We all come to this obsession with motorcycles in different ways, for Matthew Ortiz of Swerve Customs out of Albuquerque, New Mexico it was the realisation that less is more. Two less wheels in fact and Matthew discovered his abilities to heavily customise and modify cars translated perfectly to bikes and the result is this stunning 1980 Kawasaki Kz750 LTD all built in his single car garage. “It wasn’t until my first “vintage bike” that I realised that what I had been doing to cars all these years (restoring, modifying, lifting, fabricating) I could be doing to motorcycles. It was a 1978 Honda cb400 Hawk that I got for $500. The first time I brought it back to life, I did everything in my apartment parking lot. When I was done I was so stoked!! Something had changed in me, I wanted to build another one” Enthuses Matthew.
There was a time when the big manufacturers didn’t wish to be at all associated with the custom scene. Racing? Definitely! But smartarse grease monkeys? No thanks. But so big has the revival of the custom scene become, that global corporations are now turning to the very group they once shunned to lead the marketing of their new models. For Kawasaki, it comes in the form of their Breaking Boundaries Build-Off that tasked four fantastic builders with the challenge of doing something truly unique with their newest Kawasaki Vulcan S model. The manufacturer tapped Steve Howell with Iron & Air Magazine on the shoulder and they called in one of the industries best builders to spin the spanners; none other than Jesse Bassett from Ohio’s The GasBox.
For the last few years French brothers Ben and G have been running Angry Lane, a Hong Kong-based store specialising in bike parts and all manner of low-key riding apparel. Keen to expand their business they’ve moved into modifying motorcycles, hoping their creations will act as a showcase for the products they have on hand. Now 16 bikes in, they’ve produced this unusual Kawasaki W650 dubbed ‘Superrench’ – a slammed down tracker that ticks off the motorcycle axis of evil – polished aluminium, header wrap and Firestones – and still comes out looking fantastic.
Hand built in Colombia by a pair of craftsman who were on a tight deadline to make a big show in the USA, this 1974 Kawasaki KZ400 is anything but rushed and far from factory. Esteban Pasquale and Gustavo Pasquale are the co-owners of Garaje 57 based in Bogotá that specialises in hand-built motorcycles with no discrimination between vintage Vespa’s all the way through to Modern Ducati sports bikes. But give them a 70s Kawasaki and… well, just take a look for yourself.
Delaware-based Speedwerks were in an enviable position. They’d been approached by a long-term customer wanting a balls-to-the-wall café racer that could be ridden hard and ridden every day. The customer, local racer and speed boat enthusiast known only as ‘Richie’, had seen a few Deus café racers and wanted something in a similar vein, but louder and better engineered than anything that had come before. Armed with only a Kawasaki W650 engine stripped of its electric start, Speedwerks surveyed the line-up of modern retro motorcycles for a donor frame and found few that could blend traditional looks with modern geometry and stiffness. So they went about designing one. On the back of a beer-soaked napkin at a local sports bar.
Words by Martin Hodgson.
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the Bayou, only this son of a gun is the offspring of the legendary Kawasaki Z1 and the Bayou is replaced by the historic streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Built by Krakenhead Customs this is a daily rider that pays homage to the golden years of Kawasaki’s Z bikes that along with Honda’s CB series introduced the world to 4 cylinders across the frame, big disc front ends and became the inspiration for all modern sports bikes.
Barn finds are good and well, providing you actually have barns where you live. But as long as you have old geezers who love to horde, you’re going to find old bikes hidden away. Here in Australia we usually find them in sheds or garages. And clearly barns are the preferred storage method for the forgetful oldies in the US. But what about Germany? Apparently carpenter’s shops are all the rage over there. And if Jochen Guske and his find are anything to go by, the common inhabitants of the average Deutsche woodworkhaus are none other than the ‘Kawikus Kaffeus’ – also known as the Green-Breasted Kawasaki KZ400.
Written by Marlon Slack
Klassik Kustoms is a small workshop run out of a barn in Hagen, Germany. Specializing in Yamahas and Hondas under 750cc the owner, Jan, aims to make affordable, cool specials that are fun to ride and affordable to own. Since 2010 he’s put together several tidy café racers based on old air-cooled bikes but this time around Jan has taken a tilt at something a little more upright with this 1979 Kawasaki Z400 tracker.
Estonia. No, we didn’t know where it was either. As luck has it, the country is essentially Finland’s southern cousin which should help you figure out how the hell you’d ride there if the mood ever took you. And if, once you arrived, you were looking for one of Estonia’s coolest builders to hang out with, best grab a ticket and fly straight back to the good ol’ US of A, because we’re here to tell you that Estonia’s finest is coming at you straight out of downtown Philly, Pennsylvania, and his name is Alex Veaone.
Written by Martin Hodgson.
If I sat down with pen and paper and began to brainstorm my perfect café custom I could never limit myself to just one influence. I’d want the vintage appeal of 1950’s British bikes, the beauty and charisma of Italian styling, the function and reliability of Japan’s best and then I’d entrust the whole build to a workshop of builders who understand the beauty of raw mechanics and properly engineered fabrication. Pen and Paper can be pushed aside, silence and admiration is all you need and join me in feasting your eyes on Revival Cycles Kawasaki W650 “Bean”, my dream bike come true.