KawaZombie started as a conversation with my buddy Dave Fehr, who proclaimed that he needed a project. The next day I offered up a 1996 Kawasaki ZX750 engine that had been sitting in my backyard under a tarp for way too long. It’s yours if you want it, but it has not run for probably five years, I told him.
Dave said he’d take it, and then asked if I’d ever seen The Walking Dead.
You mean like the ones at work?
“No, the TV show,” said Dave. “I like [the character] Daryl Dixon’s bike.”
Yeah! A Honda Nighthawk. Cool apocalypse transportation.
Dave has a real nice Gold Wing and an equally nice KTM 990, and decided that was plenty enough “nice.” He wanted something he didn’t have to polish but could have some fun building and riding (even on gravel). An engine resurrected from a backyard grave would be fitting.
The Idea was not to worry about the looks but make a reliable, functional runner that would emphasize the Fun and not break the bank. Dave put the engine on his test stand and it fired up and sounded crisp almost instantly. His neighbours may have been wondering what the heck that sound was though, because I didn’t supply exhaust pipes. (Probably like living next to Doc Frankenstein.)
Next he bought a 1994 ZX750 with a tired leaky engine for a good price. He had his donor body, and just needed to make the “heart” fit. A few mods later and the engine was in. Using the same model year frame would have been too easy and after all you can’t wait for the right deal if the zombies are coming.
Since Dave is a heavy duty mechanic there had to be some truck parts, hence the signal lights. Side covers became Mad Maxish screens, and with fairings gone, it’s looking tough. Dave’s wife Allison did the tank badge art—scary kids.
The aftermarket muffler needed to be modified for the KawaZombie, because we all know zombies respond to noise, and to some frequencies more than others. Too loud and the attention of the Walkers (and the coppers) will be drawn. A few inches out of the can produced the right frequency.
Of course, army surplus items are a must. The ammo box tailpack is a nice touch but that the front cowl has been fabricated from a real TNT box is super cool. The real rust on the TNT Box is a pretty close match to Dave’s “rusted” plastic fender and body paint. There is also a handy “brain pick”— a kitchen knife held by strong magnets for quick draw action.
As for traction, well, the Kenda big blocks on the KawaZombie offer good grip for gravel but he better behave on pavement because they are definitely not made for sportbike lean angles. Dave likes the Kendas: “They dig a trench four inches deep and throw rocks about three houses down the alley.” (Might be able to take out a few zombies if they are behind the bike.) Note to self: don’t follow too close. Well over a hundred horsepower will throw far.
Right away the turning radius became an apparent issue; the steering stops had to be modified. Okay now it turns. The Kendas actually made the ZX-R KawaZombie a lot more stable on gravel than a sportbike has a right to be.
The bars are not too high, wheelies are already too easy but do get some weight of the front which Dave figures helps the off-highway handling.
While it’s very doubtful that there will be a real Zombie Apocalypse it’s not too much of a stretch to think bad things could happen. It might be a bit early to hoard gasoline but what if we get politicians that hate the idea of building or even maintaining roads? What good is a sportbike on gravel, potholed, washboard pavement or dirt roads (sounds a bit like some parts of Saskatchewan)? Well, with a little effort that old crotch rocket might be a lot better than you imagine.
It’s getting real hard to use even an old sportbike to near its true potential without losing your licence but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. I think a market flooded with inexpensive high performance machines might be the feeding ground for many future customs. Hmm… that old Gixxer out back just might make a good ZomZuki.
by Rich Burgess Canadian Biker #322