The name Chad Hodge should sound familiar. He designed the sensational Bullitt helmet concept a few years ago—a retro, full-face design that’s since been picked up by Bell and is about to go on sale. Originally from Louisville, Chad works as industrial designer out of his shop in Brooklyn. This 1978-model Kawasaki KZ750B is his first custom build and, coincidentally, the first motorcycle he ever owned.
“I got it 10 years ago when I was 18 but never got it running right”, says Chad. “The starter clutch was toast and the kickshaft bent, so I abandoned it for other bikes. I ended up selling it to a friend who also let it sit around, only to buy it back last year to give it a new life.”
First on Chad’s list was a complete engine rebuild, including a new kickshaft. He cleaned up the frame, replaced all the bearings and made a new, streamlined wiring harness. Chad also installed an electronic ignition and rebuilt the wheels—wrapping them in Dunlop K70s. He upgraded the front forks with progressive springs and a fork brace, and fitted new YSS shocks at the rear.
Once the bike was running as it should, he turned his attention to cosmetics. “I wanted the bike to kind of look like an old race bike with a tracker stance. I love F1 race cars from the 1960s and the functional, precise but also handmade look that the different components had.”
Chad shortened the KZ750’s stock tail unit before sending it to New Church Moto in Portland for fresh upholstery. It now houses the battery and taillights—discreetly tucked away behind a bespoke mesh cover and only visible when lit. “I had to build custom light housings and cones to make the whole light assembly,” he explains. “I think that turned out to be my favorite part of the bike.”
The exhaust headers were re-routed at a sharp angle for a more aggressive look. They terminate in reverse cone mufflers wrapped in tailor-made heat shields that, according to Chad, work rather effectively.
He decided on a bare-metal-and-black color scheme while prepping the bike for paint. “Originally I had a different color in mind for the tank and tail, but once I stripped the tank and saw the metal I was hooked.” Gum grips were added to match the seat, and the handlebar controls were swapped out for cleaner-looking items.
Chad’s pretty happy with how the KZ750 turned out: “It was a really fun bike to work on, and it’s even more fun to ride. It’s light and quick.”
The good news is that he’s hoping to take on more builds in the future. I’d say that’s something to look forward to, wouldn’t you?
To explore the bike in more detail, head over to the high-resolution gallery on our Google+ page. Images by Blaine Davis. To get in touch with Chad, see his work or commission a project, visit his site at chadhodgedesign.com.