70s Muscle: Santiago’s Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer

Santiago Chopper's stunning Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer.
If the sixties was the heyday for muscle cars, the seventies was the era of superbikes. Cars that could run the quarter mile in 13 seconds were considered fast, but the Kawasaki H1 and Honda CB750 were equally rapid.

Then the literbike inline fours arrived—like the Kawasaki Z1000. And the Camaros, Corvettes and ‘Cudas were left for dead.

Santiago Chopper's stunning Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer.
Today, a mid-70s KZ1000 still oozes charisma. You can pick one up for around $3,000, and it’ll draw a bigger crowd in the parking lot than any modern superbike.

What it won’t do, though, is handle like a modern bike. So Alain Bernard of Santiago Chopper has taken a ‘77 Zed and given it a modern café racer treatment. As well as boosting the engine, he’s given it a huge upgrade in the suspension department.

Santiago Chopper's stunning Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer.
Wisely, he’s started with the frame. It’s braced and strengthened with extra welding to reduce twisting—“just like we did in the 1970s,” says Bernard.

To make the most of the stiffer frame, Bernard has fitted Ducati suspension: a complete Monster front end, and a single-sided Monster 796 swingarm. Rubber is Pirelli Diablo Rosso.

The 1015 cc motor has been punched out to 1135cc with a Wiseco big bore kit, with pistons four millimeters wider than stock. The new pistons also raise the compression ratio from 8.7:1 to 10.25:1, and are matched to Yoshimura high performance cams.

Santiago Chopper's stunning Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer.
New Mikuni 38mm carbs keep the engine well fed, with sparks controlled by a Dyna electronic ignition system. The exhaust is a mix of custom-fabricated pipes and some Hayabusa parts.

No power figures are quoted, but we’re betting the factory figure of 83hp is now sitting closer to 100. Or even more.

Santiago Chopper's stunning Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer.
The Z1000 has always been a great-looking bike, so the bodywork is one element that didn’t require a café racer makeover. Still, Bernard has fitted completely new plastic from a Japanese specialist. The Z1000 looks as just fresh as it did nearly forty years ago.

The bike is for sale for $18,000, which is roughly what you’d pay for a new Vulcan 1700 Voyager cruiser. Which would you rather take?

Santiago Chopper | Images courtesy of Erick Runyon | Erick Runyon Facebook page

Santiago Chopper's stunning Kawasaki Z1000 cafe racer.