A very special Z9 Kawasaki – By Rick McDowell
Around 15 years ago Rick McDowell covered this very special Z9 Kawasaki for us in Perth. We dug it up from the archives to show this lovely machine off once again.
Unfortunately in those days of the web most of our images were in what today would be seen in very low resolution, but back in the day when we originally published this piece these were excellent quality compared to most imagery seen on the web back then. Enjoy.
What do you do if you’ve got a VFR 400 Honda single sided swingarm lying around, and your mate just happens to have a 1970s Z900 Kawasaki rolling wreck ?
For Alex and Kerry in Perth, Western Australia, the obvious answer was to combine the two items and create the absolute visual stunner you see here.
The bike actually belongs to Kerry, although the two friends quickly realised that in addition to building a virtual gob-smacker, they could create a mobile business advertisement for their respective workshops, namely Roo Racing and K & D Chrome.
Alex, the proprietor of Roo Racing, got the project under way by stripping the original Z900 back to a bare chassis.
Although an excellent motorcycle engineer and manufacturer of high quality carbon fibre mufflers, Alex figured it’d be best to bring in another expert for the actual mating of Z900 chassis to NSR swingarm.
Murray from Cycle Craft Engineering is more used to custom fabrication work with old British bikes, but the idea of joining a Honda single sided swingarm to a Kawasaki Z frame was a challenge he just couldn’t refuse.
Murray began by sleeving the Honda swingarm so that it would accept the original Kawasaki through bolt and completed the job by manufacturing numerous distance pieces and bearing bushes to accommodate all the differences in design and measurement.
Perhaps the biggest single task in mating the Honda Pro-Arm to the Z chassis though, was how to attach what is a mono shock swingarm to an old twin shock chassis.
This was achieved by a custom made triangulated tubular steel upper shock assembly welded to the rear of the Kwaka’ frame and which supports the upper end of an RGV 250cc Suzuki shock absorber.
The VFR 400 suspension linkage which came with the swingarm has been utilised too, and is attached to the frame by brackets which have been welded to an already existing lower frame member that runs across the rear of the Z 900 chassis.
These brackets were then supplemented with additional box section, which was also applied to several adjoining original seams on the Kawasaki frame.
The old Z tubes were significantly braced in other areas too – such as around the head stem and spine as well as at the front and rear of the engine cradle. The rear sub frame was ditched completely and all brackets and such like required on a production machine were ground or welded off, while all existing Kawasaki welds were tidied up.
At the pointy end, Recycle Wreckers (more mates !) supplied 43mm GSX-R750 forks, deliberately chosen for the fact that they’re not upside downies.
True, an inverted set could have been used, but they would have been more expensive and would have deviated too much from the other intended aim which was to keep some resemblance of the original Z (and let’s face it, despite all the mods, there is still a subtle hint of the original Z in this bike).
The GSX-R’s triple clamps have been used too, attached to the Kawasaki frame by a Kawasaki top bearing, sleeved step nut, some bits from a taper bearing kit for Zs and a miscellaneous Yamaha bottom bearing.
Want more ?
The front wheel is a highly polished 17″ NSR 250 Honda item, slotted in between the Suzuki forks thanks to custom spacers from the above mentioned Murray.
The brakes too are a smorgasbord, combining CBR 400RR discs, with Yamaha FZR 1000 calipers mounted on polished custom caliper mounts.
Other really nice touches on the front end include ultra light Goodridge Kevlar brake lines and custom anodized disc rotor buttons.
Incidentally, these buttons are another of the items Alex’s Roo Racing enterprise manufactures.
Goodridge lines are also featured on the rear of this bike, where the VFR 400 rear brake assembly is employed as well as the VFR wheel.
With everything coming together nicely by this stage, Kerry was kept busy performing acts of magic on all sorts of metal surfaces – after all, that’s what Kerry’s K & D Chrome business is all about.
The frame, fully nickel plated, is a work of pure art, but various hand made frame associated components, including Alex’s hand made engine mounting plates, foot peg brackets, front calipers etc, were also polished, chromed or nickel plated and the results are breath taking.
The carbon fibre bodywork / fuel cell was created by a bloke called Evan Wilson with the help of another individual who goes by the name of ‘Animal’.
The bodywork is one piece and includes a fibreglass fuel tank that’s just a little down on the original steel tank’s capacity due to all the electric’s and battery being located underneath.The seat, incidentally, is entirely self supporting without a sub-frame.
Don’t get the idea that this bike is just a show pony though.
With Alex being a former Yoshimura UK man, a full stage three, racing spec’ port and polish plus Wiseco 1045cc kit were quickly applied.
APE stainless steel valves and a couple of hard faced Ivan Tighe 340c cams were included, the valves standard size on the inlet and just a little oversize on the outlet.
Surprisingly, but probably for cost reasons, it was decided not to touch the gearbox, although a Barnett kevlar clutch was installed.
Internals aside, the exterior of this powerplant has been altered significantly too. Thanks to a guy known as ‘Scottish Graham’, hand made billet engine covers reduce the engines width by 25mm on the alternator side and by 15mm on the points side.
The revelation though, is that a VT 250 Honda alternator is now on board !!
The carbies are 34mm GSX-R units, running with K + N filters and attached to Z 1000J inlet manifolds that have been painstakingly matched to the re-angled (i.e. straightened ) inlet ports on the head.
On the exhaust side, Peter Lawson of Legends Exhausts has performed pure magic.
There’s certainly a hint of 916 in the system, although it’s the pairing of the cylinders that makes these pipes different. Essentially, there are two separate exhaust systems on the bike, cylinders 1 and 2 running into a single pipe and then muffler, with the same arrangement for cylinders 3 and 4. Naturally, Alex Heal’s own Roo Racing carbon fibre mufflers finish of both systems.
The heart of the matter is kept in perfect harmony by a Boyer electronic ignition unit, which is in fact just one part of an entirely custom electric’s set up based on NSR Honda components.
As far as a full list of all the custom and one-off parts is concerned – forget it !
The complete inventory is endless, although perhaps the most unusual component is a push bike digital speedo!
This is good for up to 260Kmh, has a trip meter, fastest speed recorded (private road use of course …), stopwatch etc, etc. Again, this is another item Roo Racing are now selling, with various length sensor leads.
Oh, and for those who might think that Alex and Kerry have produced an over length dinosaur, think again.
The wheelbase is actually shorter than the original Z900, while the bike weighs just 184kg (incl. 4 litres of fuel), biased 55% to the front wheel.
As this story was being completed, Alex and Kerry came up with another set of clothes for their creation.
The wheels are once again NSR Honda items, but with distinct yellow powder coating mixed with polishing work.
There’s also now a second one-piece bodywork structure and front mudguard, perhaps giving the impression that there are in fact two bikes here.
It’s all about development really and undoubtedly Alex and Kerry have a few more ideas to try.
So what about nitrous oxide for the engine then guys ?
Kawasaki Z9 Special – Alex and Kerry
- MOTOR – Z900 Kawasaki with Wiseco 1045cc kit, APE stainless steel valves , Ivan Tighe 340c cams, standard valves, 34mm GSX-R Mikuni carbies on Z1000J inlet manifold.
- IGNITION – Boyer electronic
- EXHAUST – Custom stainless with Roo Racing carbon fibre mufflers
- CLUTCH – Barnett kevlar
- GEARBOX – Standard Z900 Kawasaki
- CHASSIS – Z900 Kawasaki heavily braced & gusseted, all original welds re-done, completely de-dagged
- FRONT END – 43mm GSX-R Suzuki forks, Honda NSR wheel, CBR 400RR discs, Yamaha FZR 1000 calipers mounted on custom caliper mounts. Goodridge Kevlar brake lines
- REAR END – Honda NSR single sided swingarm, Suzuki RGV 250cc Shock absorber, Honda VFR 400 rear brake
- BODYWORK – One-piece carbon fibre with self supporting seat and fuel tank
- COSMETICS – Nickel plated chassis, Extensive chroming & polishing