“Z Project” – 1981 Kawasaki Z1000ST Custom

In Custom, Japan by Tim Huber0 Comments

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With countless custom motorcycles being turned out every year all over the world it can be hard to create a machine that stands out as unique, but this polarizing Kawasaki “cafe racer” is undeniably just that. A creation of French moto-building duo Sur Les Chapeaux de Roues, (translating roughly to “on the ground running” in French) this build entitled “Z Project”, is a weirdo of a two-wheeler with quite a few mechanical and performance upgrades over the original ’81 Z 1000 ST (shaft transmission) that was the donor for this distinctive custom. Love it or hate it, this is an extremely high quality build.

Starting at the heart of the Z, various changes were made to the powerplant during its rebuild. A 1166cc Wiseco racing kit was introduced along with working the cylinder head with “fatter valves” and the addition of a racing camshaft, all fired up via a new electric ignition. The improved powerplant now inhales through Mikuni carbs and breathes out of a Kerker exhaust that definitely adds character to the build.

Modernizing the handling up front is a fork off a ZX-10R that retains the ’81 Z’s front wheel while the swingarm has been replaced by a unit from a Yamaha XJR1300 (w/ Matris shock) that’s been fitted with an EPM wheel, both wrapped in Avon tires. With a build of this caliber – as you’d expect – Z Project gets some trick bells and whistles in the form of Beringer controls, LSL rearsets, a custom hand-stitched solo-seat and “Motogadget speed control”, (not sure if the seller means instrumentation). Though this may not sound like a big deal, I feel using premium parts in the places where we most frequently physically interact with a motorcycle gives the whole bike and riding experience a more top-shelf feel.

Taking their inspiration from an unreleased Cadillac design from the 1970’s, the guys at “SLCDR” got to work designing the handmade aluminum body, head-fork and “humped seat”. The custom tank is steel but also handmade. Interestingly the machine’s quirky front-end was largely determined by the location of the “oil cooler”, meaning there’s more function to this “cafe build’s” form than first appears.

The paint job on this bike looks fantastic. The main paint digs are made up of masterfully hand painted parallel horizontal lines made up by a gradient of dark blue to turquoise with a few “rogue” lines running across the tail and tank. Said tail and tank also get cool SLCDR logos that look like they were done by (the artist) KAWS. A new engine cover is also engraved with an equally cool “Sur Les Chapeaux de Roues” graffiti-esque typography. Aside from the front wheel, (and rebuilt and seemingly polished engine) the frame was the only part from the donor bike that was left alone so it obviously necessitated fresh paint as any old element would stick out like a sore thumb.

This unconventional Kawasaki finished in 3rd place at the 2016 AMD world championship of custom bike building in the Cafe Racer class along with landing on the cover of (French magazine) Cafe Racer Original’s June 2016 issue. A genuinely cool video about this bike’s creation and builder(s) was put together and is definitely worth a watch.

You can find this professionally built one-off 1981 Z1000ST for sale here on the Bike Shed in Quimperlé, France with the mammoth price of €39,000 or $44,400.

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