Your Z - Graeme "Croz" Crosby - Z1

 Graeme Crosby - Kawasaki Z1

Article by Graeme Crosby - "Croz".


Sounds easy restoring a 73 ‘Jaffa’ Z1, well it should be. Hell, it can’t be that hard because I remember what it was like to break open a wooden crate revelling a half days work ahead of you. I was part of a small band of techno wizards armed with a hand full of vacuum gauges and a special shim changing tool not to mention a dwell angle meter. We spent hours checking float levels, valve clearances, tightening and checking the torque on swing arm bolts plus carrying our regular service bulletin items. All this pre-delivery work was done before handing it over to a lucky bastard who had just shelled out £1020, and that was almost 40 years ago. It was all good fun and easy.

However, with my Z1 restoration project almost complete after a year’s work I must say it hasn’t been that easy. I have spent years playing a rodeo cowboy on these Z1s, racing them all over the world but it’s not until you take an honest look at the original bike do you realise the enormity required to start a total rebuild project. I have made all the classic mistakes along the way like trying to slip the cylinder over four not very co-operative pistons only to find someone had fitted oversize sleeves to the bike. I had bought it 3 years previously thinking it was a standard size engine, wrong, shit! That means another gasket needs to be ordered. One perfect example that demonstrates if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it. I had not even given a thought to check the bore size. And so another few weeks slip by as you trawl the internet looking for a stock size cylinder and piston kit.

Z1s are in my blood, right from winning a “rock, scissors, paper” challenge as a mechanic to be the first to assemble and road test Kawasaki’s inaugural ‘superbike’ when it arrived in New Zealand. I had been employed by the Kawasaki importers at the time which kept me busy all week assembling Z1s, H2s and H1-B models plus a bunch of the big selling GA5A and G4TR-a (NZ was a farm market after all). During these times I developed a real passion that still exists strongly today for those early '70s Kwakas.

New Zealand and Australia shared one big racing motorcycle event during the early seventies, the ‘Castrol” sponsored - Six Hour production race for bikes. It was supposed to be for ‘straight out of the box” bikes. So in 1974 I rode a Z1A to victory, riding the whole six hours alone in a somewhat unchallenged race, albeit that I did need to take a “piss stop” which luckily coincided with a scheduled fuel stop!. The bike ran like clockwork, never missed a beat and earned me a bottle of cheap wine and a cheque for £70. That money, incidentally, was spent at the bar before riding back to Auckland some 300 miles away. Oh!, those were the days, uncomplicated and a huge amount of fun.

I followed up that first win with another the following year and the long association with the Z1 and its derivatives began. I spent a few years bouncing off lamp posts and kerbs in and around NZ and Australia, racing on all types of circuits. Mostly on my trusty modified Z1, usually with its front wheel clawing the air in long almost vertical wheelies.

I finally had an opportunity to race in Japan for Moriwaki who provided a Z1 superbike with 'straight bars' and if it had not been for a fuel cock-up, we had to settle for 3rd, and that was back in 1978. 

Not being shy of challengers, I saw the Isle of Man as my next big step and armed with an accompanying letter of introduction from Mike Hailwood, off I went.
Moriwaki prepared a special UK style racer with clip-ons, but I wasn't sure about blending into the English way of 'Pukka' racing, so after using it at the TT and finishing 4th, it went back to Japan, with me favouring instead to use the high handlebar 'sit up and beg' superbike. It was the best thing I did and right from that first race at Brands in early '79, I was on the pace and in the press. I challenged most of the current British racing icons leaving everyone questioning who the hell I was. But that is another story. (see my book CROZ-LARRIKIN BIKER).


Taking a giant leap forward (30 odd years) I find myself back with tinkering with the old Z1s working out how I can blend the ‘old with the new’ to create my own ‘street fighter’. Nowadays I am very conscious that any use of a torque wrench on these old girls usually means a stripped thread well before reaching the required limit. Where would I be without a heli-coil set?

But Street Fighters have been around for a long time. It’s nothing new from my point of view because it is now, what I was back then. Big engine, big power, flapping off the bars trying to hold on! It’s also a time for me to put my years of experience into play and have some fun designing new triple clamps so as the later model ‘upside down’ forks can be used on the Z1 chassis’s of old. I have been careful it its design of making sure the caster angle and trail length give me what I want. But best of all is it’s the feral look of these street fighters that gives each its distinct raw edge and identity. It’s gotta be fun and I am really enjoying playing god to my new creation! Well I was until my wife Helen presented me with the costing to date! My almost fully restored Z1 is sitting owing me close to £12,000 (and building!) plus my half finished ‘Street fighter’ with it’s Moriwaki titanium pipe, Yoshimura cam and valve gear is edging up that way as well. But more alarmingly that’s before I factor into it a newly manufactured close ratio gearbox costing close to £1200. Will it ever stop, probably not but I am having fun re-living my youth so don’t rain on my parade.



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