical”, “fenders”, “tyres” etc. if you think anything about the writing is pretentious, then you’re most certainly in the wrong place. There are rules you know…

      • Jim Roberts

        what are these rules you speak of

    • We post classic looks, we get accused of being too ‘tired’ and ‘cliched’. We post innovation, and we get accused of being ‘impractical’ and ‘trendy’. I need a drink…

      • Jim Roberts

        au contraire…you need what i’m smokin’. and i do sympathize, but take heart, you have a fine site that’s managed to juxtapose motorcycles, art and politics in an international forum….and so far no one has died as a result. never take it personal

        • Politics? Did I miss something?

          • Jim Roberts

            politic in our commenting or risk being stoned and cast out..

          • We’re all for debate and differing opinions, obnoxious keyboard warriors slamming a bike for no good reason apart from the fact that they’ve had a tough week and 3 beers? Nope.

  • rein skugler

    Many points for originality

  • Tyler Stone

    I’ve seen a few bikes with the bars coming through a close fairing like that. As much as I love the look, I’m curious about how much room if leaves for the bars to travel – I’m sure it’s great down the strip, and probably on some sweepers, but will this really take the twisties, or turn a full circle?

    • I doubt it’s any different to the travel from the original bike. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’d be a whole easier to just build the fairing to allow for travel than to change/limit the travel on the bike’s steering. Thoughts?

  • Oh, you French!

  • Blackbird

    My mailman would love it.

    • Joe Nelson

      He he he.

  • It needs a string hanging out the back. Weirder by the day. When the goin’ gets weird, the weird get goin’.

  • Kinda reminds me of the flying “Galactica” bikes..

  • Jim Roberts

    to all of our french motorcycling buddies, our sincerest condolences concerning the tragedy in Nice

  • Darrick B

    At first glance, I thought it looked front-heavy and kind of goofy looking. After letting it sink in for a second I’ve decided I love it, and it looks even better with a rider on it to fill in the missing space between the tank and the back of the bike (see around 6:45 in the video).

  • 1957 Panhead

    I don’t see anything trendy about this bike. It’s got balance, power, braking, and no Firestones, pipewrap or a French bread seat. And, a video showing it’s for go, not show. Personally I think this bike is the perfect example which proves people don’t like change. The only “weird” thing is maybe the fairing. Trendy? I don’t think so. Different? YES. If fairings were built like this in the ’60s and ’70s everyone would hate what’s coming out of the factory now and probably call it “weird.” Kudos to the builders of this bike and please don’t take the “French bread” comment personally.

  • ShS

    Roba da pazzi!