Two men realize their dream of owning a 1983 KZ1000 ELR
Jay Davidson of Lee NH and Stephane Roux of Terrebonne QC didn’t know each other in 1983, but they shared a dream of owning a limited edition KZ1000R Superbike Replica. As time went on, the men matured. The bike was unattainable, beyond reach, a young man’s fantasy. Twenty-seven years later, they both realized their dream and now have come together to create a new one: an annual tribute ride to the bike that is their lifetime prize.
In 1983 Eddie Lawson was at the top of his career. He had won the AMA Superbike Championship in ‘81 and ‘82 and was riding in the FIM World Road Racing Championship. The KZ1000R was a replica of his AMA championship winning bike and a special limited edition. Kawasaki made only 750 in 1982 and 1200 in 1983 and allowed dealers to set whatever price they wanted.
In 1983 Stephane Roux was a big Eddie Lawson fan and owned a silver and gold 1982 GPz550, Kawasaki’s entry-level street oriented sportbike. “Every time I went into the dealer to get parts, or something, I would see that bike (the KZ1000R) and drool. It was the top. But there was no way I could afford it,” Stephane said.
Stephane painted the silver and gold GPz Kawasaki green and thought that was as close as he would come to a KZ1000R.
In the summer of 2008 Stephane was helping his parents move from his boyhood home. He was cleaning out his old bedroom, sifting through stacks of Motorcyclist, Cycle Guide, Car and Driver, and Playboy, when he found the February 1982 issue of Cycle World Magazine with Eddie Lawson on the cover, riding the Big, Green Winning Machine KZ1000J race prepped by Team Muzzy. It was the magazine that started his dream 26 years earlier.
Stephane showed the magazine to his 17 year-old son, Samuel Bertrand-Roux, and told him about the bike. It was nice to have rediscovered the magazine and remember his long ago dream.
Later that summer, Samuel saw a nice, old green Kawasaki for sale and told his dad about it. Stephane was skeptical that his teenage son would know what he liked, but still he had to check it out. “When I arrived, my knees bent and my jaw fell open to the ground”, he said. The old Kawasaki was a 1983 KZ1000R2.
The bike had been parked in a garage in his town for 10 years. The owner had taken up golf and given up riding and was just now selling it. Roux bought the bike and started restoring it.
Jay Davidson was an Air Force Airman in 1983, stationed at Pease Air base in Portsmouth New Hampshire. He too, was an Eddie Lawson fan who lusted for the KZ1000R. “It was like 5,000 dollars. There was no way I could afford that; not on a single-striper’s salary,” he said.
Jay retired from the military in 2003, a Senior Master Sergeant. He had owned other bikes during his 24 year military career, but still wanted a KZ1000R. He bought a 2004 red Kawasaki ZRX1200, thinking that would be as close as he could come to the KZ1000R that he had dreamed about.
Still, he regularly searched eBay for a real KZ1000R. He came close once, but the seller wanted too much. Then in the fall of 2008, he found an eBay listing described simply as a “KZ1000R2” and the current bid was $7,000. “People don’t know to look for an ‘R2’. They don’t know what that is.”, he said. The R2 designation means it’s a second year replica model. As a result, there was only one other bidder in the auction.
“I didn’t think I would get it. I just wanted to be a part of the auction so I could see just how much it would sell for”, he said. Jay put in a bid. “When I won it and it was, ‘cripe now what do I do?’”. Jay had four motorcycles in his garage and didn’t know how he was going to explain a fifth to his wife. The answer was to quickly sell the ZRX and buy the KZ1000R.
Owning these bikes is not enough for Jay and Stephane. These men are motorcycle riders, not collectors of coffee-table bikes. For them, the only tribute fitting the KZ1000R is a sport ride. So, the men joined to forge a new dream: the Annual KZ1000R Owners Club Tribute Ride.
I got a chance to meet Jay and Stephane and to see their bikes on June 19th, 2010 at the first Annual KZ1000R Owners Club Tribute Ride to the KZ1000R at Central Vermont Motorcycles in Rutland Vermont.
The bikes are well preserved. Jay’s bike is stock, except for engine case guards and has been a well cared for. The previous owner gave Jay detailed maintenance records showing a lineage of proper care. Since purchasing the bike, Jay has done only routine maintenance, but has plans to do some minor restoration as time and money allows. For now, he is happy just to ride it.
Stephane’s bike is strikingly clean, with meticulously polished bits, including chromed engine cases and belly pan. That it’s this clean isn’t really that amazing. What is amazing is that it is this clean and he still rides it.
As part of his restoration project, Stephane worked with a local mechanic Jean-Pierre Lapalme of Moto Domicile of Terrebonne QC to pull the engine and replace the timing chain and fix an oil leak. While the motor was out he water blasted and painted the engine.
During the motor work, Stephane discovered that one of the bike’s two previous owners had installed oversized piston’s enlarging the displacement to 1117cc. Other modifications are a Metmachex Engineering swing arm, period correct Works Performance rear shocks, Earl’s oil cooler and steel braided brake lines.
Twenty-five people attended the Vermont event. Five of us went on the 145 mile tribute ride through Vermont’s twisty Granville Gulf, Appalachian Gap and Brandon Gap. The pace was spirited and showed no sign of collector’s coasting through corners to preserve a rare find.
Although attendance at the first event was small and only two replica bikes were present, Jay and Stephane are hopeful for the future. “A lot of events like this start slow”, Jay said. “Our annual 2 stroke meet at Deals Gap started with just a few locals getting together and now gets over 100 bikes each year”.
The two hope to have 10 replica bikes at the 2011 event and draw more Kawasaki enthusiasts. Given their success in realizing their last shared dream, I suspect they will be just as successful in realizing this one.