The economics of the custom business in Japan are very different to what we usually see in the west. Most of the top builders have a loose formula that they’ve constantly refined over the years, using a small number of high-quality parts suppliers. It means they’re not reinventing the wheel with every build; they know what works and what doesn’t.
AC Sanctuary is one of the best-known examples of this approach. The company has built dozens of Kawasaki café racers—“resto-mods,” if you like—and now has several stores scattered around the country. It’s verging on small-scale production, like a boutique supercar manufacturer.
This is one of the latest builds in Sanctuary’s ‘RCM’ (Real Complete Machine) series, based on a Z1. But although RCM-283 is instantly recognizable as a vintage Zed, it’s dynamically a huge leap forward.
The frame has been completely stripped back and braced for maximum strength before refinishing. The engine has been blueprinted and balanced, and fitted with Mikuni TMR36 carburetion and a heavy-duty police-spec clutch. To cope with the extra power output, a 9-inch Earl’s cooler has been fitted.
The bought-in parts are top-shelf quality. Nitro Racing has supplied the exhaust system (with titanium muffler), a hydraulic clutch kit, plus a new seat and bodywork. Other parts come from Sculpture, a brand not so well known outside Japan. They’ve helped to tighten up the handling with custom triple trees and a new swingarm, complete with a hook for a paddock stand.
When it comes to the handling, the names are more familiar. The suspension is Öhlins all round and the wheels are 17” OZ Racing Piegas, originally designed for the ZXR1200. (They’re 3.5” wide at the front and 5.5” at the back and shod with Pirelli Diablo tires.) The brakes are a mix of Nissin, Sunstar and Brembo components.
Sanctuary’s real skill is not just in picking the parts that work, but making them look part of a coherent whole. And unlike most café racers, this one looks like it could have rolled off the Kawasaki production line. The finish is top-notch and the paint is subtle.
That’s why well-heeled enthusiasts are buying Sanctuary bikes as fast as the company can make them. Considering they cost around $40,000, that’s no mean feat. If you had the funds, would you put one in your garage?
Browse our coverage of previous AC Sanctuary builds here.