Head Zed



There are accepted levels of obsession when it comes to building bikes, and there are times when dedication to the task can get out of hand. Like Kevin Luckhurst’s trip to the Park South Hotel, Manhattan, New York City to celebrate his wedding anniversary.

“The missus was wondering why my suitcase was virtually empty, then almost as soon as we checked in to the hotel the front desk was after me and there were packages all over the place,” recalls Kevin. “Justine wasn’t too pleased about it.” So, yes, a fair few bits and pieces were sourced from the USA. Often the case when so much of Kawasaki Heavy Industries production went to the massive US market.

Kev’s 1978 Z1000 is a UK machine. Bought in 2012 it was largely standard, but tired. “It had the original pipes and seat, so my first instincts were a put a period 2:4 seat and a four-into-one on it,” says Kev. “Then the ideas just grew and grew.” Got a bit out of hand, if truth be told. Anyone familiar with chameleon-type paint will love this: “We dip-filmed it with a tree bark, wood grain effect…” Perhaps the less said about this the better. Moving swiftly on then…

“I then changed the seat and the ’bars, modelled it on Wayne Gardner’s bike, then fitted a new front end and painted it. It was just a like for like job – and that was when I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t you do it for yourself? Do it how you want it to be?’. So I went back to Candy red in 2013 and that’s when I knew I’d made the right choice, that’s when the bike began to take shape as a bike in what looks a lot like standard form, but is better than standard.”

This is when Kev’s job as an aeronautical engineer kicked in. “Everything we do has to be logged, checked, checked again, so that sort of practice stays with you,” he says. “The engine was getting really tired by now, and it was about time I did things right, so it came off the road for two years.”

The engine, like most Zed units, was still performing after a fashion, despite being well overdue for a refresh. “Kawasaki pistons and rings are extortionate money,” says Kev. “But I wanted to keep it on standard internals, so I did it right with new valve seals, the lot, Taylor HT leads, and kept the standard cams, although that’s maybe something I’ll look at again when the time comes.”

Kev has had plenty of time to look at how he wants this Zed to be, what bits of Zed are the major elements, the keys to the whole bike’s stance and personality, its mien. “I didn’t want to start cutting things up,” he says. “Didn’t want to lose any of the essentials of what a Zed is. Most people know pretty much what the look is about; the tank, the panels, the ducktail, the clocks. If you had to narrow it down to the key elements, that’s probably them. The engine’s a given in that whatever you do internally, it’s still going to look like a big Japanese air-cooled double overhead cam, it’s the blueprint for that. It’s still such a block of engineering to look at too.”

Without wanting to sound remotely snobbish about it, Kev was determined not to have too much reproduction stuff on it. “Soul is important,” he says. “So I avoided cutting the rear footrest hangers off, and used the original switchgear, clocks and carbs.

Zed looking slightly more comfortable under the lights on a freezing night than its builder Kev

Zed looking slightly more comfortable under the lights on a freezing night than its builder Kev


1. Only choose a bike you absolutely love and can’t wait to get started on. If you’re not 100 per cent committed you will lose ineterst, lose motivation and never finish it.

2. Set a budget and then don’t get upset when it quadruples.

3. When things don’t go well, walk away then come back with a fresh head on. Always enjoy what what you’re doing, it ALWAYS shows in the end result.

There are almost two projects involved in this, which are making it fun to ride, and then keeping it as original as is realistically possible too.”

The JMC swingarm is not original Zed, but equally important in a period resto it is original JMC. “Yeah, that’s from first time around in the ’70s off eBay. It was £100 and it was absolutely wrecked. I spent ages bringing that back to being usable.” And while the back end’s under examination, Kev made the rear brake torque arm, the chain guard, number plate holder, and perhaps just as important as the self-fabricating deal (which all true specials require to some degree or other) is the way it’s all bolted together.

The aircraft business is an exacting one, and sloppy work of any sort is, as we should all be relieved to know, not tolerated. So all the cable runs, brake line routing, fastener type and dimension, use of materials, examination of critical application components is as per the big book of aero rules. The harder you look the more you see and the better it all becomes.

Hard not to drool slightly looking at this for too long

Hard not to drool slightly looking at this for too long

The Raask rearsets, commendably period, but never the greatest components in the world straight from the box, have been lovingly re-worked and shined up to beyond show standard. And the shine, keeping that shine, is a mission bordering on the messianic for Kevin.

“It takes me to Cambridge and back for work and it rips along quite nicely, pulls like a train in fact – but not if conditions aren’t right,” says Kev, “I get frequent aero-weather updates because I am obsessed with keeping it nice.”

Understandably so. Some bikes are pretty thin beneath a mere shine, but this Zed has a rare lustre to every square centimetre, even the original Harris four-into-one has none of the traditional (and almost unavoidable) rust pockets at the headercollector- piece. The stubby can runs a competition (ie loud) baffle too – which you could eat your dinner off (and most likely cook it on it too).

The tidy seat is a Z1 Parts USA item. “They’re everywhere now,” says Kev, “And no wonder, it’s a really good-looking, well-made seat for not too much money. The shocks are Chinese Öhlins copies I got from Grumpy 1260, but they’ll get swapped out for a pair of genuine Öhlins at some point soon. “The sawtooth discs went on during the second retrofit and I may swap them back again, and it’s the same with all the stuff I thought about before – I’m still thinking. Things will keep changing as they usually do with most specials.”

1. How busy does all that lot look? No lugs or welds were harmed in the making of this Z1000, what you see is what was always there.

2. Pingel fuel tap, one of the best bolt-ons you can fit. It flows more fuel than a stocker, and won’t weep either. Off means OFF. Not cheap though.

4. Chain and sprockets tell you this bike has not, and never will, see rain. That doesn’t mean it’s not riddden like it ought to be when the sun shines.

3. Original switchgear, mirrors, aftermarket grips and levers. The blend of original and upgrade is entirely unashamed and effective too.


ENGINE: 1977 Kawasaki Z1000 A1, 1075cc Wiseco big bore kit, Dyna ignition, Taylor HT leads, S&B filters, Harris four-into-one with comp. baffle.

CHASIS: Standard frame, original 1979 JMC braced swingarm, RGV250 rear wheel,ZXR750 L2 front wheel, GPZ1100 B2 forks and yokes, 600 Bandit front mastercylinder, Renthal low ’bars, Z1Parts sports seat (USA), Hel brake lines. Custom partsby Kev: mastercylinder cap, carbon rear undertray, carbon front caliper hangers,T6 alloy engine plates, chainguard, rear mastercylinder brackets, top yoke, clock mounting bracket, rear torque arm, front and rear sprockets, remodelled Pazzo levers, ducktail riser bushes, rear light and number plate bracket.

It was, in a previous life, resplendent in this wood grain effect guise. It is terrifyingly convincing, and with the white seat looks like the inside of a pimp’s Cadilllac

It was, in a previous life, resplendent in this wood grain effect guise. It is terrifyingly convincing, and with the white seat looks like the inside of a pimp’s Cadilllac

Kev Luckhurst happily describes himself as an obsessive. “I know what I’m like and I can tell you to the exact penny how much I’ve spent on it: £4753. And bear in mind I called in a lot of favours so the real figure could easily be double that.”

Perhaps the best assistance he called in was mate Dean (who happens to work at Aston Martin) for the paint. By any measure the job done on this Zed is of a standard most high. Kev did the prep. As in the majority of situations in life and work, the FIVE Ps obtain: Perfect Preparation Prevents P**s-poor Performance, or in this case Paint.

“I just kept flatting it back with 1200, then got back to bare metal, used a Glycote primer, then 1500 again, then 3000 Trizact. The attention paid to prep has paid off in spades; this thing shines like the Dog Star itself. And paint only works when the rest of a machine can live up to the attention drawn by a lustrous tank and sidepanels. If the rest of the bike’s a dog’s dinner, the paint only highlights flaws.

The build details become almost incidental when it’s the whole that’s the story, and like the majority of Zed creators Kev has opted almost exclusively for Kawasaki hardware like a chopped GPz1100 B2 front mudguard and B2 forks and yokes too. The risers had to be fabricated and the yokes machined to mate properly. Ultimately just another perfectly executed task on the road to Zed Nirvana.

“It’s still not 100 per cent,” says Kev with no hint of irony. “I haven’t had it on a dyno yet and I’m still thinking about some cams, and maybe a longer Gardner-style can for the four-into-one.”

Then again what special is ever 100 per cent. That’s half the fun. As the great bard Bill Shakespeare wrote in Troilus and Cressida, way back in 1602: “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” Precisely.