72 HKG Performance builds a ZR1100…
Introduced in the 1990s, the Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 harked back to the mighty air/oil-cooled four-cylinder monsters of the ’70s and early ’80s — a time when riders like Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, and Wes Cooley were dueling it out on naked 1025cc superbikes.
The ZR1100 had twin rear shocks, conventional forks, and a big 1062cc inline four engine — hallmarks of the legendary progenitor of the Zed series:
“What if Kawasaki had never stopped developing its legendary Z-1, that 903cc powerhouse introduced in 1973? What if motorcycle development had never taken a turn toward the racetrack, and sport bikes had never sprouted single shock rear suspensions and upside down forks. If that were the case, we’d all be riding bikes like the one shown here, the 1993 Kawasaki ZR1100.” —Cycle World
Recently, we heard from our friends Antonio and Gorge of Spain’s 72 HKG Performance — a duo who’ve combined their talents and expertise from two different well-established shops — 72 Cycles Performance and Hell’s Kitchen Garage — to build unique custom motorcycles:
“The best of all is to create bikes with your buddy, and build one bike and only one for a unique person. Sometimes we think different, but that’s the way to enlarge the final result!”
Just last month, we showcased their BMW R80 “Sekhmet” build, which created quite a flurry of interest, and now the duo is back with their most recent build, the Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 you see here.
They met the owner, Bodes, while buying a 1973 Mercedes W114 from him in Pamplona. As it turned out, Bodes had commissioned another workshop to transform the Kawasaki but wasn’t satisfied with the result — so he asked Antonio and Gorge to give it a shot.
“We wanted something with sporty details, but not excess, with that ‘Japanese’ character of the ’80s mixing with the purest Endurance aesthetics of the ’70s, and some more modern parts.”
The most striking feature of the build is the custom fairing — an entirely handmade piece, which had to be big enough to surround the big 1062cc engine. Out back, they modified a generic tail unit to work, saddling it with a brown leather and chocolate alcantara seat courtesy of Senen Leatherworks.
The bike is now rolling on Aprilia 19/17″ spoked wheels, multi-adjustable Hagon shock absorbers, and the original conventional forks have been upgraded with progressive Hagon springs. While the aesthetics of the bike hark back to the 1970s, the bike is mostly modern behind the scenes, featuring Motogadget electronics, LED lighting, hidden wiring, and keyless ignition.
Nicknamed “Shōzō” after Kawasaki Shōzō, the shipbuilder and industrialist who founded Kawasaki in 1878, this 1100cc Zephyr is a two-wheeled ticket to another time:
“I was born in 1972, so I grew up with the sound of these air and oil-cooled four cylinders. Every time we start one, a chill travels up my back, and when I ride it, it’s a beautiful trip to the past.”
Below, we talk to Antonio and Gorge for the full details on “Shōzō.”
Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 Custom: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
We start around 13 years ago as two different brands, 72 Cycles Performance and Hell’s Kitchen Garage. We met at a bike show, became friends, and decided to work together after the pandemic! We are 72 HKG Performance now. The best of all is to create bikes with your buddy, and build one bike and only one for a unique person. Sometimes we think different, but that’s the way to enlarge the final result!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 from 1992.
• Why was this bike built?
We went to Pamplona to buy a Mercedes W114 from 1973. Bodes is passionate about cars and motorcycles. We ended up buying his beautiful classic Mercedes, and he told us he had a Kawasaki that someone had tried to transform, but that he didn’t use it, because he wasn’t satisfied with the result. When he saw our work, he asked us for help with his Kawa and we were delighted to make a motorcycle for him, so we started the Shozo project.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
We had several conversations with Bodes before starting the project. We usually have very direct contact with our clients, especially at the beginning of the project, to absorb all the information we need and build a bike that suits their style as much as possible. We wanted something with sporty details, but not excess, with that “Japanese” character of the ’80s mixing with the purest Endurance aesthetics of the 70’s, and some more modern parts.
We gave many approaches to the color scheme and decided on an energetic color, but not aggressive, which surrounds the entire fairing, which we had to build by hand, and a large screen to complete the project.
Single-seat saddle, manufactured by Senen Leatherworks, in brown leather and chocolate-colored alcantara, fits like a glove in that huge tail.
We were clear about the spoked rims; we looked for ones with tangential spokes and the Aprilia ones seemed spectacular to us to achieve that classic image. A 19″ rim at the front with a 17″ at the rear, wide tires, multi-adjustable Hagon shock absorbers, and we left the conventional fork, although we changed the springs for progressive ones.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
We spent more than 200 hours just on the aesthetic part of this project. We had to manufacture a large fairing, which would adapt to the dimensions of the four cylinders in line with 1100 cc! It is a very wide engine and we wanted the proportions with respect to the screen to be correct. The dome is 56 cm wide and we had to make it because there are no such dimensions.
We were able to adapt the tail from a generic model that we found on the Modeliko page in Spain. Joan helped us so that we could modify what we had. We wanted the whole set to make sense; we didn’t want randomly placed parts — the bike had to have a defined line from the front to the license plate, and I think we got it.
Those who follow us know that we like elegant motorcycles, but with that scoundrel touch. We are looking for simple, clean motorcycles, with elements of previous generations, but not boring.
Shozo has, in its interior, technology such as a Motogadget m unit blue, LED lighting, and detailed structural work to hide the wiring, switchboard, and all the elements the motorcycle needs to work — and like most of our projects, it works without keys.
The bike has Hagon gas suspensions 1 cm longer than those of the original, Hagon fork springs, Brembo brakes, and dual Akrapovic exhaust lines that sound like heavenly music!
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Shozo!! The founder of Kawasaki Heavy Industries!!
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
We checked out some numbers. The bike is about 13 kilograms [29 pounds] lighter, but I can’t be sure of the other numbers.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
I was born in 1972, so I grew up with the sound of these air and oil-cooled four cylinders. Every time we start one, a chill travels up my back, and when I ride it, it’s a beautiful trip to the past. It is not the fastest motorcycle, nor does it have the best brakes, but I assure you that when you accelerate, you catapult very fast to 80!
It is comfortable, stable with the upgraded suspension and low center of gravity, and you feel part of it. The seat is small, but it leaves you space not to feel encased, and the fairing is enveloping, protecting you from the wind problems and allowing you to listen to the engine. Not everyone understands it, but they will when they smell the gasoline of the four carburetors with direct filters.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I think we’re always proud of our projects — we all have part of ourselves and part of the client in our work. Shozo came from a bad job. The client did not believe in people like us, that we can create unique motorcycles for someone, and we have made him believe — in fact, he wants another motorcycle!
It may seem strange to you, but we really like the color; we thought about another color scheme, but at the last moment we decided on that light blue, with brushed aluminum and that white line that separates them — we love it!
Follow the Builder: @72hkgperformance