I’m pleased to introduce the ‘Patina Screemer’, my build that tied for the win in the Peoples Choice category at this years Deus Ex Machina Bike Build Off.
My love for custom bikes stared in October 2008 when I was about 16, on the way to the Moto GP at Phillip Island. I had an AMCM magazine with a program for the race but inside was an ad from Deus with just a bunch of their bikes on a page. Up until then my whole life was motocross, I couldn’t get enough of it, but when I saw what Deus was doing I was so interested in everything they were about. I couldn’t work out how they made what I thought were boring old bikes into something completely different from what they were originally, but so cool. They were simple though, not like factory race bikes but just old Japanese commuters striped back with basically the bare essentials.
A couple of years later Deus had their first bike build off at their shop in Camperdown. The brief was more or less ‘Make the most, with the least.” I’m pretty sure the guy that designed that years winner ‘much much go,’ was a car designer, it was a piece of art built on a budget.
I thought that whole deal was so cool. I mean anyone can go online or into their dealer and buy a bunch of posh parts and make a nice bike, but it just takes cash, its not very hard. Straight away I wanted to start another bike hoping that they would run the contest in again in 2011, and started looking for an old Japanese road bike for sale that was less than $1000 dollars to start tearing down and playing with. It turned out that that doesn’t really exist. Luckily a friend had a 1981 KZ 650 that had been sitting outside for a number of years that had been running up until it was parked but never had rego renewed. He was confident it would run again easily and also knew that what he had was worth something, he very kindly sold it to me for $500.
I thought I could make some wild bit of gear out of old bikes and stuff I had lying around and ended up making something out of an early 80’s KDX 175. My Friend Tim Patton helped me with a lot of the metal work because I was rough as guts and had no real idea what I was doing. I managed to get something together, and went up to Sydney with my friend Ryan to get amongst what was a great day with some awesome bikes at the Build Off.
The bike was totally complete, but well and truly weathered. There was moss and mould on lots of parts and the carbs were full of all sorts of gunk and corrosion. After a fair bit of cleaning and mucking around I got it started which was a huge relief and meant I could get into styling it up. For reference, I did a really quick Google image search of KZ 650’s and there was one that grabbed my attention straight away. Old mate had just done the usual flat seat and de-clutter but put forks and a front wheel of an R1 (I think) onto it. The stance and the way the weight distribution looked having the chunkier front end was so damn good and I knew I had to do try something similar with mine.
I hit up another friend that bought a ZXR 250 rolling chassis from a guy at school for $20 and I knew he had no use for it at all. I ended up having to pay him a bit more to get it, but it was still ludicrously cheap with some really handy parts. I pulled both front ends apart and got some bearings to make the new forks fit the old frame and luckily it all fit together pretty easy. I wasn’t really sure what to do after that though and didn’t have a particular direction I wanted to go with it but I thought I had a good canvas to work with.
The tank that came on the KZ had some interesting lines, so I thought I would try and make a tail section with the same rough lines and shape and see what it looked like. After chopping a bit out of the sub frame, I got some pieces cut up, tacked them on the back and was pretty happy with how it looked. Standing at the back it roughly followed the lines of the tank and from the side it carried on the same diagonal lines as well.
Unfortunately Deus had to call off their next build off so I kind of left the bike in the shed and got carried away with other things now not having a deadline. It basically sat in various sheds around Bungendore and Wamboin while I tinkered with it and looked at it every now and then but nothing was ever really achieved. I was away for the second in 2013, but when Deus announced this year’s Bike Build Off I got all excited again and pulled it back out. Still without any real direction, I figured as I tried to put it all together I’d have ideas of things to try and it would all just look after itself.
The first thing I tried was mounting a KDX 175 rear shock up under the seat. I cut the mounts out of the KDX frame and sat the back wheel of the KZ on a jerry can and some timber until I liked the look of how much travel it had and welded the mounts in place then bolted the shock in. As soon as I took it down off the stand the shock just bottomed out straightaway, which certainly wasn’t what I was looking for. The problem probably could have been resolved pulling the shock apart and rebuilding it mega stiff but I wanted to stick to making the most with the least so the shock went in the vice and the welder followed closely. The shock’s fairly stiff now.
After that I liked the stance and the way the lines were working. With the short and thick ZXR forks and light looking rear end as well as the ZXR wheels with big front discs I thought it looked like a bit of a hot rod. It was as rough as you like around the edges, but also looked as though it was kinda built to ride fast too. [tweet_dis]I imagined it being something a moonshine bootlegger would be riding, thrown together from bits lying around, but still able to haul ass when it needed too.[/tweet_dis] I got pretty excited about that idea and from then tried to think of things as if a moonshiner was going to ride it.
The headlight was the next thing to get mounted and I was going to just get some standard brackets but wanted to try and make as much as I could. I cut up the original headlight bracket and mounted it with the bolts that hold the key barrel on. When that was all done the headlight stuck out a bit further and was a bit higher than I would have liked but instead of redoing it all I thought forget that, I’ll just make a fairing to hide how shit it looks. I sat a straight edge on top of the tank and the top of the headlight met the bottom of the straight edge. Everything was starting to line up. I had no idea how I was going to make this fairing but I knew I wanted to try copy lines from the tank.
I was in America at the start of the year & was lucky enough to spend some time with Yost Autosport who were rebuilding their M3 race car and doing lots of stuff themselves. Watching them just sending it with grinders on such an expensive car was crazy, but it was clear they knew what they wanted the end result to look like and backed themselves to get it right the first time. I figured if I just winged it with a fairing then I’d figure it out as I went along, they got what they were doing right so why couldn’t I?
Jay Rawlings who has some posh Honda CB’s helped me tig a bunch of triangles I cut out of some coloured bond sheet onto a really basic frame. I bent it with my hands around my knee and an anvil to get some shape happening. From there it was continual trial and error with what worked and what didn’t, along with quite a lot of helpful discussion with my uncle Neil. It ended up working out OK but it’s a wild piece of work. Trying to combine curves and angles didn’t really work, so that was disguised like the headlight.
Going back to the bootlegging theme I thought the whole bike needed to be meaner, it was all too placid. In World War II, lots of fighter planes had sharks teeth and eyes painted on them and I thought that might be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Paint the fairing with angry teeth and eyes to look a bit meaner but it would also disguise the contradicting curves and angles. I painted the headlight with some taillight paint to try and add to the effect.
Another friend Alex was over helping me finish clean and tidy it up the day before I took it to Sydney and we decided to paint the tail section with the red and white rising sun to even the colour out and give a bit back to the bike’s Japanese heritage. That night I was able to stand back and look at something that resembled a finished product after 4 years or so of tinkering and roping friends in for bits of help. It most certainly not what I expected it to look like when I first bought it but to tie for Peoples Choice at the Deus Bike Build Off was awesome.
To think it would ever be road legal is a joke, and lots of the fabrication is beyond rough, but it was done from either OEM Kawasaki parts or one bespoke stuff made in Australian sheds. The only parts that were bought were the grips, front sprocket and start switch.
Riding it for the ninetynineco shoot nearly killed it. Two of the headers are pretty well crushed, and there would have been a decent amount of dust pass through the carbs. [tweet_dis]The fuel tank started dripping 98 octane from the clapped out seal around the old fuel level sensor[/tweet_dis] thing onto the fairly hot engine cases making a lovely ‘’Pssssssss’’ sound as it quickly turned into steam or whatever it does. An old ADB beanie and some duct tape sorted that for a little while longer but the threat of spontaneous combustion was definitely present ,which would of made for some great content but nevertheless the old girl hung in there.
I didn’t want to follow any trends and make a bike to suit a category but just have fun with it and let trial and error do the designing. Now that the Build Off has come and gone its probably back to the bikes familiar territory, out the back of the shed, although hopefully there will be an excuse or two to get it out.
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