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