Today, we’re excited to present “Innuendo,” a 1996 Kawasaki ZR550B Zephyr from Retro Bikes Croatia. Located in Zagreb, RBC builds bikes “distinctive and irreplaceable, with original retro style but always usable on the road.” This ZR550 cafe racer build immediately leapt out at us with its Ducati-style fairing and that beautiful Z-style tail with brown leather seat. This is truly a distinctive build, built on an underused platform, making for one special combo.
We will let founder Zeljko explain the rest.
ZR550 “Innuendo” in The Builder’s Words
The bike was purchased as an ordinary 550 Zephyr, with luggage racks, original double seat, engine guards, like the ones that we see somewhere in the city and don’t pay too much attention to. It was in very good mechanical condition, with known owners and service history so it was a good base to work with. I always thought that the Zephyr was something special, after all those plastic racers that ruled in the ’90s, Zephyr was that old-school, back to the roots bike. As we know, it turned that they were not so good in a few things, like rust, but we decided to give it a go cause it had potential in our mind.
We wanted to give it a vintage, old-school look, so we decided to go with a ’70s Ducati style half fairing in front and a ’70s Kawa Z tail and make it a one seater. It had to have clip ons and a different riding position than it’s creators imagined. So the plan was made and we went in that direction.
The biggest job was to make a fairing holder, so it would do the job properly but not be visible. We had to make our own “dash” with only the necessary. Also, the rear frame was reshaped to accommodate an old Kawasaki Z tail, it had to look like it’s always there, and the one off seat upholstered in genuine leather.
The stock suspension was very soft, so new and firmer rear shocks were fitted along with progressive fork springs so the bike handles excellent now.
The engine was in good state with 55k km but had a tiny oil leak at the cylinder base gasket. It’s pretty common on this engines so the upper end had a new set of gaskets along with the head and valve job, all rubber parts, valve seals, chain guides, few shims and so on. The engine had an oil and filter change, new spark plugs and covers, new screws on the valve and clutch covers. Also, the carbs were generally cleaned and fitted with new set of gaskets and new screws. We decided to keep the original configuration with the stock airbox and side panels, cause Zephyr doeesn’t have a nice frame so in combination with the half fairing and the Z tail, we thought it would look better with side panels.
The exhaust is 4-into-1, shorter than the stock one, painted in black and pipewrapped. Front forks were generally overhauled, with new progressive springs and new oil, seals and wipers. The brakes were generally inspected and cleaned and fitted with new oil and steel-braided hoses, front and rear. New front and rear rubbers are fitted, all bearings and grease seals were changed also.
Considering that this bike is greatly newer than the ones we’re used to work with, the electrics were in great state, we adjusted few components so the mini led blinkers and rear led tail light would work properly.
- The frame, wheels, fork legs, swing arm were powder coated, some stuff in satin gloss black and some in matte black.
- The paint is a deep satin gloss black which looks great with that brown leather on the seat.
- All in all, we wanted to achieve that different look on a classic Zephyr, make it look older and more vintage and retro.
This bike is registered and road-legal, and it’s currently for sale through RBC. Below is their contact information, or you can email them directly.
- Contact Retro Bikes Croatia: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Web
- Photography Credit: One Day Studio