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kawasaki restomod

Restomods – love 'em or hate 'em?

(Travels with Guido series #361, September 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

You don't have to follow in the factory’s footsteps

They're not to everyone's taste and they probably won't match the value of a factory resto, but I can’t help admitting to a bit of a weakness for a good restomod. In other words, a period-sympathetic build, but updates to some areas, most often brakes and suspension.

To me it makes sense, but the purists among us may be horrified that the opportunity to revive a factory-correct version has been missed. Does it matter?

I could understand some sense of outrage if a really nicely-preserved example of an iconic classic was cut and shut for a restomod. Yep, in that case it might be a bit of history being cut up for no good reason.

However there are plenty of projects out in sheds across the country where the end result is the proverbial grand-dad's axe – it’s been in the family for decades and only the head and handle have been changed! My favourite cynical comment on this phenomenon is someone once telling me, “some of these people would restore a bike from an oil stain”.

So when it comes to preservation versus restomod, I reckon in a lot of cases it’s no great loss if the proverbial shed-find bike that’s in a sad way ends up taking a bit of a detour. To my way of thinking, it potentially adds to the whole culture and provides the rest of us with a little entertainment and perhaps inspiration.

kawasaki z1 restomod

A couple of examples popped up on the radar recently. One is a 1975 Kawasaki Z1B that emerged on Facebook marketplace. I have no idea what state it was in when found, but it’s a fair guess to say it wasn’t great, since the owner/builder/seller mentions getting all-new bodywork (including a Z1A tank) for the thing.

Most obvious are the changes to forks, brakes, wheels and rear end. The swingarm is off a ZRX1100, while the rear shocks are modern twin piggyback units. A Suzuki Bandit donated the forks and wheels, while the front brakes are six-spotters that were common to the ZRX series and a few other models of the period.

That lot is backed up with some really nice detail work and I reckon the thing looks a treat. Is it worth the Au$17,500 being asked? Not sure, but I suspect it cost all of that or more to build it and I’d happily stump up if the cash were floating about.

ducati 750gt

The next is what started out as a basket-case 1974 Ducati 750GT. This one popped up for sale on Iconic Motorbike Auctions in the USA. Most obvious (and sensible) is the update to relatively modern four-spotter Brembo front brakes.

However there are a host of styling touches that are factory design cues without actually producing a factory bike. They include the ‘Z’ stripe on the fuel tank and the curved Conti pipes. The colour choice is of course from a later 900SS.

ducati 750 gt tank

Most intriguing is the fly cast into the sight panel on one side of the fuel tank. According to the listing, it is “a tribute to the California Hot Rod (Old Blue), which had an actual fly cast into the tank when it first arrived for Cook Neilson and Phil Schilling to compete with, eventually winning the 1977 Daytona Superbike race."

This one didn’t sell at first attempt, and got a top bid of US$16,800 (Au$23,000). As with the Kawasaki, you’re buying a conversation piece as much as a motorcycle. The only downside I can see is it’s a far more powerful statement when you’re the one who built or commissioned it.

Speaking of builds, my own attempt at something along these lines has made no real progress – yet. It’s a 1995 VFR750 with trashed bodywork, which I’m planning to kit out as a kind of RC30 variant. It’s been done before and I have a set of replica bodywork sitting in the shed.

Yamaha FZR1000

My excuse so far has been I had an FZR1000 Yamaha project to finish first, but that’s now more or less complete – aside from the braided steel brake lines that I’m waiting for.

The VFR is a runner (or was a couple of years ago when I bought it) and cost a mere $1100. In fact the replacement bodywork cost as much if not a little more! My thinking is not to go too literal on the RC30 replica idea, but come up with an interesting-looking variant. I know there are going to be lots of fiddly and frustrating little challenges along the way. Wish us luck…



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