We started the week with a grip of shovelheads; we're ending it with one mean KZ. Flatiron Mike is an East Coast-based builder and bikerider whose machines have graced our home page on several occasions. This Kawasaki is Mike's first foray into the "cafe" realm, and we think he nailed it. Nothing too frilly or fragile. Just a fast machine made even more fun by some easy garage-based tweaks. We'll let Mike tell his story…
Budget builds are the best. They force you to be creative, not only with purchased parts, but also when fabricating components. On this redux, I used simple materials and spare parts lying around the garage (even some H-D parts—oh, the horror!). The most expensive upgrades to this build were the adjustable Tommaselli clip-ons, and new tires. The only other changes were simple performance modifications to the carbs and muffler and (less) bodywork.
This machine started life as a 1981 Kawasaki KZ1000 LTD model—a stodgy, inglorious, plain-Jane model. It had been languishing in the back of my garage for over three years. I felt it needed only some minor mods to unwrap a fast and nimble machine from its sheepish facade.
After stripping off all the non-essentials (and even some of the essentials), I needed to get the stance right. The stock wheel setup is a 19-inch front and a 16-inch rear. To my eye, that just doesn’t work. I sourced a ‘70s vintage ZR1 18-inch rear wheel on eBay to "right the ship." Bridgestone Spitfire treads give the wheels a retro, cafe racer look. Next were the clip-ons. Not only do they add to the cafe look, they were necessary to accommodate my 6-foot-four-inch frame.
The rear deck and seat fabrication was an easy solution to the stock, two-up "loaf of bread" seating. I simply hand bent and welded a sheet of 1/8” thick aluminum flat stock and bolted it to a fabricated steel support that rests on the upper frame rails. The leatherwork is hand stitched and mounted on thin padding atop a steel seat pan. I made a conscious effort to align the seat pan lines to the gas tank lines for a seamless look. I replaced the stock cast foot peg mounts with quarter-inch thick steel flat stock and run-of-the-mill H-D pegs. Finally, I tweaked the Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust by lopping off nearly five inches at the muffler tip and fabricating a reverse cone. With the new peg mounts in place, I was able to articulate the muffler up into the frame for a tighter look.
This bike has been nothing but fun to ride and was a joy on last year’s Gypsy Run. And for the investment, there’s a lot of bang for the buck. Enjoy. Or don’t.
Builder: Mike Camillo
Shop: Flatiron Motorworks
Bike: 1981 KZ1000 LTD
• Tommaselli adjustable clip-ons
• Vintage H-D / Tommaselli 7/8” throttle and grips
• Bates style 5-3/4” headlight
• FIM fabbed rear deck and leather seat
• FIM fabbed peg mounts with good ol’ H-D footpegs
• Progressive shocks
• '70s vintage Kawasaki ZR1 18” rear wheel
• Bridgestone Spitfire SR11 tires
• FIM tweaked Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust
• Dynojet stage 3 carb mods
• Pingel petcock
• Accel high output coils
• Emgo air filter pods
• FIM cheapo $6 auto parts store taillight
Follow Mike's musings on his blog, Flatironmike Customworks.