Kawasaki KZ650 Cafe Racer by Toby Jones

Kawasaki KZ650 Cafe Racer

Here at BikeBound, we’re always on the look out for KZ650 customs.  These “Sons of the Z1” always surprise with their rev-happy motors and eagerness to lie flat in the corners.

Rick Brown, who runs recon for the blog, met the owner of this KZ650 cafe racer, Toby Jones of OtC Custom Motorcycles, at the Destination Eustis Vintage Motorcycle Show last month, put on by VJMC (Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club). The bike immediately with the red/gray color combo of the old 8N Ford tractors. This is a true garage-built custom, showing what guys and girls at home can do with some hard work and careful mods.

We’ll let Toby give you the details on his build, who tells it better than we ever could.

KZ650C Cafe Racer:  In the Builder’s Words


(With our highlights in bold.)

I was diggin’ through Craigslist one morning lookin’ for a midsize Honda four to build. I had just wrapped up a CB200T cafe build and, although it was a ball to ride around town, I was lookin’ for something that would do some highway time.

Came across a sad lookin’ KZ650C. The cat said it had a hole in the #4 piston and he was willing to deal. Remembered these bikes from years ago as being the baby Z-1 that guys bought when their budget or insurance company couldn’t quite handle the big bike. I knew the bike would have to be completely gone through, but it did have some good features. It was really cheap, it had a cool old Vance and Hines 4 into one, it had Dyna S ignition and coils, it was a C model with dual front discs and did I mention it was really cheap?


I really dig the cafe racer look, but most of the cool ones are really slender and light looking, kinda like a Greyhound dog. Well there ain’t really nothin’ slender and light lookin’ about these old KZ650s. I decided from the start of the project that this one was gonna have more of an “old bull dog” look and I think we pulled it off.

The bike was torn completely down and the engine got new pistons, rings and a valve job to freshen up the top end. After the usual countless hours of cleaning, sanding, polishing and everything else involved in making a 39 year old bike decent again I decided to go a little different direction with the color scheme. I grew up in a farm community and always liked the red and gray color combination on the old 8N Ford tractors so I applied red urethane to the frame, swing arm, battery box and other assorted stuff.

Ford 8N Tractor
Ford 8N: Toby’s inspiration for the color scheme.

The Dime City Cycles Bugeye seat and cats eye tail light combo got the nod and it, the tank and modified Sportster front fender were shot with a custom mix gray. The seat base, tank and fender were then given a pair of black stripes and red highlight pin stripes. Suncoast Upholstery stitched up the seat cover.

The stock gauges and handlebar setup on these 70s Kawasaki bikes look like something, well, out of the 70s. I chose a sweet 2 1/2” speedo, a set of drag bars and fabricated a bracket with four pilot lights to clean up the controls. On the suspension and safety side I installed new trick shocks and stainless brake hoses.


The build took about three months to complete and everything (aside from the upholstery and valve job) was done right here in my garage. Now I’m just gonna enjoy the ride for a while. Just want to let y’all know that, like myself, while you may not be able to put together a show stopper like ya’ see in the magazines, with some careful mods and goodies you can do a sweet little scooter that will turn some heads and be a blast to ride.

-Toby Jones

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