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Rocket ship: An 80s-style Z800 from Smoked Garage

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
The Kawasaki Z800 flew under the radar in most countries. It’s good rather than great: a solid, slightly buzzy streetfighter that’s carrying a few too many pounds. It ended up being overshadowed by Yamaha’s all-conquering MT-09.

But once you strip off the jagged plastics, there’s a very good base for customization. We’re betting the Z800 will soon be a popular bike for remodeling—not least because it’s packing a hefty 113 hp. And this 2015 model from Indonesia’s Smoked Garage is one of the first cabs off the rank.

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
When Smoked’s client arrived with his Z800, he asked for all the plastic to be removed. “So we sat down with a coffee and started to look at the heritage,” says shop boss Nicko Eigert. “Back in the 1980s, this part of the Z family was the king of the race track.”

After immersing themselves in the era of classic racing bikes, Nicko and his client decided to marry the new tech with classic lines, adding a hint of flat track style into the mix and a big tank with decals.

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
“We wanted the vibe that comes from a couple of spare parts lying around the workshop, welded together quickly for the racetrack,” says Nicko. “But if you look closer, then you realize that it was all built from scratch—because the lines all match up, and all the parts link together nicely.”

There were a lot of hurdles to jump, starting with the gorgeous rims—with the 18” front an inch up in size from the stock wheel. “Making one-off wheels that resemble classic Morris wheels was a challenge. We wanted to pay tribute to the racing heritage and yet still be modern, so we had to go back-and-forth with the CNC team. It took ages.”

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
For the aluminum bodywork design, Smoked used sketches and foam—there’s no CAD here. “We used foam because we can add or remove material quickly, patch it up and even paint it.”

Even a seemingly minor item like the racing-style fuel cap caused problems. It started as a block of aluminum that was milled several times until it was just right. But it’s the crowning glory on that massive tank, unapologetically slab-sided and finished in Smoked’s favorite shades of blue.

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
“We promised ourselves that all the parts would be hand-made, so getting the right shape and dimension of the cap was a challenge. And so was the air filter—making sure it had the correction dimensions, while being in a different position.”

A sprinkling of classic decals adds to the delightfully vintage vibe, but the Yoshimura stickers have earned their place. The muffler is a genuine item, lifted off an early 90s Honda CBR.

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
“We had the CBR in the shop,” Nicko reveals. “When we wanted to start up the Kawasaki we needed an exhaust, so we measured the pipe dimensions and the Yoshi was the perfect size. So we cut and chopped the headers to fit.”

After a test ride, the Smoked guys loved the tone of the Yoshi so much that they decided to keep it. They cleaned it up a little, but not too much: “We wanted its vintage ‘ageing’.”

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
There’s a hint of the early 1980s AMA superbike racers in the headlight treatment. LEDs peek through the number plate, and the number ‘19’ decal has the right chunkiness. But why ‘19’?

“19 is our lucky number for this bike,” says Nicko. “Because it took 19 goes to shape that tank and the tail section right!” The signature on the tailpiece belongs to Gus Wi, Smoked’s head engineer. “He was on a major roll on this bike, and it was the right thing to do. He and his team put blood, sweat and tears into this build.”

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
The toughest piece of engineering is also at the back, where there’s a new rear frame to suit the airy single-seater look. This meant relocating the mono shock and incorporating motocross suspension parts to tuck the new Nitron shock out of the way.

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage
Smoked have called the Z800 ‘Kerosin Burner.’ “Because it looks like a rocket, and goes like a rocket,” says Nicko. “I can’t describe in words how it feels to ride it.”

Well, what’s that saying about a picture being worth ..?

Smoked Garage | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Speed People

Rocket ship: An 80s-style Kawasaki Z800 from Smoked Garage

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