My favourite ongoing series of custom motorcycle builds has just added 2 new “Retrograde Engineered” beasts to their line up. The Icon 1000 “New Jack” and “Old Ghost’ have been unveiled at the 2015 One Motorcycle Show in Portland and they’re making eighties motorcycle styling cool again. Based on two of the most iconic sports bikes of their time, the Suzuki Katana and the Kawasaki GPZ900R Ninja each of the bikes are packed with highly functional custom tweaks, cool design upgrades and the usual spattering of Icon tongue in cheek humour.
New Jack ’82 Suzuki Katana
When the Katana was first released its radical design had motorcycle magazines tipping bad sales and a short production lifespan, but Suzuki’s claim of the Katana being the world’s fastest production motorcycle was enough to garner the interest of the performance focused motorcycling community. Sales were strong and it’s styling influenced generations of motorcycle designers after it. It’s radical looks were the result of extensive wind tunnel testing and resulted in excellent high speed performance. The success of the Katana kept it in production in several different variations from 1981 right through to 2006.
The Icon 1000 ‘New Jack’ started out as an ’82 model Katana. Complete with original fairings, rectangle headlight and the stock, “sofa-esque” seat. Icon set out to transform the bike into a modern interpretation of what the Katana could have been if modern day production facilities and technologies had been available at the time of its production.
The first and probably most dramatic change was to transplant a Bandit 1200cc engine into the Katana frame. The power upgrade, although modest, necessitated extra quarter inch gussets to keep the frame rigid under stress and as you can see by the photos, this is a must for any bikes ridden by Icon test pilots.
Other modifications include mounting the bikes radiator where its headlight once lived. Upgrading the suspension and adding a late model swing arm. Bolting high performance stopping gear in place and reworking the rear end for looks and comfort. Perhaps if Suzuki had stuck with the Katana for another 10 years this is the bike we’d be seeing on showroom floors?
Of all the hideous design trends that emerged in the 80’s it’s the sharp lines of the Katana and that unmistakable underbite I’d like to see rehashed.
Old Ghost ’84 Kawasaki GPZ 900R
The original Ninja, the GPZ900R. Another groundbreaking motorcycle of the 1980’s. A top secret design, 6 years in development, Kawasaki knew they were on to a good thing when they came up with the Kawasaki Ninja. Only a short time after their release, a pair Ninjas placed first and second at the Isle of Man and the rest is history.
Icon knew they had their work cut out for them resurrecting and upgrading the outdated GPZ900R, but how could they resist with such an influential motorcycle? The ‘Old Ghost’ started out life as an ’84 model GPZ900R. Icon upgraded the bike’s instruments with a modern display featuring distinctly retro graphics, similar to those of computer games of the same era. Then the tired engine received an extensive overhaul that included the adaption of a Wiseco big bore kit.
The Old Ghost breathes freely through K&N filters and a Racefit exhaust while an Earls oil cooler keeps temperatures down when speeds get excessively high. Rear end performance has been stepped up with a Roaring Toyz swingarm and Ohlins TTX race shock. EBC rotors provide substantial stopping improvements and Avon rubber surrounds the custom billet wheels.
Icon has also modified the look of the Ninja by tweaking the fairings to create an “endurance racer” look, complete with racing number 84 and plenty of parts manufacturer decals. The Icon 1000 rising sun style graphics pay homage to the bikes far east origins as does the frequently sideways, drift style in which they ride in.
If like me, you grew up loving shows like Robocop, Tron (the originals not the remakes), Knight Rider and Automan, you’re sure to have gotten a kick out of that video. It’s yet another reason why I can’t get enough of the bikes rolling out of the Icon One Thousand workshop. Keep up the great work you crazy kids!