BMW Motorrad Spezial

Kawasaki Z1 by AC Sanctuary

Kawasaki Z1
Japan probably has the most diverse custom motorcycle culture in the world. They like monkey bikes and mopeds and 110-cubic-inch Harleys and everything in between. And nothing is immune from the touch of the angle grinder, or the hiss of the metalflake spray gun. But there are a few companies that eschew this excess, and AC Sanctuary is one of them. Headquartered in Tokyo, it’s a chain of workshops that specializes in the retro superbikes of the 1970s—and Kawasakis in particular.

This Kawasaki Z1 is the company’s latest creation, and it’ll set you back a dizzying $37,700 after taxes. So what do you get for that money? Using a stock early 70s Z1 as the starting point, Sanctuary rebuilds and bores out the motor, fitting 1.5mm wider pistons to boost capacity from 903 to 944cc. The frame is then reinforced—it was never a strong point on the original Z1s—and beefier front forks from a Yamaha XJR-1200 are installed. The wheels are 17” magnesium Dymag H3s, worth over $3,000 alone. The brakes are uprated with Sumitomo calipers and a Nissin master cylinder, and the Z1 is liberally sprinkled with Nitro Racing parts—including a new exhaust system, hydraulic clutch and rearsets. A Mikuni TMR 36 handles carburetion duties, and a 13-inch oil cooler keeps temperatures under control. The rest of the bike is restored to beyond showroom condition, but with the nose-down high-tail stance that’s popular in Japan at the moment.

The original bike was quick enough, with 82bhp on tap, but this Kawasaki Z1 will have considerably more—plus the suspension dynamics and braking capacity to handle the extra power. I’m not sure if it’s worth $37,000, but it’s a beautiful thing. And if I had the money to spare, as many well-heeled Japanese bike enthusiasts have, I’d love to have one in my garage. Wouldn’t you?

Kawasaki Z1
Kawasaki Z1
Kawasaki Z1
Kawasaki Z1

  • Ken

    Spendy is right! Bet its hella fun to ride! Wish the rear fender was 4-5″ shorter. Love the paint…

  • Davidabl2

    Reminds me of one of those rebuilt ’70’s-’80’s muscle cars that wealthy collectors like Jay Leno get built
    for a couple hundred K.

  • Spooly-T

    Best Z1 i’ve seen

  • KIK

    Super clean and nicely done,..

  • Gebeme

    Whats the big deal? $3,770 is nothing for a bike like thi… wait… I missed a 0. $37,700! Holy cats!

  • rojiru

    sick bike but for that money i’d probably just get 2 and leave them stock…

  • mudplug

    Right up my street. (I wish!)

    Only when I compared the photos side by side with pics of the original Z1 did I realise how different the stance looks. I think I’d been desensitised by the Suzuki GSX1400 etc.
    (I want a levitating sidestand.)

    Also compared the weights and can see why they chose XJR forks!

    Would love to ride it.

  • yeah, 37k is huge but from what i’m seeing with japanese builders, it’s just the discrepancy between the dollar and the yen. one american dollar equals 83 yen. things are not cheap there and the cost is dramatic when compared to the dollar.

    here’s a link that can better illustrate the issue:

    regardless of the economics, 37k is still a bit pricey for a beautifully tweaked kawi four.

    i’m reminded of wrenchmonkees. denmark taxes motorcycles 80% and then suddenly you get something that could be copied in the states for 15 grand going for 30 from denmark.

    regardless, it’s a clean bike i’d love to ride. thanks, chris.

    • Ccc40821

      The Danish registration fee is not 80%, but 180% of the cost of the bike at the border. Subtract a fixed (low) amount from that, but add customs fee and 25% VAT. But then our wages are pretty high, a lot of basic things are paid through taxes, so at the end of the day we’re still amongst the richest in the Western world. Lots of new harleys in the streets, too, despite stratospheric prices.

  • No more a percentage increase than a “resto-mod” ’70s muscle car with all-new hotrod parts underneath. Modern performance (or better) with classic looks… if you’ve got the coin and lusted after the bike/car when it was current, something brand-new just won’t do. This is what you acquire, and you smile when writing the check. If I understand the scene in Japan correctly, this can almost be considered an actual investment (not just an expenditure)… a few years later, the resale value will have appreciated.

    This bike is typical of Sanctuary’s work – subtle, beautiful, and potent.

  • Just Joe

    So nicely done, I wish I could afford it!

  • Mule

    Bee-yu-tee-ful! I’ve got missle lock on this bike.

    Duplicate for $15K in the USA? In your dreams. Probably cost even more than in Japan, plus nobody here is doing it in any numbers, so they’re all one-offs. Just the components used here were a jillion dollars.

    • Dave in Kalifornia

      Yeah… Duplicate for about 18-20K by a reputable shop… I have a 750 that has over 13k in it… and that’s just parts/machine-shop work… not assembly.

  • Nevermind

    It’s ugly.

  • joe momma

    ….mine cost $1995.00…..and the frame was weak……tank slappin’ speed wobble around ninety (five??)(i was decelerating – chit was happening kinda fast right then) spit me off on the road like the gulf no nox guys……still got the marks……it did make me famous locally…..stepped off a bike at hunnert and lived to tell abooooot it……it was fastass sumbitchy…..wonder warthog woulda been proud…..

  • Anand

    I love this bike, its been my wallpaper for weeks now!and i dont get tired of looking at it but I just converted that price in Rupees!! :( ouch….that would take me a lifetime to earn!

    • Lew

      The world is a hard place. Jay Leno, Tom Cruise etc have fleets of cars and motorcycles that they don’t ride or drive more than once or twice, while poor motorcycle lovers dream of a clean resto-mod much cheaper, simpler, cleaner and less prestigious than anything they’d bother with.

  • Kurt

    Sanctuary builds the dopest Kawi’s this side of BullDock, but $37K seems a bit optimistic. This one, though admittedly not a Sanctuary level build, ran about $4K total (

    • That’s a great build also! Where did you see the $4K build price? I didn’t see that in the article.

  • elven

    I like it lots, VERY expensive, perhaps the calipers could have been disguised, those blue dots are so Yamaha!

  • Lew

    Love this, exactly what I’d do if I had the skills. Get an old classic and improve it in every way including making it safer and quicker. I’d prefer shorter rear, muffler and some clip on air filters, it’s not my bike though.

    • Mule

      What you are describing is what basically has been supporting the hot-rod/roadster industry for years! Take a 32 (or whatever year) Ford and upgrade the motor and all the running gear. You end up with a fast,safe, reliable, hard braking, decent handling, good looking car in the retro body design.

      My feeling is, the type of bike shown here represnts better than any other style of bike, a motorcycle version of a Hot Rod! Older body style with the balls to do the business. I’d take this style over any style of bike on earth. Just one person’s opinion.

      • Lew

        Agreed, although I am not American, and I’ve never even seen or sat in a hot-rod, the entire idea makes sense!

        I’m sure as cars and bikes become more sterile (traction control, abs, emission and sound regulations etc etc) demand for older machines with uprated everything is just going to continue to rise every year.

        • elven

          Same as you, I’m not from USA, but my pleasure is to take something used and upgrade it, mostly with self-modified parts from a breakers yard.
          A full set of 3 good used Blue Dot calipers costs no more than 100 pounds UK, less than 200 for a pair of FJR forks…. and its amazing what can be done with a few tools and a polishing kit!

          This one is a beaut though… evrything done to the highest standard, no compromises.

      • Harry Farquhar

        I agree this would be what I imagine when I think of the 2 wheeled equivalent of a hot rod.

  • holly cheet! i need a moment alone. everything is perfect! it even hovers on its side stand!

  • holly cheet! i need a moment alone. everything is perfect! it even hovers on its side stand!

  • Stephen F.

    drool. if money were no object, I would do this treatment to my projects.

  • Tonytiger29

    makes me wish i still had my ’81 cb 750f supersport and the money and skills to do something like this to it. i’m going to day dream for a little bit then get back to work.

  • Jhbeloff


  • Cookie

    Or you could always just fix up a 90’s kawasaki zephyr to get that look for so much less.