The Kawasaki ZX-6, otherwise known as the ZZR600 in Europe, was the brand’s flagship middleweight sports bike of the nineties. When pitted against similar models from other brands the ZZR600 was the faster machine. Opening the throttle wide would result in exhilarating acceleration right up to the anxiety-inducing 14,000rpm redline. But speed wasn’t the only thing the ZZR600 had going for it. It was user friendly enough to be suitable for everyday commuting and comfortable enough for long hauls, and, if you went easy on the throttle, it’d cover 200 miles on a single tank. The ZZR600 been referred to as “one of the best all-around motorcycles ever sold” and even by today’s standards is unlikely to disappoint.
This custom ’93 Kawasaki ZZR600 is a testament to just how appealing this nineties sports classic is. It belongs to a lady named Gina who purchased it as her first bike some 17 years ago. So enamoured has she been with everything the ZZR600 had to offer that she simply never bought another bike. So when the time came to give the bike a well-deserved makeover, she opted for a custom approach with the help of Cool Kid Customs in the Netherlands.
The owner-operator of Cool Kid Customs, Michel Szozda, has been tinkering on motorcycles since he was a kid. About 10 years ago he started getting requests from people to modify their motorcycles so he decided to get serious and turn his passion into a business.
Michel prides himself in creating motorcycles that are unique. He does this by tailoring them to his client’s specific tastes. Together they discuss colours, patterns, styles and shapes that they like to help him piece together an idea in his head. With the trust of his clients, he then jumps headfirst into each build and the results are often unconventional but rarely miss the mark.
“The owner of the ZZR600, Gina, said she ‘Can’t sell a family member’,” jokes Michel. “She wanted something new, so she brought it to us. She wanted to ride a new bike but still keep the old one!”
While discussing the project, Gina told Michel that she still wanted to be able to recognise some of the original shapes of the bike. This meant that completely dispensing with its bodywork was not an option. Then, when they discussed a colour palette, Gina also wanted to retain the original colours. So with a somewhat restrictive brief, Michel got to work modifying the Kawasaki.
It’s clear from the Cool Kid portfolio that Michel’s aesthetic is heavily influenced by the eighties and nineties. He isn’t afraid to use vibrant colours or outlandish patterns. In fact, many of his creations would look right at home in the pages of a Tank Girl comic. Gina’s bike epitomises this approach and although elements of the original ZZR600 are still there, the bike now looks set to blast its way through an anarchic apocalyptic wasteland.
Michel kicked things off by selecting parts of the bodywork that he felt defined the ZZR’s look. The upper sections of the front fairing with their air ducts and angular lines ticked that box. Everything else (aside from the front fender) was flagged for removal.
Originally designed to be concealed beneath plastic bodywork the rear of the frame lacked visual appeal. So it was the next thing to go. In its place, Michel bolted a subframe of his own design, styled to complement the lines of the ZZR.
Integrated into the subframe is a custom made aluminium box which houses the bike’s relocated electrical components. It too was built using styling cues from existing parts of the ZZR600 engine and frame. And tucked in below the kick of the rear hoop there’s custom rear end lighting that uses a LED array for both brake and turn signal duties.
Completing the subframe overhaul is a seat upholstered by Michel’s go to shop, Silver Machine. The slender new saddle sits within the frames rails and the pattern used to stitch itr cleverly mimics the tread pattern on the rear tyre.
As a result of removing the lower half of the fairing, the underside of the engine and all of its previously hidden parts were exposed. Amongst them were several visually undesirable elements leaving Michel no option other than to redesign them. The biggest eyesore were parts relating to the cooling system. Hanging from the bottom right of the engine now sits a custom made alloy coolant catch can which replaces the stock plastic unit.
Although the brief stipulated the bike should be finished using its original colours, Michel took it upon himself to break up all the grey with some signature Kawasaki colours. These include the main coolant hose which is now a Kawasaki green as opposed to run of the mill black. He also added a splash of Kawasaki purple to the rear shock and in the form of a trimmed down, purple tint windscreen.
Despite having to retain the original fairing, Michel found ways to give it a completely new look. Along with the cut-down windscreen, he’s fitted a Baja style twin headlamp assembly which is held in place by a bespoke bracket. “In case you missed them, the front end indicators are the original items.” Michel jokes, but despite their behemoth proportions they somehow suit this anything goes build.
Since the headlight bracket utilises the original mirror mounts the handlebars now wear bar end items. A fresh set of grips complete the front end revisions.
Gina’s ZZR600 was originally finished in a gunmetal grey paint and according to the brief, this had to remain. However, rather than a gloss finish, Michel opted for matte gunmetal which he applied to the bodywork. As for the tiger stripes, the pattern was mentioned during the initial concept discussion. And since Gina is a graphic designer, Michel enlisted her help to design and mask them off before having them sprayed on in gloss black. For the frame colour, Michel found his inspiration in one of his favourite late eighties movies.
“The only thing that was influenced by something on this project was the silver/grey we used for the frame,” he says. “I handed my painter a picture of the 1987 Robocop for him to replicate. It came out perfect!
When it came to the ZZR’s performance, Gina was happy with how the bike rode, so she didn’t request any major modifications. With that in mind Michel limited engine modifications to the fitment of custom stainless steel exhaust headers and a carbon Leo Vince silencer. “Only changing the sound can do a lot for a new driving experience,” he says and we wholeheartedly agree. Finally, to get the bike breathing more freely, he fitted it with a K&N air filter and tuned the carbs to suit.
Michel jokes that the hardest part of this project was “Giving the bike back to her!” but went on to say “I think working with the existing aluminium frame design was actually hardest. I hated how the side beams of the frame looked. But instead of removing or hiding them I worked with them and used similar lines in my rear subframe.”
We’re big fans of the work of Icon 1000 and it seems we’ve found another workshop whose aesthetic is as equally unconventional. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait wait to see what Michel has in store for us next!