Kawasaki Backyard Boffins - The Z1 Rebuilding Guru

Dave Ennis - with Buzzworkz Z1

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

WORDS: Tony Middlehurst PICS: John Goodman

'EEEEH – YOU young 'uns don't know you're born!' You may have had to put up with grizzly old bikers giving you this sort of guff, droning on about how there’ll never be another time like the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

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Thing is though, as far as superbikes go at least, they’re sort of right. Look back at the power and torque stats of machines like the first Honda CB750 of 1969 and you might struggle to believe it, though. 68bhp? 44lb ft? Come on now. But you’ll just have to take it from this greybeard that this was indeed a fantastically exciting time for British two-wheel fans. We’d never seen anything like that Honda. Four cylinders, ye say? Great looks? Easy starting? Reliability? What, all in one bike? Never!

That was the CB750, but it was nothing compared to the 1972 Kawasaki Z1. Kawasaki had intended its first serious four-stroke machine to be a 750 too, but when Honda beat them to the punch with the CB they simply went back to the drawing board, upsized it to 903cc and doubled the overhead cam count. 

The outcome was an other-worldly 81bhp, making the ’72 Z1 easily the most powerful Japanese bike on the road. It was less than half the price of the nearest twin-cam competitor, MV Agusta’s shaft-driven 750, without being twice as bad. And it looked amazing. 

MCN readers immediately made the Z1 their Bike of the Year. They did it again the next year. And the year after that. And the year after that. 

Dave Ennis may well have been one of those MCN voters. For Dave and his West London mates, weaned on the two-stroke fumes of spannied-up RD Yams and Kawasaki triples, Honda was a dirty word. It was a Kawasaki or the bus. As soon as Dave clapped eyes on a Z1, he knew he had to have one. 

He ended up with two, both of which he still owns. Folk talk about brand loyalty, but loyalty to a model that’s now 42 years old is something else. Both of his Z1s have been somewhat modified over the years, mainly for the drag strip, where Ennis enjoyed a good chunk of success in events like SuperBike Magazine’s Ultimate Streetbike series.  

Those personal Zeds are now in pieces in one of Dave’s three backyard sheds. For most of us, that usually means the same thing as “you’ll never see that running again” – but Dave Ennis isn’t most of us. You can bet your bottom dollar that his Z1s will be reborn – but only as a side project in whatever spare minutes he has between putting other Z1s back together. 

Because that’s now his living. Actually, Ennis’s Hampton-based Z1 restoration operation – Buzzworkz – is more than a living: it’s a life. Dave’s ramshackle house is basically nothing more than somewhere to sleep, brew tea and watch a bit of bike racing on the telly. Those three very much non-ramshackle sheds in his back garden are where the Buzzworkz magic happens. 

Dave is an old school engineer. Four decades in the aerospace business starting with a British Airways aircraft engineering apprenticeship before going on to work on VC10s and Concorde, and later on Apaches, Harriers and Tornados, means that his standards are stratospherically high. 

“I always wanted to be an engineering airframe bloke, right from the start at BA,” he says, “but then so did everybody else. They drew names out of a hat and I ended up being put on avionics.” Now, forty odd years later, he’s finally living out his youthful ambitions surrounded by his own tools, valve-seat cutters, milling machine and lathe. When he’s not fettling Kawas he’s a volunteer worker on the RAF aircraft team at Hendon, where they don’t take on any old Herbert. He’s been going there for ten years.