In 1982 Kawasaki sought to boost sales of their underperforming KZ1000. Despite the KZ offering improved performance over the Z1 it was built on an outdated platform, and their customers knew it. So in a last-ditch attempt to move stock, Kawasaki USA hatched a plan.

Eddie Lawson had just won the 1981 AMA Superbike championship. Kawasaki’s idea was to leverage the hype around Eddie’s achievement by creating a replica street bike based on his championship bike. To speed up the release of the bike they were primarily a styling exercise with a few basic modifications that gave them an edge over a standard KZ1000. The resulting bike featured a Kerker exhaust system, upgraded suspension and revised steering geometry and trail. What made the ELR really stand out from the stock KZ though was it’s styling. The Kawasaki Z1000R wore a lower profile saddle, a bikini fairing retrofit from the GPz1100 and bright green Eddie Lawson styled livery.

Unfortunately, it was too little too late. The KZ1000’s run had come to an end and despite Kawasaki’s efforts, the Z1000R ELR fell flat of their goals. In total, only 750 special edition bikes were built. At the time the whole exercise was considered a failure, but today the bikes historical significance and rarity make the Z1000R a very collectable motorcycle.

Taking further inspiration from the original Z1000R is a Bates style, low profile seat. The Lawson look shocks are piggyback Ohlins items and the front fender is a repurposed Kawasaki Zephyr unit mounted using custom stays. To complete the look Doremi dipped into their parts catalogue adding retro mirrors, blinkers and a boxy 80s style tail lamp. The result is a convincing recreation of an iconic motorcycle that’d run circles around its inspiration.


Photography via Young Machine

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