Few motorcycles have the long and varied history of the Kawasaki KZ1000. Known as the Z1000 outside North America, the big air-cooled inline four debuted in 1977, and the police model would remain in continuous production until 2005. During the bike’s heyday, legends like Pops Yoshimura, Freddie Spencer, and others fielded winning KZ1000s in AMA Superbike and other championships. What’s more, the KZ1000 made its away onto TV and movie screens across the globe. Jon and Ponch from the original CHiPs TV show rode KZ1000 police models, while fourteen of the bikes in the original Mad Max (1979) were KZ1000s donated by an Australian Kawasaki dealer.
Enter the team of Nova Motorcycles, founded in 2013 by Sayre Anthony and Pete Chilton. Sayre, whose mother was a European car mechanic, cut his teeth at Brooklyn-based vintage Grand Prix motorcycle racing team Team Obsolete. Pete, meanwhile, grew up in a family of builders and woodworkers and spent thirteen years in the music industry, where he toured and played with hardcore punk legend Bane before leaving the industry to pursue a career in design.
The 1980 KZ1000 you see here came into the shop with worn shift forks. When the decision was made for a rebuild, the client upped the ante with a request to retrofit a swinger from a 2004 ZX-6R. The retrofits and upgrades continued from there, and soon the crew had this full-fledged custom KZ1000 on their hands.
Below, we get the full story on the build.
Kawasaki KZ1000 Custom: In the Builder’s Words
(Words by Peter Chilton.)
We would like to submit our 1980 KZ1000. A complete revamp of a very rough running bike that rolled into the shop making “funny noises” from the transmission. A commissioned build for our client John P. that expanded from a repair job into a full custom build.
That funny noise turned out to be worn shift forks so the decision was made to rebuild everything. Wiseco high compression thin ring pistons were added to boost the power from stock.
The client had done some research online and found that a 2004 ZX6 swing arm can be retrofitted into the stock KZ1000 frame. We designed the mono-shock frame trellis and added stiffness overall to the subframe to counteract larger and stickier tires.
We converted the front end to a 2005 ZX636R unit for improved handling and braking power. It rides on a set of Shinko Advance 005 tires.
A Vance& Hines 4-into-1 pipe is hung from a custom hidden bracket.
The rear sets are Tarozzi that have been selectively powder coated in a copper color and anodized flat black.
The stock tank was replaced with a more race-inspired Yamaha XS850 tank. Pinstriped by Ken Jacobs and accented by the powder coated gas cap.
The pinstriping on the rear cowl and front fender mimic the styling of the finned taillight.
All the electronics were redone to incorporate the new Motogadget M-unit Blue with matching mini gauge and switches. A custom-made triple clamp houses the gauges.
The headlight is an aftermarket LED DOT approved lamp and is hung from Nova designed and made headlight ears.
The taillight was custom built to tuck neatly under the custom kevlar-reinforced seat cowl.