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Raccia Motorcycles Kawasaki W1 Twin Custom Motorcycle

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  • Raccia Motorcycles Kawasaki W1 Twin Custom Motorcycle

    Raccia Motorcycles Kawasaki W1 Twin Custom Motorcycle

    For seven years, bike-builder Michael LaFountain labored to turn a cast-off W1 twin into a mythical W1R racer. The journey nearly drove him mad.

    By John L. Stein November 28, 2016 Cycle World




    Jeff Allen

    Michael LaFountain's Kawasaki W1




    Expressionist artist Edvard Munch, who painted 1893’s haunting “The Scream,” went so mad during his career that he nearly lost his soul. A heavy price for art, but fabricator Michael LaFountain understands. After all, he experienced similar stressors while building this replica of an obscure but beautiful Kawasaki W1R, a period factory GP racer based on the production 1966 W1 streetbike. LaFountain stumbled across a blurry photo of the racer while researching W1s and it stuck with him. Actually, the picture of that W1R burrowed in like a demented woodland tick and would not let go.
    A veteran builder with his own Southern California shop, Raccia Motorcycles, LaFountain specializes in turning production Japanese motorcycles into British-looking café racers. That he would discover the W1 in 2009 was fate. It had a beautiful engine, which gave LaFountain an idea. The ultimate Japanese-to-British bike transformation would be to turn one into the W1R, Kawasaki’s equivalent of the Matchless G45.


    Jeff Allen

    Michael LaFountain's Kawasaki W1




    If performing this particular bike-amorphosis wouldn’t be hard enough, LaFountain leapt into the abyss by deciding to use only original Kawasaki parts in the process. The reason? He didn’t want to build a wannabe G45 or some fiberglass flight of fancy but a real Kawasaki that could have, should have, and inarguably—as a single grainy photograph proved—did once exist. And so began the clinically insane part of this hero’s journey. The process started with the fuel tank. Simple, right? Not really. LaFountain reworked four Kawasaki tanks over as many years trying to find the right look, ultimately settling on a 1982 GPz750 unit transformed through many hours of cutting, heating, hammering, welding, and finishing.


    Jeff Allen

    Michael LaFountain's Kawasaki W1




    Turns out the tank was only the first waypoint in a mile-deep black hole filled with twinkling inspiration, brooding problems, solutions that didn’t work, new ideas, solutions that did work, roadblocks, redos, despair, money and more money, inventiveness, self-doubt, passion, anxiety, persistence, stress, and joy.
    Ultimately, LaFountain used genuine parts from 25 different Kawasaki models from 1966 to 1985. Highlights? The centrally mounted oil tank is crafted from two late-model 750 Mach IV side panels. The handgrips are new-old-stock 350 Avenger parts. The throttle is from a Greenstreak F21M scrambler. The frame is W1, the twin-carb cylinder head and carbs are W2SS, and the exhaust headers are also W2, grafted onto reconfigured KZ1000 police-bike mufflers.



    Jeff Allen

    Michael LaFountain's Kawasaki W1




    The brakes are W1, with the front hub machined, polished, and painted to emulate the look of a conical hub. The seat pan is from an F9 enduro bike, the tachometer is from an F11 enduro, and the tank-attachment springs are actually 1985 KX250 sidestand springs. Feeling the obsession yet? Before final painting, plating, and assembly, LaFountain put 200 miles on his Kawasaki unicorn. “It’s pretty solid feeling, really beefy—almost like an early Sportster,” he notes. “The motor has a lot of power—more than you’d think would come out of a Kawasaki four-stroke back then. Basically, it rides like a Japanese bike with the guts of a Norton. And the sound is ridiculous.”


    Jeff Allen

    Michael LaFountain's Kawasaki W1




    In the end, LaFountain’s W1R replica became way more than just a cool build—it was cathartic. “The project took so long and was so difficult—it sometimes felt like my own personal Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ [a work left unfinished at the composer’s death],” he admits. “It dragged me through such a deep zone of humility and was such a life’s lesson that I’m a better builder now because of it. And now that it’s done, I feel totally free!”


    Jeff Allen

    Michael LaFountain's Kawasaki W1








































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