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Kawasaki KZ900 Cafe Racer

We first met Jarred Hassell of Excelsior Customs at the Iron & Clematis in West Palm Beach, Florida, last year. Our senior correspondent, Rick Brown — my father — was simply blown away by the KZ900 build Jarred brought to the show, and my phone began blowing up with photos texted directly from the show.  I was similarly enthused and followed up with Jarred, and today we’re thrilled to present “Jericho,” the Kawasaki KZ900 cafe / streetfighter you see here.

The KZ900 (Z900 in many countries) is sometimes known as the “Son of the Z1,” as it replaced that legendary machine in 1976. The Z1 was designed as a “Super-Cruiser” designed to “replace the legendary Vincent HRD of yesteryear.” Though the KZ900 does not sound as sexy as the Z1, many thought the 1976 successor was a superior machine, with a thicker-walled frame, different carburetor design, and various cosmetic changes.

Kawasaki KZ900 Cafe Racer

Jarred is one of those builders who took a leap of faith, leaving an NYC desk job to open his own shop in the Bronx, then moving down to Florida to attend Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. He actually bought this KZ900 while a student at MMI in Orlando. Of the design concept, he says:

“The problem I see with modern bikes is the beauty of the motor is often covered by fairings and plastics. With the dying breed of air cooled Japanese bikes, I wanted to create a bike that has all the functionality and reliability of a modern bike, but the beauty of an exposed vintage motor and frame.”

Below, we interview Jarred for the full story on the build.

“Jericho” KZ900 Cafe / Streetfighter:  Builder Interview

Kawasaki KZ900 Cafe Racer

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

My interest as well as my passion in motorcycles began as a hobby after I graduated college while living in New York. The day I bought my first bike I fell in love with modification along with fabrication. After working a desk job in New York, I realized I was more comfortable working in the shop getting my hands dirty. I quit my desk job and started my business in Bronx, NY. I was fascinated in mechanics and design and created a shop based around my skill set. I moved down to Florida to gain my credentials and further develop my skills and knowledge through school and apprenticeship. After graduating MMI in Orlando, I couldn’t see my business base anywhere else, but Florida. From there I opened up my own shop in Jupiter, FL and continued to design and develop my stylistic view of motorcycles. I currently run a speed and fabrication shop called “Excelsior Customs” where we focus on aftermarket installs as well as custom builds. Currently, my staff and I build custom motorcycles that are tailor-made to customer visions and specifications. We design and produce unique bikes that push the conventional limits of both modern and vintage motorcycles.

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

1976 Kawasaki KZ900 which we call “The Jericho”

• Why was this bike built?

I bought this bike while I was in school in Orlando, FL for a personal café build. I wasn’t sure exactly where this build was headed, but I knew I wanted to create something both different and unique. This build went through several stages. The first stage was a basic resto-mod to bring it back to life. Next we added some stylistic queues to transform the KZ900 into a café racer. Finally, after still feeling unsatisfied with the build, we ended up with a cross breed between café racer and street fighter as the finished product that we coined “The Jericho.”

Kawasaki KZ900 Cafe Racer

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

I always thought vintage Japanese motors were a piece of art because they were designed to be exposed and air cooled. The problem I have with vintage bikes, is mostly reliability and handling. On another note the problem I see with modern bikes is the beauty of the motor is often covered by fairings and plastics. With the dying breed of air cooled Japanese bikes, I wanted to create a bike that has all the functionality and reliability of a modern bike, but the beauty of an exposed vintage motor and frame.

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Primarily, frame modification with a seat hoop fashioned with a custom fiberglass cowl and diamond stitched seat. It is also outfitted with 2006 CBR600RR front forks, triple trees, clip ons, controls as well as mag wheels and performance disc brakes. We finished it off with a modified ZZR600 swing arm with custom brackets for dual progressive coil-over shocks in the mono shock position. Lastly we upgraded to a Dynatek electronic ignition, CR performance race carbs, and a Supertrapp exhaust.

Kawasaki KZ900 Cafe Racer

• How would you classify this bike?

I would classify this bike as a cross between vintage café racer and modern street fighter.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

With every bike I build I take a lot of pride in my electrical work. This bike has a custom harness made specifically for its application. Although it is mostly unseen, I view the wiring harness as the nervous system of a motorcycle and it is one of the most important parts in creating a good reliable build.

Kawasaki KZ900 Cafe Racer

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