“You’ve spotted the turbo then?”
These were the unforgettable words heard by our friend Dave Solomon of Butchered Classics as he stood outside his local Kawasaki bike shop at the impressionable age of 11 years old, ogling a lime green Z1000mk2 “Kermit the Frog” bike that would change his life. Until then, young Dave had been a “closet Japanese fan,” as his older brothers were diehard Triumph lovers and wouldn’t have their younger sibling praising anything but pure British machinery.
However, Dave couldn’t get the mighty Kawa out of his head, and he and a friend soon hatched a plan to eschew their evening at the arcade in favor of tracking down the boosted Zed among Cheltenham’s beer gardens:
“There were bikes everywhere — black rubbery circles in the road and engines being revved most immaturely. Then out of nowhere I saw ‘my’ Kermit the Frog bike pull out from the side of the road, and along with his buddy on his CBX turbo, wheelie the length of the promenade (seemed like miles back then)…it was at that point I came outta the closet!!”
Fast forward nearly 40 years, and Dave has just completed his 18th build under the Butchered Classics name, and it’s the one most closely tied to that mighty Zed turbo:
“Number eighteen is not a rush build, nor is it a cheap build! It’s been created in the mind of a twelve-year-old boy with no money back in the day…. This bike had no such limitations — in fact, I’ve been planning this build for over three decades!”
Highlights include an aluminum Z1R tank and tail, polished Suzuki TL1000R swingarm, Aprilia Shiver wheels, Öhlins USD forks, Z1000 engine with forged pistons and turbo cams, a one-off turbo system from “King of Boost” Dave Dunlop of Fast By Me Turbo Systems — and more!
“All in all, a great team effort to build a bike that was a dream of a chubby twelve year old back in 1981…and all because of Kermit the bloody Frog!”
Below, Dave gives us the full story in his signature style!
KZ1000 Turbo: In the Builder’s Words…
My early teenage years were spent in a household with older brothers who could not see past the two-wheeled life of British motorcycles, mainly Triumphs, and I was encouraged from an early age that British motorcycles were the only option. Of course, we’d watch Barry Sheene riding Japanese bikes to victory and the likes of Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Freddie Spencer and of course Wes Cooley brought an international flavour to racing, which the British road racing fan was just getting to grips with…just for now we’ll call these folks “legends.”
Many a sunny Saturday afternoon would be spent in the early eighties with a friend or two at our local Kawasaki dealership where on entry I’d walk past all the lovely 1000cc Kawasakis and get straight to the back of the shop to see what latest Triumphs had been brought in; it was like I had blinkers on when going in, never looked left or right just straight to the Triumphs, so later in the day I could inform my brother and hope to gain praise. Leaving the shop was always a bit different — I’d have a wandering eye on the lovely Z900’s as well as the newly launched GPz1100b2. I knew at that point at the tender age of 11 years old I was a “closet Japanese fan.”
It was this very shop where it happened…. On exiting the shop, outside was a group of lads — in their late teens, I’d say — stood around their bikes just chatting and doing stuff lads do, and my friend spotted the one bike had a Kermit the Frog painted on it, which made him chuckle and prompted me for a reaction. We both stood looking at this lime Green Z1000mk2 for about 20 seconds when one lad shouted out to us, “You’ve spotted the turbo then?” Truth be known, we hadn’t. Truth be known, we wouldn’t know a turbocharger if it fell off a rooftop and hit us both square on the head…. However, we just smirked stupidly and walked off — just made up that the bigger lads had spoken to us!
I got home later that day and told my brother about this Kermit the Frog bike and he just replied, “that’s the one with the turbo!” It seemed the bike was famous — I mean he never recognised any motorcycle unless it was made in the UK! Monday at school and the lad I was with was already telling the other kids about our encounter, whereupon another classmate said he’d also seen the bike at the local meet being wheelied up Cheltenham’s finest tree-lined promenade one summer’s evening. We agreed to put off our Space Invaders evening at the local arcade and instead venture a bit farther into town to where the bikes were all hanging out…the beer gardens! There were bikes everywhere — black rubbery circles in the road and engines being revved most immaturely. Then out of nowhere I saw “my” Kermit the Frog bike pull out from the side of the road, and along with his buddy on his CBX turbo, wheelie the length of the promenade (seemed like miles back then)…it was at that point I came outta the closet!!
Number eighteen is not a rush build, nor is it a cheap build! It’s been created in the mind of a twelve-year-old boy with no money back in the day and no capability either. The concept has grown with me as I grew older; the idea was to build a motorcycle most can dream of — it’s not about practicality or even how fast it goes, it’s about filling that void in my life that I knew I needed to fill…in a world where I can build a motorcycle with all the wrong parts including the motor in three months and within a budget of $2K, this bike had no such limitations — in fact, I’ve been planning this build for over three decades!
A frame was sourced. It wasn’t perfect but it didn’t need to be. It hung in my shed until the idea started to materialise and the bike took shape in my head.
I knew I wanted a Z1R tank, and whilst searching, I just happened to see Kev Kent was experimenting with making an aluminium tank for a Z1R — he said he had no use for it, but just fancied having a go (like ya do) — a deal was done and the tank was being created for me.
The conversations went back and forth and he said he liked the idea of making a copy of the mk2 tail section in alloy also…who am I to argue?! He was left to his own devices, and now I had to project manage the build.
Suzuki’s TL1000R V-twin arm was made to fit the Kawasaki frame quite easily with a few bearing swaps, and an RSVR pair of forks were purchased. Realising the common mistake most make when fitting USD forks, I had them stripped and serviced and whilst apart the tops were given to Murray English who extended the caps by 50mm.
Meanwhile the frame and I went to visit Mr Wayne Kirby — I’ve used him on most my builds and told him of my ideas and what would look great and what I actually needed doing. Within a few weeks, he’d welded the alloy billet shock mounts on the swingarm, relocated the top mounts, scalloped the frame to allow the chain run after fitting a wider rear tyre as well as other stuff I’d never even thought of — I’d be lost without him!
The gentlemen at Burlow Engineering, Mark Eavers and Neill Curtis, politely offered to create some beautiful one-off steering yokes (triple trees for our American cousins) and they didn’t disappoint — true craftmanship and a joy to behold. I followed these being created every step of the way and it was magical…Mark is like a god with yokes!
A contact on the Butcheredclassics.com page messaged me about a motor he had for sale, initially built for supercharger use so it already had forged pistons. The motor was bought and sent to Tim Blakemore Racing for a top end refresh along with some new Kent turbo cams.
The frame was sent off for powder-coating and the rebuild began. Once the swingarm was returned from metal polishers RK Wadleys in Worcester, it was slotted back in place. The Aprilia Shiver wheels with their new sparkly gold paint were fitted into the swingarm and Öhlins forks, and the motor slotted into the freshly powder-coated frame…I was on my way!
The whole bike was transported to the “KING of BOOST,” Dave Dunlop, who owns Fast By Me Turbo Systems. He personally fabricated a one-off system for my build that fits like a glove — the attention to detail is amazing! The bike was returned with all hoses, clips, pipes etc…in fact, it was ready to run!!
I got the bike home and started to wire up the electrics. Jon Pullara from Digital Speedos offered help with supplying parts. I’ve used him before and he’s never let me down with an after sales service that no one else I use can match. He supplied the GPS speedo and the fish-eye headlight in the number board at minimal cost.
Like perfect timing, as all this was coming together, I got the message that the bodywork was ready — I really couldn’t believe what a man in his shed could achieve — it really is a work of art, so much so when going for paint I asked chief painter Tony Garnham-Parks to show as much of the alloy as possible. He agreed it would be criminal to hide the beautiful work of Mr. Kent and the Z1R-TC graphics were lovingly painted on, etched clear over the alloy…
…and the eighteenth Butchered Classic was completed!
All in all, a great team effort to build a bike that was a dream of a chubby twelve year old back in 1981…and all because of Kermit the bloody Frog!