BACK IN BLACK: 2012 Kawasaki W800 by Mike Andrews
Written by Martin Hodgson
The last time we caught up with Kiwi Mike Andrews he’d finished building his epic Honda Muscle Racer and after its Pipeburn feature he was looking forward to clocking up the miles before retiring the bike to his living room. But life has a way of turning the rudder for us and sending us on a path totally planned. For Mike that meant the sale of his beloved creation and major surgery, but always setting an example for his boys he’s back with another blacked out custom creation. Now working under the name Bonnievill he’s turned out a sleek and slick 2011 Kawasaki W800 to get him back on the road in style.
Just like the late great legend of motorsport Bruce McLaren, a fellow Kiwi genius, Mike had been diagnosed with Perthes disease as a child. Now four decades on, the Honda had to be sold as Mike prepared himself for a full hip replacement. But as he recovered his body, the creative mind of a man who always has an idea on the boil got the better of him. Onto the internet and he found the W800, “it was a fresh Japanese import into New Zealand and was a bit of a basket case, dings in the tank, one fork leg punctured, the engine cases were shabby,” Mike Recalls.
But in addition to that brilliant creative mind, Mike is damn good with his hands and his other venture The Tot Rod Shop had him hand-delivering to the USA one of his builds to Bryce Green and his kids at Kindig-it Design. “I was fortunate to meet and visit workshops like Troy Ladd, Dave Shuten, Gene Winfield and had a private tour of Kindig, travel to the basement of the Petersen museum and see the likes of the McGee Roadster, the Rolls Royce round door, McQueens D-type and we were even fortunate to be invited to meet Lynn Park.”
With the W800 always in the back of his mind and having been ordering parts while he was away, the inspiration of what he saw across the Pacific had given him a clear direction. “Build a quick Japanese hotrod; little, loud and nimble,” Mike Smiles. Starting at the front the wrecked front forks were swapped out and replaced with a set meant a W650. With custom bushes in place to accept the W800 hub and axle, the rest of the front wheel is 18×3.5 with custom stainless spokes and a Shinko e270 tire.
At the rear end a set of new shocks from Goods Co. Japan measure 260mm eye to eye and get the stance just right! While the stock rear hub is retained and laced up with custom stainless spokes before being wrapped up in the same Shinko rubber. “The steering is solid and corners better than expected on the style of tyres,” Mike is happy to report. Next was another Japanese sourced item with a set of ‘Daytona Trucker Bars’, which could also be a watering hole for thirsty big rig drivers in Florida.
To get the bodywork right the front guard was first used to create a mould for the rear, before being slammed down over the front tyre. The rear fibreglass piece Mike then hand made, which serves a functional purpose but also “when the bike has a rider onboard it settles out like the front; nice and tight!” The modifications to the tank are subtle to get the ultra-smooth look, but that doesn’t mean they were simple. Being injected meant lowering the unit isn’t so easy with the fuel pump taking up considerable room under the left side.
The solution came by frenching the lower section before the knee rubber mounts were cut off and new contoured plates welded over to seal the deal. The seat shell was also fibreglassed up by Mike, who then shaped the foam before having a local upholsterer finish off the job. The Daytona Speedo is mounted where the steering lock bolt hole used to be with the top triple trimmed and milled to fit. While an oil pressure light is mounted where the ignition key once called home.
The parallel-twin engine has been beautifully restored back to its British looking best. With a set of wrapped header pipes ending in reverse cone mufflers ensuring the Kwaka emits a triumphant sound. But it’s the deep gloss black paint that appears to be a signature of Mike’s builds that truly completes the two-wheeled Japanese Hot Rod build. With his hip healing well we hope this is the bike that one day makes it to his loungeroom. But with boys to raise, Tot Rods to build and bikes a true love, it might not be too long before another Bonnievill beast comes our way.