Auto Fabrica's GT550. Yes, Really.
By Anthony van Someren - 04 Jun 13
It's hard to imagine that this sleek and stylish cafe racer custom started as a Kawasaki GT550. I guess the engine, wheels and tank are all there from the original, but with the right mods, an eye for detail and a great sense of proportion she's been totally transformed into an extremely desirable ride. There's not a bolt out of place or a crooked line, and the tail piece is perfect, which all takes a lot more work than it might look. Auto Fabrica started just a few months ago back in January 2013 and is made up of automotive graduate, Bujar, and product designer, Gaz, based between Southend and London. What this means is that Auto Fabrica's bikes are 'designed' not just built, which sounds obvious, but many cafe customs simply come out looking the way they do by default - which is fine - but this can lead to some ugly ducklings despite superb engineering. Bujar and Gaz manufacture their own designed parts in-house and there's a lot of hand beaten aluminium involved. As the guys also have Aqua blasting in-house - which they use liberally - most of their parts benefit from a high-quality unpainted finish. The guys picked the ugly shaft-drive Kawasaki GT 550 in-line 4 to make a bit of a statement and because they'd never seen one given what they considered to be decent treatment (...we can't think of one either - cue floods of comments and links to stunning GTs). They stripped the bike completely, trimmed and cut the frame and cut the tank mounting points below the top tubes so they could get the seat right up close to the tank and have as close to a factory fit and finish as possible. The tank was heavily modified from standard with re-turned edging. They removed the bottom mounting point and re welded it to get a flush, smooth finish and to raise it 25mm at the rear to get a cleaner line from front to back. For the suspension they used Hagon rear shocks which were 30mm longer than standard to raise the rear ride height. In conjunction with dropping the forks an inch, this gave them a stance to match their original sketches and renders. The seat unit was made in-house in hand-beaten 2mm aluminium with integrated rear light for cool 80's look. The intention was to keep it as clean as possible and to be strong. Unlike some cafe customs you can actually lift the bike from the rear seat. The foam and leather seat is a three-piece using 6mm polypropylene with closed-cell foam and leather, which bolts onto the seat unit and can be removed easily. The trimming was done by hand by Bujar along with the grips, which are cross stitched. The exhausts were built in-house and were inspired by the old racing Honda RC 4 into 4s. The speedo is a refurbished Honda unit, with a redesigned face and exposed brass needle, which picks up on a few other subtle brass touches, like the bar ends and the brass lines around the panels on the tank and seat. All the aluminium controls and casings have been aqua blasted to return them to their former glory. "In terms of the overall feel and look of the bike we are very happy, and considering this is our first build we learned a lot. We really felt like keeping the triangle on the bike and not emptying it made the bike look a lot chunkier and more planted to the floor." The guys intend to follow-up this debut build with two SR250 Yamahas and an SR500, which we look forward to featuring on our pages.