2012 marked the 40th anniversary of Kawasaki’s legendary Z series of motorcycles. To celebrate the Zeds 4 decades of manufacture Kawasaki Italy commissioned custom bike builder Angel Lussiana to build a bike in the style of the 1972 first series Z1 using their 2013 Z1000 as a base. Unveiled at the 2012 EICMA exhibition in Milan the bike has been causing quite a stir so I asked Angel to tell me about the challenges he faced recreating a Kawasaki classic.
The Kawasaki Z1 was quite possibly the most important motorcycle in Kawasaki’s long production history. It represented the companies move from two stroke to four cylinder engines and at the time of it’s release was the most technologically advanced, high performance motorcycle available to the public, earning it the title of ‘the world’s first true superbike’. Angel started his 10 week build by imagining how the Z would look if styling trends had remained the same for 40 years despite changes in motorcycle technology.
“In 1972 the Z1 was a collection of individual elements, a frame, a tank, a seat, but on the 2013 Z1000 everything was integrated. My first step was to remove the fairings and covers to expose the bikes hidden frame and engine again.”
The Z1000’s aluminium frame was stripped of paint and polished to a mirror finish along with its forks. The engine now framed by polished alloy was left black just the same as the original Z1 ‘Testa Nera’ or ‘Black Head’ in English.
Kawasaki’s original Z1 featured an air-cooled, 900cc transverse 4 cylinder engine (82bhp) but the 2013 Z1000 is powered by a liquid cooled 1000cc 4 cylinder engine (136bhp). Amongst all the modern components found on the 2013 bike the one that posed the biggest aesthetic challenge was the bikes large, front mounted radiator. To do this Angel designed an all new cooling system that involved relocating the radiator to a horizontal position beneath the seat. Via a large intake sitting at the front of the engine 6 pipes channel air directly onto the radiator fins to create a ram-air cooling system. Care was also taken to create sufficient space between the base of the seat and on the bodywork near the riders legs to maximise cooling from ambient air.
To recreate the classic lines as accurately as possible Angel had an original, first series Z1 brought into his workshop during the design process. After creating a series of sketches clay models were made to scale on the Z1000’s frame before a final headlight bucket, fuel tank and tail section were made out of fibreglass. A polished aluminium surround was also used on the custom headlight to compliment other polished components and the tail light from a Kawasaki W800 was integrated into the rear.
Another of the Z1’s definitive design features was it chrome headers and 4 mufflers. To recreate the look the 2013 system was discarded and a hand made, custom system of stainless steel took its place. A leather seat was also designed featuring the same basic grid pattern as the original but with much less bulk to keep the tail narrower like modern sports bikes. To finish the look the bike was then painted using Kawasaki’s unmistakable green with pin striping in the same 70’s style seen on the bike that influenced its creation.
Upon presenting the bike to Kawasaki it was received very well and went on to generate a lot of interest at the EICMA show with many admirers asking when they could expect to see the bike being made out of the factory. In my opinion Angel’s 40th anniversary Z concept is the most desirable modern ‘retro’ bike I’ve seen in some time. If Kawasaki ever chose to produce this bike I would be scrambling to lay down my deposit…along with everyone else!