MATTHEW HALL SPENT TWO AND A HALF YEARS BRINGING HIS SPELLBINDING VISION OF AN EDDIE REP TO REALITY. HE LEARNED FROM A MASTER AND WORKED A MINOR MIRACLE
Matthew Gill knows who’s ultimately responsible for his obsession with big four-stroke fours: “It’s my father’s fault,” he says, laying all blame squarely on his old man’s shoulders. “He had a CB900 back in the ’80s and I grew up riding around on the back of it with him. I was into all sorts of racing, but the Freddie, Wayne and Eddie show was the real thing for me. I just loved those bikes.”
Who doesn’t? But who then takes that healthy affirmation of all things big-banger and takes it to such an elevated level? Matthew for one. “There are the purists who say it’s not a Lawson rep… the decals aren’t right, the rims are wrong. They’re right, but for me it’s a modern resto. I love to hybrid modern technology with older bikes.”
And his Eddie clone positively drips with traditional big-inch thinking allied to welcome modernity in key areas. It is also beautifully finished, but not in a mirrorpolished swanky hotel floor fashion – it’s clean, tidy, and prepped for action, with locking wire where needed, and nothing cosmetic (barring the #21 race plates) detracting from the sense of purpose.
“It’s a trackday bike, but with a daytime MoT too,” says Matthew. “It all started when I had a Z1000J, sold the engine for £600 and took an eBay gamble on a GPz1100 motor or £400. We stripped it down and it turned out to be absolutely fine. So we took it bit by bit on building it up into the engine we’ve got now.” The ‘we’ refers to Gill and his mentor Dave Ennis, engine builder and engineer extraordinaire. “I met him at a Japanese bike show, and we just hit it off. I’ve learned so much from him over the years.”
The engine received the usual hot Zed treatment at the bottom end: pressed-up crank welded at the pins to prevent it slipping out of true. Barrels bored to take an 1170cc Wiseco piston kit, Andrews PSP 3X camshafts up top with 0.410-inches of lift and plenty of duration, APE valve springs and guides, breathing through 38mm Mikunis with long stack bellmouths, all at 10.5:1 compression.
A high volume oil pick-up was snapped up on eBay, but proved to be an electronic auction gamble too far. “That took a lot of fettling to get right,” says Matthew. “Sometimes eBay pays off, sometimes not. And this was one of those nots. But we got it right in the end.”
The end is not yet in sight though because Matthew and Dave plan to up the compression to 11.5:1 and it hasn’t even been on the dyno for fine tuning yet. “We just bolted the carbs on straight from the box and it ran pretty well. I put about 400 miles on it and then we had to be on a boat to the Isle Of Man and there simply wasn’t any more time,” says Matthew. “Next thing it was doing a parade lap on The Island.”
And it wasn’t just the engine that was more or less spot-on straight off the bat, the chassis gelled too. The 2010 Showa big-piston ZX-6R forks were a known quantity. The 2003 ZX-6R swingarm the same; light, strong, and a good-looking modern touch.
But it’s when you mate these later components to what’s basically a big, steel double bicycle frame that problems can begin. “Dave made the calculations then fabricated and welded the rear shock mounts. He’s fully certified and works for British Airways, so he’s among the best in the country,” says Matthew. “Centring the swingarm and rear wheel (ZRX11) was critical, so it was good to have someone around who’d been there and done that. We now know the fully-adjustable Öhlins shocks are working as they should.”
1. TWO HEADS ARE USUALLY ALWAYS BETTER THAN ONE. IF YOU’RE GOING TO BUILD A SPECIAL IT’S GOOD TO HAVE A PARTNER IN CRIME WITH EITHER MORE, OR PREFERABLY LOTS, OF EXPERIENCE.
2. DON’T SKIMP ON ANYTHING. IF YOU HAVE TO SAVE UP AND BUY SOMETHING BRAND NEW – DO IT. SAVE UP AND GET IT RIGHT FIRST TIME. TIME IS NOTHING ANYWAY.
3. PERSEVERE. UNDERSTAND IT WON’T BE COMPLETED IN MONTHS, UNLESS YOU CAN WORK ON IT EIGHT HOURS A DAY. AND WHEN YOU’RE STALLED BY SAVING UP FOR SOMETHING, SPEND THE TIME POLISHING AND THINKING ABOUT THINGS.
1. More of a tea cosy than a sweatband on the reservoir, but the main deal’s that big, black unabashed clock pod – it looks simply magnificent
2. Those 38mm Mikuni flatslides on long bellmouths chuck a lot of mixture into the two-valve chambers. Carbs are yet to be fine tuned on the dyno though
3. Now those are a set of mighty yokes. Check out the wire-locking – now that’s been done by someone who knows how to do it
4. Compulsory Kerker four-intoone pipe. The only pipe for a big Zed. And the good news is you can still get them. Big money, but some things are genuinely worth it
SPECIFICATION KAWASAKI Z1100R
ENGINE: KAWASAKI GPZ1100, DOHC, 8V INLINE-FOUR, WELDED CRANK, WISECO 1170CC KIT, ANDREWS PSP 3X CAMSHAFTS, APE VALVE SPRINGS AND CAMCHAIN, MIKUNI 38MM FLATSLIDES, DYNA S IGNITION, KERKER FOUR-INTO-ONE
CHASSIS: KAWASAKI Z1000J, ZRX1100 FRONT AND REAR WHEELS, ZX-6R SWINGARM, ÖHLINS SHOCKS, BILLET BIKE BITS YOKES, ZX-6R FORKS AND BRAKES, LAWSON PAINT BY DREAM MACHINE
The front end required a different approach. “It would be an awful thing to have the geometry fixed – and wrong, so we went for some stealth yokes from Billet Bike Bits in Norfolk. The generous length of the top and bottom clamps mean that the fork stanchions can be moved to drop the ride height and quicken the steering if required, or raised to slow things down a bit.
In its current set-up it works well enough. “It’s a bit like riding a big dirt bike,” says Matthew. “What the riders of the day said about these is all true, but then they didn’t have Pirelli Diablo Corsas back then. It’s definitely like a primitive muscle car, more old Mustang than new Ferrari.”
Now it’s done nearly 2000 miles Matthew is going to pull the engine down and take a look at the top end just to be on the safe side, to catch any potential problems before they become expensive fixes. “By the time you’ve got the cams out to check the valve clearances, you might as well lift the head and see how the pistons are doing too,” he says. This is all standard practice for someone as meticulous at Matthew.
“I learned a lot of stuff in the Australian Air Force. I was in for six years, and before that I’d had dirt bikes, and my first road bike was a Honda VTR250.” If he could have had an air cooled across the frame four, you can bet he would have done. “Anything with wheels and an engine is OK, but litre-plus air-cooled stuff is always going to be where it’s at for a certain generation.” You don’t have to be of that generation to appreciate the results of Matthew and Dave’s work though. It’s a striking looking bike no matter where you approach it from. And that doesn’t mean from which angle (all are good). Whether you’re a musclebike afficionado or not, you have to admit, as well as being an imposing bit of kit, it’s also pretty neatly bolted together, and you’d be hard pressed to find any fault in the finish.
The seat’s a mixture of fine basket weave vinyl and Alcantara (a synthetic suede) upholstered by Les Wood at Sadle Craft Seating in South Shields, the rearsets are from Tomforde Engineering in Germany. It’s an uncompromising high-end blend of workmanship wherever you look. And all topped off by stock clocks. Which is a nice touch. They’re compact and yet at the same time marvellously period – deep 1980s and no mistake. The tail light is stock Zed, the rear caliper ZRX, but for some inexplicable reason, unknown to even Matthew himself it’s red. “I don’t know, I just painted it red,” he laughs.
The bike took two and a half years to complete and naturally he’s well pleased with the end result. But for him the best part of the build was cementing his friendship with Dave Ennis. “There’s a few years between us,” says Matthew. “But that’s why his experience counted for so much with this bike. He’s done it all before and he taught me so much about how to go about this properly.”
Big fours are his lifeblood and the next plan is for a Yoshimura Katana Cooley rep – and there’s every chance it’ll be as fine an effort as this. “I’d rather have a Spencer, Lawson or Cooley rep than an R1 or something. I like riding really fast bikes, but once you’ve ridden one of these… they’re just a lot of fun.” And that, surely, is the whole point of spending so much time and expending so much effort in an exacting build like this: the end result has to be enjoyed.