PHIL’S SHADOWFAX KAWASAKI RACER
This is a story that goes back over 30 years. It involves a bike that was built as a racer, crashed, re-built as a road-bike and then, having suffered engine problems, taken off the road. Fast-forward over 20 years and the bike was restored to its former racing-bike glory. I’ll describe the story in brief here – with some help from Phil – and refer you to the story on Phil’s web-site for the rest. There's a lot about this bike on Phil's site, and a lot of other interesting reading too. Back in 1980 Coca Cola put a heap of sponsorship money into motorcycle racing to set up the Coca Cola 800, which was an 800km race for Unlimited Improved Production bikes at Sydney’s Oran Park raceway. Unlimited Improved Production basically allowed people to take a production bike and do pretty much anything to it. The following year, a bunch of mates from the Canberra Road Racing Club decided they wanted to enter the race. One of them had a Kawasaki Z1 that had been crashed, so they decided to repair it and build it up as a race-bike. The other two mates bought shares in it so they could all go racing. As Phil describes, “Night after night was spent fettling the thing in their garages, fuelled by quantities of alcohol, and take-away foods of dubious provenance.” The result was what Phil describes as, “Possibly the ugliest bike to ever grace a grid.” It was entered in the race (after being illegally run-in by blasting the unregistered bike from Canberra to Narellan in the early hours of practice day!), but sadly did not rate a place. Still it was a great effort to get the bike built and on the grid to start with. It continued to race though, in Canberra (where it was quite successful) and at Bathurst. But at Bathurst tragedy struck: the bike was virtually destroyed in a high-speed crash. Rather than scrap it, one of the guys decided to repair it and build it into a road-bike. That would’ve been an interesting beast – a road-going race-bike! In 1988 the engine gave up, dropping a valve, and the bike was taken off the road. Seven years later, in 1995, with the bike now in bits, it was given to Phil to restore. Now, to better understand this story I should explain that Phil has been involved with motor-racing (both two and four wheels) for a long long time. He has been a race-commentator, and has commentated at a lot of races, including speedway (bikes and cars) and even the famous Castrol 6-hour. So he knows a thing or two about motor-racing, and has a great appreciation for racing machinery. Not only that, but he was commentating at that race at Oran Park when the Shadowfax first hit the track. That might explain why he was selected as the recipient of this tragic box of bits. The bike was then put under a tarp awaiting the available time and finance to restore it. That availability of time and finance – and even a spare space in the garage to store it – took about 16 years. But finally, in 2011, Phil commenced the job of restoring the bike. And what a mammoth job that would be! To get some idea of what he started with, take a look at the photo on the left. It had been covered in tarps, but the humidity and salt air of Wollongong had got to it, and significant rust had taken hold. Some parts were seized; some parts were rusted beyond repair. A lesser man would’ve given up, but Phil was determined to get it back to its former glory! Finally, in March 2012, the bike was finished. And what a magnificent job he had done! You saw the result at the top of this page. But here are some more photos. Phil’s plan had been to have the bike ready for display and, possibly some demonstration laps, at the Barry Sheene Festival of Speed at Sydney’s Eastern Creek Raceway on the last weekend of March 2012. And he made it – with a few days to spare. At Eastern Creek the bike was wheeled down to the pit enclosure, covered with a bike-cover as they waited for the arrival of the bike’s creator, designer, builder and its first rider, Kent Miklenda. Phil says that it was agonsising wanting to show off the bike but not wanting to do so until Kent had had the opportunity of seeing his creation brought back to life. Phil said, “Finally Kent arrived with one of the original build team, Benny Evans, in tow. The cover was whipped off and the tissue box (large size) was broken out. I can tell you that it was a very emotional moment for us all, but especially for Kent. “From here on it was a bit of a blur. Everyone gathered around, hundreds of photos were taken and we spent the rest of the day telling and re-telling the Shadowfax story. “Thanks too, to my brother, Paul, who came up for the day and helped us with what turned out to be a very successful ‘trade show’. “And it wasn’t just the punters who came to admire. Kiwi racing legend, Graeme Crosby, paid several visits during the day and was most appreciative of the job that we’d done.” Phil was rewarded for his efforts with two awards being presented to him, one for Best Japanese Bike pre-1982, and one for Best Road Racing Bike pre-1982. The bottom photo was taken at a classic bike display at Berry on the south coast of NSW that I went to. This was May 2013. Soon after that the bike was due to go to the National Motorcycle Museum at Nabiac as a long-term display. When you see this bike – and see the photos of what it was! – you can appreciate just how much work has gone into this restoration. I think Phil has done a magnificent job! Take the time to read his full account of the restoration – and the story of the bike to begin with. This is truly a bike with a fascinating history. It might not be a famous race-bike, in terms of races won and famous riders riding it, but it has history – real history with real blokes working hard to build it, and then to keep re-building it! The bike today is something that Phil should feel very proud of!
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