Kawasaki Z1200 Bandit

It started life as a knackered and very brown Z900. Now Mickey Thomas’s Kawasaki/Suzuki mash-up is clean and very, very green

GREEN FRAME. Green swingarm. Green rearsets. Green brake levers and hubs. Green brake lines. When you look at the evidence, it all points to the fact that Mickey Thomas likes green. A lot. Was he force-fed Brussel sprouts as a child? Is he a rabid environmentalist? A keen gardener? “I just like the colour green,” he laughs. “I saw a picture of that new Kawasaki Ninja H2 with its green frame and thought, ‘That looks incredible – I’m going to copy that.’” So with that as his starting point, and powered by a solid diet of broccoli, peas and mange tout, Mickey set about making the greenest special that’s ever been seen in the pages of PS.

Things didn’t look very green to start with, though. More brown. That’s because the rusty 1976 Kawasaki Z900 A4 he started with had been stood in some bloke’s shed for 12 years, minus its head and barrels, and was in what’s known in the trade as ‘a right state’. “I saw it for sale and it was only two miles up the road from me, so I went to the bloke’s house, knocked on his door, got him to dig it out of the back of his garage and made him an offer,” laughs Mickey. “He’d stripped the top-end and somehow managed to lose most of it, but I still thought it could make the basis of a great special. I bought it there and then.” For some the missing engine parts might’ve been a mild inconvenience, but given Mickey’s grand plan for the bike these stray components were neither here nor there. “A mate of mine had put a Bandit engine in a Z900 and was saying how much better and lighter it was, plus he used all the modern electrics with no issues at all,” says Mickey. “The other thing is that a Bandit engine is a hell of a lot easier to come by than a Z900 one, and a hell of a lot cheaper – I’ve seen Zed motors going for about a grand on eBay, which is crazy money. The fact that this bike’s top-end was missing stuff made my mind up.”

With the knackered Z900 back in Mickey’s garage, a plan was hatched that would see him ditch everything from his new bike except for the frame, tank and bodywork. Mickey sold what was left of the Zed engine and bought a 1200 Bandit as a donor bike, stripping it of its engine, carbs, wiring loom, switchgear and headlight and shifting the rest on eBay to balance the books.

A certain amount of planning was needed before introducing the Bandit engine to its new home, although not quite as much as you might think. “Firstly the frame went to Racefit for them to brace and modify it in all the right places,” says Mickey. “The main issue is that the Bandit engine is shorter than the Z900’s. The kickstart housing left a gap at the back of the engine so I had to use a Coke can as a catch tank.” A green Coca-Cola Life can, naturally.

After these measurements had been established, it was time for the frame to be the first part to get the green treatment that would spread itself over the entire project. With that image of the Kawasaki Ninja H2 fresh in his mind, Mickey sent the frame off to be powdercoated chrome, and then applied his finishing touch. “I had a hunch that if I painted over that in candy green then the chrome would shine through,” smiles Mickey. “I was right.” It’s a flawless job – as you would expect from someone who worked at renowned paint specialists Dream Machine at the time.

Mickey’s a bike builder who doesn’t mind where the inspiration for parts comes from as long as they’re going to look good, and this time it was a slightly older Kawasaki than the shiny H2 that gave him the idea for the front and back-end. “I’ve always been a fan of the ZRX1200 and thought that would be the perfect donor bike for the right-way-up forks I was after; I loved the ZRX’s swingarm as well, so I got on eBay and started hunting.” The forks were promptly despatched to Firefox Racing in West Yorkshire for a rebuild and some gold nitride, while the swingarm was treated to the same chrome powdercoat/ candy green combo that had worked so well on the frame.

Most builds are invariably held up at one stage or another by the infuriating wait for a certain part to arrive, and in the case of Mickey’s green giant it was the wheels. “I was after that kind of classic spoked look but it was really important to me that the wheels stood out,” says Mickey. “Then I happened to see an MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster RR and the wheels are just immense – I had to have them.” The fact that the price tag of the wheels had nearly as many noughts as the bike’s mouthful of a name had words didn’t put Mickey off. “It took four months, but they were worth the wait. The good thing was that they’ll tailor the wheels to most bikes, so I was able to specify a ZXR1200 fitment and they popped straight on.”

Not that Mickey spent four months twiddling his thumbs waiting for two round objects to arrive in the post. While the wheels were in the pipeline he set about starting the most divisive part of the bike: the paintjob on the fuel tank. “First off I had it hydrodipped with the green flames and lacquered, then I masked it all off in the Zed design and painted the black with green flakes around the hydrodipping,” explains Mickey. Given the size of the classic Kawasaki Zed scene and the strictness with which many of its protagonists keep things original, seeing a genuine 1976 Z900 fuel tank sprayed with green and yellow flames is likely to have caused some of them to require counselling. “I have had some flak off a few purists,” says Mickey with a wry smile. “It’s a bike that you’ll either like or you won’t, and for the most part the reaction it gets is really positive. But if people don’t like it, sod ’em...”

Mickey’s bike is proof that with a clear vision and no fiddly parts to unearth from eBay, a special doesn’t always have to be years in the making – this only took six months from start to finish. Even more impressive is that none of the build took place inside a shed. “I did the whole thing in my conservatory,” laughs Mickey. And the other half didn’t mind? “Absolutely not – she owns an RD, so she knows the score.” Makes you green with envy, doesn’t
it? Candy green


SPECIFICATION
Kawasaki Z900 Bandit

ENGINE 1999 Suzuki Bandit 1200, air/ oil-cooled 1157cc inline-four, ignition advancer stage 3 dynojet kit, Dyna coils, Taylor leads, 1999 Suzuki 1200 Bandit wiring loom, full titanium Racefit exhaust system CHASSIS 1976 Kawasaki Z900 A4 frame braced and modified by Racefit, frame powdercoated in chrome and painted candy green, 2002 Kawasaki ZRX1200 front and rear-end, Kineo wheels, aftermarket GSX-R750 rearsets, Z-Power clocks, 1999 Suzuki 1200 Bandit headlight.

’SET AND MATCH

Mickey got these aftermarket GSX-R750 rearsets off eBay. “They looked like they’d fit,” he laughs. “I just lined up the holes on the frame and welded in some inserts.”

CLOCKING ON


“Not only did Z-Power supply the clocks but I also saw that they do an electric rev counter in the old Zed style,” says Mickey. “I couldn’t resist adding that.”

WHEELS OF FORTUNE

Luckily for Mickey, the hubs, rims, spokes and bolts of the pricey Kineo wheels can be ordered in any colour configuration – paving the way for more green.

CLOCKS

Making the Kawasaki clocks fit the Bandit wiring harness was, Mickey says, a bit of a nightmare. “I love the whole look of the Zed, which is why I’ve kept the tank, panels and twinshocks, but nothing between the Bandit and Zed electrics was compatible. I had to sit down with both wiring diagrams and work out what went where. It’s just a question of time and effort with electrics, and it all worked in the end. Still, everything fits with a little bit of persuasion, doesn’t it?”

SWINGARM

Having set his heart on a 2002 ZRX1200 swingarm, fitting it was not the nightmare you might expect. “It just had 2mm or so shaved off the width on each side where the bearings sit inside,” says Mickey. “Where the ZRX
swingarm pivots it’s a bit bigger, so I sleeved it down and it dropped straight in.” The Racefit exhaust, meanwhile, was the result of Mickey approaching them and asking for something akin to the old Harris works
exhausts. “£1200 later, some titanium loveliness duly arrived.”

ENGINE

How much cajouling did the Bandit engine need to go in the Z900 frame? “Very litte, actually,” says Mickey. “The main thing to consider was the chain alignment - that’s what governs where the engine’s going to sit in the frame. I had a spare Bandit bottom-end, so I sat it in there and looked at it, then lined up the back sprocket. The rear lower engine mountings were the only things that needed altering. I cut the original ones off and a mate of mine, Jim King, made some longer ones to weld on.”