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Auto Fabrica’s KZ400: A two-wheeled Extreme Makeover

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
You can judge a builder’s skills by the raw materials they work with. After all, it’s not too hard to make a Norton Commando look good. A Buell is another matter entirely, and so is Kawasaki’s mundane middleweight from the 1970s, the KZ400.

Even when new, the KZ400 was about as exciting as a baked potato. But Bujar and Gaz of Auto Fabrica have the magic touch, and they’ve just finished working their magic on the humble parallel twin.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
‘Type 14’ began life as an import from the USA. “It had charm in its stock form,” says Bujar, somewhat unconvincingly. “Our plan was simple: Strip the bike back to its basics. There are a few KZ400 builds out there, but none have really shown the bike in the best light possible.”

The boys did like the symmetrical 18-inch wheel setup on the standard bike though, so they re-laced the rims and worked on the stance. “We wanted to give it a low stance—the headstock is relatively low on the frame, and that helped us achieve a slick profile.”

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
A handful of builders have an instantly recognizable style, and Auto Fabrica is one of them. Their bikes have a quite remarkable simplicity and elegance, with no unnecessary lines—and not a line out of place.

Here, they’ve re-looped the back of the frame with gradual bends, losing the kink of the stock back end. “This allowed us to manufacture the seat with a gradual curve parallel to the seat tubes,” says Bujar. “It gives the bike ‘weight’ and frames the area nicely.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
Flushed into the back of the new loop is an LED light modified with smoked black glass. “We didn’t want to use a bolt on part; nothing really works on these sort of builds.”

Next up was the tank—handmade in-house, using 2.5mm aluminum. Over the years, Auto Fabrica have revealed some spectacular metalworking skills, but this time they’ve taken a more subtle approach.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
“Being automotive designers, we are obsessed with ‘surfacing’ and flowing lines on any object. We cannot use flat sections anywhere. The major advantage of a parallel twin is that the frame uses a single neck tube, so the carbs and intake system sit either side of this.”

“It meant that we could really get the teardrop ‘boat tail’ shape on the tank. After we gave the sides some serious curvature, knowing how the reflections would fall over its form, we couldn’t wait to get it painted.”

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
The tank shape is complex, so black was the best choice: low key, yet still drawing attention to the light and shade.

The seat uses a plastic base with lightweight foam on top, finished with a deep navy reverse leather with matching stitching. There’s the customary triangle at the back of the seat with the Auto Fabrica logo—a detail worth looking for if you ever think you’ve spotted one of the company’s bikes out in the wild.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
Bujar and Gaz tried five different styles of handlebars before giving up and designing their own. “These are the first riser bars we’ve produced, made using marine grade SAE 316 stainless steel. They worked a treat.”

There are matching stainless fork covers, custom made in-house, to add a little visual heft up front and smooth out the slightly fussy look of the stock telescopics.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
The US-issue single disc brake at the front is not good, so Auto Fabrica have made a custom bracket to attach a modern 2-pot Nissin caliper, hooked up to a Brembo master cylinder.

Type 14 has also been rewired from the ground up. “We used the Motogadget m-Unit for this, and the matching Tiny Speedo for the instruments. These helped to keep a minimal look.”

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
The hand controls are custom. On the right-hand side are two buttons, retro-fitted to a custom-fabricated mount for the master cylinder—and re-engineered in order to keep unwanted wires out of the way. On the left-hand side, the wires run within the bars.

The aluminum grips are also made in-house, and the throttle is a reverse-engineered copy of a Piaggio unit, again using aluminum.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
With so much work gone into the aesthetics and stance, it’d be criminal not to show the engine some love. So Bujar and Gaz have given the parallel twin a full strip and aquablast, and installed new bearings.

The head has been ported and polished for extra zip, and the compression raised slightly with new pistons and rings. Carbs are Mikuni VM34 with two polished velocity stacks, tuned for mid-high power.

Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabrica Kawasaki KZ400
There are no welds or big mufflers on Auto Fabrica exhaust systems. Simple curves are the way to go, so the KZ400 is sporting a stainless 2-into-2 system hand bent in-house. Internal stainless steel baffles keep the volume down a little.

“The bike is light and nimble with a fair bit of grunt from a 400, and the looks to match,” says Bujar. “It’s a short wheelbase custom perfect for the twisties or town driving.”

Tempted? The Type 14 is for sale. If you’re looking for a lightweight runabout with a heavy dose of style, drop Auto Fabrica a line.

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Two-wheeled Extreme Makeover: The Auto Fabric Kawasaki KZ400