All it took was a squint at Kawasaki’s Mo­togp bike for a thor­ough and ut­terly con­vinc­ing ZXR400 makeover

Lee Young knew pre­cisely the look he was af­ter for his ZXR400 when he clocked the 2004 ZX-RR Mo­togp ma­chine at the Sepang round

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Inside - WORDS ALAN SEE­LEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY STU­ART COLLINS

SPE­CIALS BUILDERS draw in­spi­ra­tion from all man­ner of sources. From the spark of the ini­tial idea, mo­ti­va­tion to main­tain fo­cus on the goal is essen­tial.

For Leey­oung, it was Kawasaki’s 2004 ZX-RR built for the Mo­togp round at Sepang that sug­gested the styling for his 1998 Kawasaki ZXR400 L8. It was his wife Stef that helped with fo­cus and mo­ti­va­tion and she even bought some of the key com­po­nents found in Lee’s mini mar­vel.

It all started, as it so of­ten does, with a well-lu­bri­cated ebay bid. “I’d al­ways fan­cied a pocket-rocket 400. I had bid on plenty of Honda NC30S but kept miss­ing out,” says the 38-year-old prop­erty ren­o­va­tion firm pro­pri­etor. “Then on May Bank Hol­i­day 2011 I had a lit­tle too much red wine be­fore bed time and stuck a bid in on an orig­i­nal, 9000-mile ZXR400. “I awoke to find that I’d won it for £1100.The seller was so dis­ap­pointed in how lit­tle the bike had fetched that when I went to col­lect it, he didn’t even come out of the house to deal with me – his wife just handed me the keys.”

Cheap though it was, the bike wasn’t with­out is­sues.the orig­i­nal mild steel head­ers had rot­ted, like they do, and the ZXR failed its MOT be­cause one of the ’bars had been bent when the pre­vi­ous owner had dropped the bike on its side and it now fouled the tank on full lock.that drop had taken a cos­metic toll too.

Time for Lee to get to work. His pre­vi­ous bike was anaprilia RS250. He’d or­dered a

“I did all the vents and re­cesses my­self in glass fi­bre. I’d learned all the tech­niques in a pre­vi­ous job mak­ing car­a­vans and Truck­man tops”

Tyga fair­ing for that but had been on a long wait­ing list.three months af­ter he got the ZXR, the RS fair­ing ar­rived and it was ob­vi­ous where it was go­ing to go. Lee mod­i­fied thetyga RS front sub­frame to work with the ZXR’S head­stock and made the other brack­ets in alu­minium us­ing a hack­saw, files and a pil­lar drill. More dras­tic mod­i­fi­ca­tion was re­quired to the fair­ing it­self. “Ob­vi­ously it had none of the vents re­quired for the ZXR or re­cesses to take the ZX-6R C1H front in­di­ca­tors I wanted to fit, so I did all that in glass fi­bre my­self. I’d learned all the tech­niques in a pre­vi­ous job mak­ing car­a­vans andtruck­man tops,” says Lee.

As hap­pens with spe­cials, one mod prompted an­other, and the ZXR clocks wouldn’t fit un­der the new fair­ing. So Lee bought atrans­logic Mi­cro Dash 3.The bent ’bars were junked in favour of Ren­thal clip-ons.thetyga RS250 rear sub­frame dic­tated a phys­i­cally smaller bat­tery and the only one Lee could find was a Sho­rai LFX lithium.then, even af­ter mod­i­fi­ca­tion, he de­creed that the Rs250­tyga tail was too long and tall. Not only af­ter mod­i­fi­ca­tion, but af­ter paint too and it’s not the rear you see on there now.

Re-born to Bewild did the paint and Lee was very par­tic­u­lar in what he wanted. “The 2004 Sepang ZX-RR was fin­ished in a metal­lic green rather than Kawasaki’s more usual flat lime green.the ZXR’S orig­i­nal green wheels were painted black and the frame and swingarm done in flat black metal­lic,” says Lee.

Happy with the over­all re­sult, Lee rode and en­joyed his ZXR, tak­ing in sev­eral track­days. He did change the seat for a Cat­a­lyst Com­pos­ites car­bon unit from the States but that too has been sub­se­quently junked on the grounds that it’s too light and flex­i­ble for road use, although not be­fore Lee spent £700 hav­ing it painted. Surely Lee is one of Re­born to Bewild’s best cus­tomers. “Don’t know about ‘best’,” he says. “More like one of the most an­noy­ing. I al­ways turn up with stuff at the last minute be­cause I want the bike to look good for some track­day.”

It was some track­day that pro­vided the cat­a­lyst for a raft of changes that el­e­vated Lee’s ZXR from spe­cial to very spe­cial. “I was atan­gle­sey las­tau­gust and in the sixth ses­sion I no­ticed the en­gine was smok­ing. It was 800ml of oil down. I’d also had prob­lems with brake fade,” says Lee.that af­forded the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for some en­gine work and a front-end swap.

Roger Mid­dle­ton at RMKD Rac­ing was en­trusted with the en­gine work.the Kawasaki guru ad­vised that new rings might get an­other 800 miles or so out of the en­gine but with scored lin­ers and new ones un­avail­able from Kawasaki plus a spun big-end shell or two be­cause of oil star­va­tion, a to­tal re­build and an over­bore was the best so­lu­tion. Pis­tons are 3mm-over JE, light­ened and bal­anced by Roger.that light­en­ing and

“I went to Dy­mag to or­der some ally wheels. And be­fore I knew it I’d been talked into car­bon fi­bre”

bal­anc­ing also ex­tended to the rest of the en­gine while the head was skimmed, flowed and ported, the valves pol­ished and re­lapped and the in­lets matched to the carbs.the carbs them­selves had the air correctors blanked off to work with an RMKD ram-air­box and were jet­ted up from the stock 92 to 98 mains to 108s. Lee had a ma­jor re­sult with the cams which he’d bought from a Zxr­world Fo­rum mem­ber.they are the SP pro­file with slot­ted vernier sprock­ets as fit­ted to some mod­els of the ZXR400.THIS saved Lee the cash and has­sle of hav­ing a stock set re­pro­filed. Lee also pestered an­other Zxr­world Fo­rum mem­ber to sell him some ti­ta­nium Beet header pipes which he did for £150, now all he needs is a car­bon-sleeve ti­ta­nium Ig­nitech CDI de­liv­ers the sparks.

The ra­di­a­tor had to move to make way for the ram-air and with ZXR400 rads no longer avail­able from Kawasaki, Lee opted for a ZX-6R one as sug­gested by Roger, who also ad­vised delet­ing the oil-cooler. How­ever with the main out­let from a 400 rad welded on, the po­si­tion of the 400 coolant pipes was not to Lee’s taste. He then ac­quired an­other 600 rad and the coolant pipes from the big­ger bike and found that it all fit­ted per­fectly in the de­sired po­si­tion. “You learn from your mis­takes when build­ing a spe­cial,” he says. “I spent £200 buy­ing and mod­i­fy­ing a rad I didn’t use.” Some slight cop­ing saw re­work­ing of the fair­ing and the RMKD air­box snorkel were re­quired to get the dis­parate parts to match up.

“Now the power is de­liv­ered around 3500rpm ear­lier than be­fore.there’s a load more midrange and so a lot more punch out of the turns,” re­ports Lee.

The Dy­mag wheels had al­ready been pur­chased and fit­ted be­fore the front-end swap.a buck­led orig­i­nal rear wheel meant some­thing had to be done any­how. “The Dy­mags were an an­niver­sary present from Stef,” says Lee. “I live quite near Dy­mag and went up there with a view to or­der­ing some ally wheels. Be­fore I knew it I’d been talked into car­bon fi­bre,” says Lee. Not that he has any re­grets. “The dif­fer­ence light wheels make to han­dling is phe­nom­e­nal,” he says. The de­ci­sion to switch front-end pre­cip­i­tated by hisan­gle­sey ex­pe­ri­ence saw Lee ac­quir­ing a set of 2004 ZX-6R forks.these fit straight into the 400 yokes although new cap­tive spac­ers had to be made to suit the ZXR400 wheels and the spin­dle is 5mm larger in di­am­e­ter than the 400 one. Rear sprocket istalon, made to fit the Dy­mag wheel. Front discs are now Galfer 310mm and the calipers are Brembo M4 ra­di­als mated to a Brembo mas­ter Lee al­ready had. Front mud­guard is car­bon by­tyga.

A rear caliper hanger fro­mass Per­for­mance in Ger­many (yes, re­ally) car­ries a Brembo caliper and does away with the stock torque arm.the amus­ingly named Ger­man concern also does pre-preg car­bon body­work in­clud­ing a fuel tank and self-sup­port­ing seat, and Lee is cur­rently eye­ing up a set of that, although that will come next year at the ear­li­est. “I plan to have it painted as a re­verse of the cur­rent scheme, the car­bon weave be­ing left on show where the body­work is cur­rently metal­lic green and to have the cur­rent black ar­eas painted green. There aren’t many peo­ple do­ing af­ter­mar­ket body­work suit­able for ZXR400 road bikes. There’s plenty of race stuff.the other 400s of the era are bet­ter served,” says Lee. “I can’t find an af­ter­mar­ket hug­ger anymore which means that the cur­rent one is one of few stan­dard parts still on the bike.”

The cur­rent seat unit – by now the third in­car­na­tion – is a glass­fi­bre one from Roger Mid­dle­ton.a Ri­zoma tail tidy in­tended for an MV 675 com­ple­ments the rear lines.

Ti­ta­nium fas­ten­ers abound – 38 in the front-end alone and over 100 in to­tal – all of which con­trib­ute to a dry weight around 140kg. Lee hopes the tran­si­tion TOASS body­work with bring it down to 128kg.

“I plan to take it to all the Parks – Cad­well, Oul­ton, Don­ing­ton and Mal­lory – this year. The ZXR is per­fect on all those short twisty cir­ can use all the gears, at­tack all the cor­ners and re­ally feel like you’ve rid­den the bike,” Lee en­thuses. “I had thought about get­ting an­other track bike but Stef says I should just fo­cus on mod­i­fy­ing this one. I asked her what would hap­pen if I crashed it and she says it would just be­come a new project; part of the bike’s story. She’s right.”

Dy­mag wheels aside, Stef’s in­flu­ence can be found in nu­mer­ous small ways on the bike. Lee says that the slightly in­con­gru­ous pur­ple ti­ta­nium rear spin­dle nut and orange oil filler cap are down to her, as is the Road Run­ner sweat­band on the mas­ter­cylin­der.

For now the ZXR is as fin­ished as any spe­cial can ever be – re­mem­ber there’s full car­bon body­work in the off­ing.when we talked to Lee he was in the process of chang­ing in­sur­ance com­pany. “Have there been any mods, sir?” Er... “As you can see it’s not a stan­dard bike but more what I think a mod­ern 400 would look and feel like if the fac­tory con­tin­ued with the devel­op­ment. Although I’ve lived with it so long it al­most feels like a stan­dard bike to me.”

Pretty and pretty damned ef­fec­tive

Trans­planted ZX-6R rad a per­fect fit

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