The Kawasaki KZ400 was an air-cooled twin built from 1974-1980 out of plants in Akashi, Japan and Lincoln, Nebraska — the first foreign motorcycle factory on U.S. soil. In 1974, it was marketed alongside the VW Beetle with a smile-inducing tagline:
“Think even smaller.”
Enter Jason Green and his father Alan, the two-man team behind Washington State’s Classic Moto Works. Says Jason:
“I was born in South Africa and moved to the United States to follow my dream of building and restoring vintage motorcycles.”
The owner of this ’77 KZ400 had a vision for a black, mean-looking street scrambler. Jason and his father tore down the bike and rebuilt it from the ground up, including a full engine rebuild, Mikuni carbs, custom subframe, upgraded ignition, bobbed fenders, new rims, and much more.
We especially appreciate the depth of this build, the level of execution, and the desire to make the bike look like something that could have rolled out of the Lincoln plant in some alternate universe:
“We wanted…to give the bike the feeling that it was made by Kawasaki themselves.”
Below, we get more details from builder Jason Green of Classic Moto Works.
Kawasaki KZ400 Street Scrambler: Builder Interview
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop?
My name is Jason Green and I have been building, restoring vintage motorcycles for the last 10 years. I was born in South Africa and moved to the United States to follow my dream of building and restoring vintage motorcycles. I work in a team with my father Alan Green. We have built and restored a number of motorcycles over the years and he has taught me everything I know. We now have a shop we opened up in the Tri-cities of Washington State, USA called Classic Moto Works.
What’s the make/model/year of the bike?
The bike is 1977 Kawasaki KZ400 and belongs to Anthony Lopez out of Spokane, WA.
What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The customer approached me with a few ideas that he found on Google and asked me to build him something that was black in design and had a mean-looking appearance to it.
He also wanted to have some capabilities to take the bike off road hence why we went with a street scrambler design. I always like the look of a Triumph scrambler and that gave me some ideas to apply to this build.
What custom work was done to the bike?
The build was a complete tear down from the ground up.
The engine was completely rebuilt. New rings, cam chain, cam guides, oil seals, gaskets, and the engine was vapor honed and side covers hand polished.
Mikuni VM30 carburetors with Uni Pod filters were added.
The sub frame was reduced by about a half afoot to add the hoop and flush-mounted LED taillight with integrated blinkers and brat style seat.
The gas tank was lined with epoxy gas liner and sent to paint along with the side covers to be painted in a black pearl with chrome decals.
The ignition was upgraded to a Charlie’s electronic ignition with a Dynatek coil.
The rear fender was cut so we could reuse the duckbill fender as an iconic sign to vintage Kawasakis of that era as well as having it powder coated with the front forks and headlight brackets. We also raised the rear by fitting an inch and half longer rear shocks to the bike to give us more clearance and an aggressive stance.
A new headlight and bucket were bought with a mesh grill to achieve the scrambler look we were going for on this build as well as the sleek-looking LED turn signals used to hold the headlight onto the headlight brackets.
The wheels were stripped and the hubs where powder coated black and then relaced and trued with new spokes and aluminum Sun rims.
The exhaust was wrapped in a black wrap and we kept the vintage-style megaphone exhaust tips and just removed some of the packing from the baffles to give it more of a bark.
The stock gauges were kept and we restored them, as we wanted to reuse them to give the bike the feeling that it was made by Kawasaki themselves.
Does the bike have a nickname?
Around the shop she is known as Black Betty.
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