Kawasaki Backyard Boffins - The Z1 Rebuilding Guru

London-based firm Buzzworkz is the place for proper Kawasaki Z1 restorations...

£ 6995
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THE NUMBER of Buzzworkz projects currently on the go, allied to the fact that the number one best selling retro bike on the UK market right now is the Kawasaki Z900RS, tells you something about the lasting appeal of these bikes. There’s a surprising number of original beasts still out there, and the Z1 Owners Club is not short of people wanting to restore them to their former glory. If they’re smart, they take them to the one-man fantasy factory that is Buzzworkz. 

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Forty-six years after the Z1 burst onto the scene with all the subtlety of Peter Kay bombing off the five-metre board, standards have moved on a bit. The new Z900RS is a great handling bike: the original Z1 isn’t. It’s a hefty old lump at 230kg. Today, its twin-cradle frame tubular swingarm and spaghetti-like forks would look marginal on a 125 commuter. 

With refreshing honesty, Ennis confirms that standard Z1s are indeed “rubbish… the electrics are crap, the brakes are crap, they don’t handle that well”. But that’s not the case when he’s finished with them. You can have your Z1 restored to factory spec, as per the unbelievable Z1B that he’s just finished and that you can see him leaning on in these pics. But if you’re planning on a rideable Zed as opposed to a rivet-counter’s wet dream stored in a temperature-controlled museum environment, you’d be well advised to at least consider some of the options on the Buzzworkz menu.

These run from headstock bracing pieces through more modern box-section swingarms – the ZX636 one fits a treat once he’s machined off all the monoshock stuff and handmade not only the mounting brackets for the twin shocks, but also a new axle and new swingarm pivots – to full-house Ohlins suspension setups front and rear and six-pot caliper braking systems. Anyone who has tried to rein in a Z1 in the wet with the original single-pot, single-disc front brake will know how essential that last mod is. 

Customers’ engines are stripped down and the cases sent away to a specialist for vapour blasting, restoring them back to a better than new finish. Dave uses another specialist for polishing work. The rest of the restoration work he does himself. Anything he can’t get, he makes. The quality of work is incredible. 

Ennis finds himself doing a lot of engine recovery work – “you wouldn't believe some of the stuff I’ve seen done by so-called experts”. He’s already doing a good bit of the sort of head work that brings this deliciously 20thcentury bike a little nearer to the 21stcentury in terms of performance. Looking ahead, his next step is to incorporate a Superflow flow bench into the range of options. He’s already got the ‘bench’ – a simple pinball-looking device that measures airflow through cylinder heads and manifolds. He just needs to hook it up to his laptop and to the contents of his brain. Then he’ll be able to offer serious porting expertise.

His avionics experience is now serving him well on the rewiring side. Lifting the seat on one of his Z1s to reveal an electrical board you could eat your dinner off, you can almost hear the heavenly choir singing. He spots a stray wire on another bike. That’s as it came off the Akashi line, but Ennis won’t be having it. “I’ll have to sort that.” The number of hours he spends painstakingly correcting Kawasaki’s production randomness means that he now generally turns down requests for full-house rewires. “It’s just not economically sensible for the owner.” Shame really, as the results aren’t so much a work of electrical engineering as a work of art. 

Ennis doesn’t restrict himself to Z1s. He built a superb Eddie Lawson rep that those of you who went to the TT last year might remember from the parade lap. “I just bumped into this lad at the Ace Café. He told me he had a Z1000J that was a pile of crap, and did I know anyone that could fix it. I told him that I might be able to do something and it just sort of went from there.” 

Don’t tell anyone, but there’s a Honda project in the Buzzworks. It’s a Freddie Spencer rep. Dave still can't understand how a sandcast CB750 can be worth twice as much as a mint early Z1, but that situation probably won’t last once a few more Buzzworkz Z1s have hit the road.

• Contact Buzzworkz via its Facebook page HERE.

If you know anyone who might qualify as a Backyard Boffin, send us a message on our Facebook page and we’ll follow it up.