CROSBY RESTOS!

Down in the lush New Zealand, coun­try­side of rac­ing leg­end a bike help­ing keep is equally leg­endary clas­sics alive.

Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - CONTENTS - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: STEVE PAR­RISH

Graeme Crosby re­stores old Kwaks in Kiwi-land!

Ido like my many trips ‘down un­der’ to the south­ern hemi­sphere. My lat­est trip was some­thing of an eye-opener. I en­joyed a great time at the Mike Pero Motofest event at Hamp­ton Downs, in New Zealand. It was here that I could hook up with a num­ber of le­gends in­clud­ing Jeremy Burgess (ex Doohan and Rossi crew chief) Aaron Slight, Kevin Magee, Gary Good­fel­low and An­drew Stroud. Best of all was bump­ing back into my old mates Randy Mamola and Graeme Crosby. Now, it’s not for this ar­ti­cle to dis­cuss or go back over Croz’s great achieve­ments in bike rac­ing. Suf­fice to say that he be­gan rac­ing in 1974 in his na­tive New Zealand be­fore switch­ing to the Aus­tralian Su­per­bike se­ries and then to Europe and the UK. At a time when many were turn­ing their backs on pure road-rac­ing and mov­ing to short

cir­cuits, Croz mas­tered both, win­ning the Isle of Man Se­nior TT race in 1980 while also be­ing at the very top in the 500cc Grand Prixs. Af­ter many suc­cesses, Croz quit rac­ing around 1982. So what’s he done since then? Well, I spent four days with the Kiwi and his lovely wife Helen at their place at Matakana, about an hour or so north of Auck­land. What I didn’t re­alise was that the swine would ac­tu­ally have me work­ing for a liv­ing… Croz is what peo­ple around here would call a ‘lar­rikin’ bike racer. Look that up, if you will, but that means him and me get along just fine: so, Croz, what’s the score mate?” “As you know, I raced for many fac­to­ries dur­ing my time rac­ing,” says Crosby. “When I quit in 1982 I bought a bike shop and spent next 12 years sell­ing them. We were – at times – a Kawasaki, Har­ley­david­son, Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda deal­er­ship. We changed fran­chises ev­ery so of­ten, which was in­ter­est­ing. Dur­ing that time I even­tu­ally got rid of the idea of run­ning a busi­ness about bikes and I was fly­ing planes for a while and then we moved up here and I was building houses for a mate… just a ham­mer-hand, re­ally. Helen and I had a place near the beach but – be­ing a keen gar­dener – it made sense to get some­where with a bit of land with more

scope for her, so we bought this prop­erty, with about 12 acres of land and with a big work­shop in it. To be hon­est, no thoughts of bikes were in my head: I was only ex­pect­ing a work­shop with a trac­tor and some other kit like a John Deere mower and things like that to do some farm­ing with. But then a guy turned up here and asked me if I could work on a mo­tor­cy­cle for him. I didn’t re­ally want to do that full-time, but I had some spare time on my hands there and then and so I did it for him.” From there things snow­balled for Croz. He ex­plains: “Then a friend of mine said he had a Kawasaki Z1 and I’ve al­ways loved those bikes. I started off rac­ing on those in 1974 through to my Mori­waki days in the UK, and as a re­sult I’ve al­ways kept that pas­sion for the Z1s. The op­por­tu­nity was too good to miss as this was a bike, some en­gines and a cou­ple of chas­sis and other bits and pieces and it worked out quite well. So I bought the ‘three’ bikes and built just one good one. I was pleased with it, but I had it built for about 10 min­utes be­fore some­one of­fered me $25,000 NZ for it. I thought to my­self ‘this is al­right’ and as I had two in parts I built an­other one then bought parts to make a third one and from there it started to re­ally grow and grow. I re­alised there was a busi­ness model here, where I could re­store bas­ket-cases back to orig­i­nal with a com­bi­na­tion of new parts, new old stock parts, af­ter­mar­ket items and re­fur­bished parts and for the last five or six years I’ve been kick­ing them out the door!” ‘Kick­ing them out the door’ is hardly the right phrase here. Croz is a skilled en­gi­neer and his work­shop re­flects this. He’s got lots of old Kwaks like Z900s and Z1000s around the place in var­i­ous stages of restora­tion. He’s got a ded­i­cated en­gine shop, weld­ing fa­cil­i­ties, a mill, a lathe, a full area for blast­ing parts and even his own paint shop. Our Croz is not scared of get­ting his hands dirty and when I was there he even had me help­ing out sweep­ing up and help­ing to straighten out some old Kawasaki swingarms… But what about parts, Croz, aren’t they dry­ing up? “Well, the great thing about Kawasaki is that they made and sold a shit-load of bikes so com­plete

“I've al­ways had a pas­sion for Kawasaki Zeds. When the first bike was fin­ished I was of­fered lots of money for it and I re­alised there was a de­cent busi­ness in this!”

bikes may be dry­ing up but parts are avail­able from those that have been bro­ken up. Sure, it’s like buy­ing any such parts: you can al­most guar­an­tee the chain has come off and torn a part of the crankcases, or a bolt’s sheared or some­thing – so we have to fix the parts up. We ba­si­cally take all the parts and spread these out and fix them bit by bit then be­ing the parts to­gether. It all starts with those crankcases, which we even en­sure we paint in the right colour. The great thing about Kawasakis is they’re built pretty strong – espe­cially the cranks which we rarely have is­sues with. As with ev­ery bike sub­tle dif­fer­ences oc­cur and these are things which catch peo­ple out. Typ­i­cal is­sues are al­ter­na­tors, where you have four or five dif­fer­ent mod­els and it’s hard to work out which is which some­times. But all of this comes with time… you have to fig­ure it out!” De­spite the ob­vi­ous out­lay, much work is done in-house – but not all. Croz says: “It’s been a big in­vest­ment over time – but we’ve re­alised that it’s brought about by out-sourc­ing: some­time it’s a good thing to do, some­times it isn’t. It de­pends. For ex­am­ple: lac­ing up wheels. We can do it our­selves but of­ten we can send stuff out even though we can do it our­selves. Paint­ing is an­other. Much is done here but I don’t do the candy paint schemes: we do frames and stuff (the satin and gloss blacks) not the tanks or side-pan­els. We get the paint­work kits from Ja­pan pre-painted as eco­nom­i­cally it makes sense and they are a per­fect match. We can (and do) have a painter nearby who does a great job but he’s 107 or some­thing and has a wooden leg and he’s on his last leg…” Croz laughs at that but I’m im­pressed. He says it takes around 100-110 man hours to bring a bas­ket-case Kwak back to life. “Bas­ket-cases start around $8000-$10,000 but much of that you’ll throw away,” he says, “…as it’s scrap, but most over-50 some­thing Freds just want a bike that starts on the but­ton and looks like the one they rode back in the day. They’re happy with that.” A beau­ti­ful Kawasaki for around $30,000 NZ – that’s about £16,000-£17,000 but one built by the leg­endary Graeme Crosby? Sounds like a bar­gain to me. It was a real treat work­ing with him…

Rac­ing (and now restor­ing) leg­end Graeme Crosby.

Attention to de­tail is Croz’s watch­word.

Plenty on the go at Croz’s.

He used to go down Bray Hill, so he’s not up on H&S...

It’s a pro­fes­sional set-up.

Par­rish bodges on left!

Croz gets blast­ing.

Other ma­chines are catered for...

About all Stavros is good for!

Croz cre­ates spe­cials, too.

A fin­ished Croz cre­ation.

Jeremy Burgess at Motofest.

Croz and crew at Motofest.

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