Butchered Classics: Moriwaki Tribute!

 

Moriwaki Tribute

“Looks that take you right back to 1981 and a powerplant that even Wayne Gardner would’ve been happy with…”

Moriwaki Engineering is one of the great names in motorcycle racing, closely entwined with the success of several well-known riders, most notably the great Wayne Gardner — World GP500 Champion. Founder Mamoru Moriwaki began his career as a racer for the legendary Hideo “Pops” Yoshimura in the 1960s, and taught himself mechanical engineering out of books borrowed from the local high school.

Moriwaki Kawasaki Tribute

In 1973, Mamoru founded Moriwaki Engineering in Suzuka City, Japan, and began making a name for himself building engines and frames for the mighty Kawasaki Z1. The Moriwaki Kawasakis competed successfully against the full factory-backed teams in the Australian Superbike championships and the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race. At a race outside Melbourne in 1981, a bold young Aussie rider named Wayne Gardner manage to catch Mamoru’s attention:

“I was at Sandown Raceway racing for Peter Malloy. The weather was looking dodgy so we fitted wets, thinking if it rained we’d win. But it didn’t and I finished 13th, so we packed-up and locked the bike away in the van. It then started raining heavily and the unlimited class race was about to start, I wanted to get out there, but Pete was upstairs having a beer. I broke into the van, stole the bike, went out for the race and won by half a lap. Pete went mad until I gave him the trophy. Moriwaki saw me win and it led to them running me at Daytona against Freddie Spencer. I finished fourth.” –Wayne Gardner, 2016 MCN interview

Moriwaki Kawasaki Tribute

Together, Gardner and Moriwaki would beat the factory teams at Suzuka, take that impressive fourth place at the ’81 Daytona Superbike race, and finished third in the British Superbike standings that year — results that paved the way for Wayne Gardner’s illustrious career in Gran Prix racing.

Moriwaki Kawasaki Tribute
Wayne Gardner on his Moriwaki Kawasaki at Daytona

Moriwaki would work closely with Honda Racing Corporation in the 1980s, run a MotoGP team from 2003-2005, and Toni Elias would win the inaugural Moto2 title on a Moriwaki-framed machine. More recently Moriwaki joined with HRC to run a Honda Fireblade in World Superbike.

Moriwaki MD211VF "Dream Fighter" MotoGP bike
Moriwaki MD211VF “Dream Fighter” MotoGP bike

Enter our friend Dave Solomon, the mad Englishman behind Butchered Classics:

“A Facebook page that pays homage to all motorcycles registered 1990 or before with any modifications whatsoever from mild to completely wild.”

Dave is well-known for displeasing purists (and thrilling the rest of us) with his vintage Kawasaki and Honda superbikes, running Bandit 1200 engines, and then there’s his Spondon turbo and Spondon Hayabusa — machines whose front tires never wear out. But forty years ago, as a chubby eleven-year-old, Dave found his first love in the pages of a Motorcycle News:

“Turning the pages I came across an Australian guy riding his Japanese-built motorcycle with a full Japanese support team at the Oliver’s Mount road race circuit near Scarborough. The reporter’s description had me hooked, and the black and white pictures were real action shots of this massive motorcycle being wheelied out of corners, making the competition seem just irrelevant!”

Moriwaki Kawasaki Tribute
Wayne Gardner at Oliver’s Mount

Of course, that Aussie rider was none other than Wayne Gardner, and he was riding a matte-blue Moriwaki Kawasaki — the same bike he would ride to third place in the British championship that year, missing his shot at the title when an engine misfire put out of the season’s final race.

“We jump four decades and whilst I was waiting for services/parts for other builds, a frame comes up for sale — it’s a GPz1100 Unitrak frame that’s been butchered to a degree that it’s completely useless to anyone, but was so cheap I just had to have it. Then just like fate was playing a hand, the worst 1200 Bandit I’d ever seen came up for sale on a popular auction site — it had been stood a year and looked so bad that even I thought, don’t, just don’t. But I did, and I ended up being the new owner of the cheapest 1200 Bandit ever.”

Moriwaki Kawasaki

Soon, Dave realized he had the ingredients for a Moriwaki homage on his hands — a bike he’d put together with just £1600:

“A Moriwaki-themed build built on the lowest budget ever in a three-month time frame — looks that take you right back to 1981 and a powerplant that even Wayne Gardner would’ve been happy with back in the day. But I think, more importantly, a frame has been saved from going to the junkyard and an eyesore 1200 Suzuki Bandit has been recycled from an ugly duckling into a beautiful and noisy Swan!”

Below, we get the full story on the build straight from the man himself.

Moriwaki Kawasaki Homage: In the Builder’s Words

Moriwaki Kawasaki

It was spring 1981 and I was a mere eleven years old. My elder brother was British bike mad and determined that I should follow the enlightened path of oil leaks and white knuckle vibrations that only a 1977 Triumph Bonneville can supply. He’d take me on the back of his T140V to keep my interest alive, but one day he made the fatal mistake of bringing home a Motorcycle News from the local paper shop. Once he’d read it, I was handed it and told “check out the bikes in this.” I withdrew to my bedroom and flicked through the massive pages on a quest to find my dream motorcycle.

Turning the pages I came across an Australian guy riding his Japanese-built motorcycle with a full Japanese support team, riding the Oliver’s Mount road race circuit near Scarborough. The reporter’s description had me hooked, and the black and white pictures were real action shots of this massive motorcycle being wheelied out of corners, making the competition seem just irrelevant!

Wayne Gardner at Oliver’s Mount

The rider in question was Mr. Wayne Gardner and the Japanese motorcycle was a Kawasaki Z1000, which had been stripped and rebuilt by the technicians at Moriwaki Engineering to create one awesome machine — and more thankfully, one truly awesome memory for one chubby eleven year old in April 1981. When telling my friends at school the next day, it was like I was talking a different language…but i was hooked.

Wayne Gardner at Daytona in 1981

We jump four decades and whilst waiting for services/parts for other builds a frame comes up for sale — it’s a GPz1100 Unitrak frame that’s been butchered to a degree that it’s completely useless to anyone, but was so cheap I just had to have it. Then just like fate was playing a hand, the worst 1200 Bandit I’d ever seen came up for sale on a popular auction site — it had been stood a year and looked so bad that even I thought, don’t, just don’t. But I did, and I ended up being the new owner of the cheapest 1200 Bandit ever.

The cheapest 1200 Bandit ever…

It was at that point I knew the direction I was heading. A Z1000h tank was purchased and that, along with a mk2 tail section and front guard, was sent along to Chris Davison to apply the Moriwaki themed paint in matte blue. Meanwhile, Wayne Kirby was welding the top shock mounts on the Unitrak frame and fitting the billet alloy lower mounts as well. Tony Garnham-Parks from Complete Cafe Racer supplied the rear YSS shocks and even offered to make some bespoke decals to clarify this is no Moriwaki build, but a ButcheredClassics.com “homage” to a great era of Japanese road racing in the UK.

Moriwaki Kawasaki

Tim Dudley of TD Trimmings fame completely created the seat from a fibreglass base I supplied, and the whole bike was coming together nicely on an incredibly low budget. In fact, a new steering stem was donated by the boys at Burlow Engineering and James Rogers even fabricated my link pipe for free (it’s nice to have great mates)!

Moriwaki Kawasaki

So what have i ended up with?

A Moriwaki-themed build built on the lowest budget ever in a three-month time frame — looks that take you right back to 1981 and a powerplant that even Wayne Gardner would’ve been happy with back in the day. But I think, more importantly, a frame has been saved from going to the junkyard and an eyesore 1200 Suzuki Bandit has been recycled from an ugly duckling into a beautiful and noisy Swan!

Moriwaki Kawasaki

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One Comment

  1. This is a great story! And, I love ALL your other builds, too!

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