One-Off Kawasaki KZ440 LTD Went From Odd Retro Cruiser to Custom Brat-Style Beauty

hace 10 meses, 2 semanas - 9 julio 2023, autoevolution
One-Off Kawasaki KZ440 LTD Went From Odd Retro Cruiser to Custom Brat-Style Beauty
People’s cosmetic preferences are a very subjective matter, and this is especially true when it comes to cars or motorcycles.

Nonetheless, there are certain machines that few (if any) of us would ever refer to as beautiful or visually appealing in any way. Classic, cruiser-esque bikes from Japan largely fall into this category, and we can probably all agree that their looks haven’t aged particularly well.

The Kawasaki KZ440 LTD, for instance, won’t be winning any beauty contests, but there’s a pretty decent motorcycle hiding behind its obnoxious appearance. From a mechanical standpoint, the Kawi was an excellent mid-size offering for its era, with features such as an electric starter, a front disc brake, and an air-cooled 443cc twin-cylinder engine making 27 hp. But of course, there’s also that highly desirable Japanese reliability!

You can see where we’re going with this; a dependable vintage bike with ugly looks and solid performance can be a great candidate for customization. No one is going to get too upset about you chopping it up, the price for the base machine should be rather accessible, and you get to enjoy the thrilling character only a classic ride can boast. That actually sounds like a fairly good deal, doesn't it?

Well, the Aussies over at Sabotage Motorcycles seem to think so. Earlier this year, founders Andy and Giles were presented with the opportunity to bring a mistreated 1981 model back to life, and they welcomed the challenge with open arms. Their client was initially thinking about a cafe racer conversion, but the Sabotage duo pitched a sort of Brat-style look as being more appropriate for the KZ440.

It wasn’t long before the customer was sold on the idea, then the transformation process got underway. First things first, the donor was taken apart and given a much-needed scrub in the process, getting it ready for the Sabotage treatment that followed. Whereas most builders would immediately discard the Kawi’s subframe, Giles and Andy decided to do things a little differently and work with what they had.

In order to conceal the skeleton’s awkward dip, the lads came up with a generously-padded seat featuring black leather upholstery. The southernmost portion of the frame was shortened and looped, while the stock rear fender made room for a smaller custom unit fabricated in-house. It’s that angular sissy bar that’ll really catch your attention, though.

Manufactured from scratch using stainless-steel, the said item acts as the mounting point for an aftermarket taillight and a bare-bones license plate holder. It also adds a pinch of chopper styling to the whole ordeal, and the owner will certainly find it useful when carrying luggage. LED turn signals round out the new equipment in that area, with a modern pair of progressive shocks managing suspension duties out back.

Look closely, and you will also notice a handmade aluminum electronics box underneath the saddle. Sabotage went to town on the opposite end, as well, installing a fresh stainless-steel handlebar they’ve shaped in-house. This module is adorned with waffle-style Vans Cult grips, as well as a mixture of OEM switches from Kawasaki and Honda.

A little further ahead, the guys fitted a Bates-style headlamp whose chromed housing is a perfect match for the KZ440’s retro aesthetic. The front fender appears to be a bespoke part at first, but it was actually made by trimming the original component. Choosing to also retain the cast seven-spoke wheels that came from the factory, Sabotage simply wrapped their rims in youthful Shinko rubber with classic vibes.

The stock brakes were deemed well-suited to their task, so Giles and his teammate only had to give them a quick refurbishment before moving on. However, their work in the powertrain department was far more extensive, beginning with a complete overhaul of the specimen’s four-stroke parallel-twin.

Once the rebuilt had been completed, the standard Keihin carburetors got swapped with higher-spec Mikuni substitutes. A custom stainless-steel exhaust system can be found at the other end of the combustion cycle, featuring a two-into-two configuration and reverse megaphone mufflers. With these mods in place, the mill is sure to perform even better than it did when it was still brand-new.

Finally, an appropriate color scheme was the last thing that Sabotage and their client had to consider. In the end, a stunning, deep blue base made its way onto the fuel tank, joined by light silver accents for ample contrast. The frame was painted black, while polished metal surfaces and chrome plating are the name of the game elsewhere.

Andy and Giles were ready to hand the reworked Kawasaki back to their client once the paint job had been performed, and it should go without saying that he was stoked to see the result. Sabotage hasn’t revealed any pricing information, though, so you’ll need to get straight in touch with them to find out what something similar might cost. 

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