WILL THE REAL THING BE THIS GOOD?
Ever since Suzuki announced the wildly popular Z400 back in 2001, the new sport model releases from all of the manufacturers have been exciting. We sit on pins and needles every Fall waiting to see how each manufacturer will top the other with their latest offering. Just months ago Kawasaki finally announced that they were building an all-new, high-performance sport quad aimed for the track and trail.
It’s been over twenty years since we’ve thrown a leg over a machine like this from Kawasaki. That product was the very powerful Tecate-4 last released as a new model in 1988. This new creation from Kawasaki will not bear the Tecate-4 moniker. Instead, it will simply be known as the Kawasaki KFX450R.
With a release date later this year, we wanted to see if we could build a quad that would give us an idea of how the new Kawasaki, engine would feel in a quad chassis. To do this we called on former Kawasaki Jet Ski racer and quad builder Billy Pointer to head up the project. With Pointer’s connection with Kawasaki he could acquire the right OEM components and outfit a current chassis in a manner that would mirror the way a race ready KFX450R might operate.
Although he unequivocally denies the rumors, we have reason to believe that Pointer may have already thrown a leg over the new KFX450R and does know how well it runs. Knowing this, we told him to pull out all the stops and build this project vehicle for us with his knowledge in mind. This should hold us over until the KFX450R is actually released to the public.
Unfortunately, from what we have seen Kawasaki’s bodywork doesn’t look as good as Yamaha’s YFZ body. The KFX450R has removable black fender skirts. Time will tell if we get used to them.
With his close ties with the Kawasaki Team Green race department, Pointer not only secured a Kawasaki KXF450 dirt bike engine for this project, this engine had top end parts straight out of James “Bubba” Stewart’s race bike. In case you have been living under a rock, Bubba is one of the fastest Supercross and motocross riders in the world. He won the World Supercross title last year and is a favorite to win both the Supercross and outdoor motocross titles this year.
For this project, the 450 engine was installed into a steel Yamaha YFZ450 chassis. Instead of experimenting with aluminum frames for this project, Pointer went with a frame geometry that would closely resemble what “he has heard” the KFX450R’s handling is like.
Only minor modifications had to be made to the YFZ frame to get it to accept the Kawasaki powerplant. The engine mounts were modified instead of the frame itself. The only modifications we did to the frame is add the same gussets that Kory Ellis and Pat Brown add to their own YFZ450 race quads.
The Kawasaki dirtbike wiring harness and carburetor mated well to the YFZ frame. The only hiccup was when it came time to install the rear suspension. The FCR carburetor left very little room for any shock other than the stock one. So, PEP modified the stocker with a dual rate spring setup and included their own valving. Up front, PEP’s new large capacity aluminum shock bodies were mounted on a set of Laeger’s plus-two-inch wider A-arms. The rear shock was mounted on a Laeger’s swingarm as well.
Lonestar Racing was the source for many cool parts like brakeline clamps, steel braided brakelines, an axle, fender brackets, sprocket hub, brake hub, axle lock nut, and four billet wheel hubs. These products, along with a GWC O-Ring chain and Galfer Wave rotor, finished out the running gear on the back end.
TOP: Laeger’s MX A-arms offer some of the quickest steering systems you can buy. It was no different on this quad. Although the 2008 Kawasaki KFX450 won’t have a wide front end like that of the LT-R450, it should be able to turn as precisely as this one. BOTTOM: This Laeger’s swingarm is very close to what will be on the yet-to-be-released KFX450R. It has a concentric chain adjuster and offers nearly a foot of rear wheel travel.
In front of the engine, Dubach Racing Development was commissioned to design an exhaust system that would suit this engine package and four-wheeled chassis the best. Doug (Dubach) found that the stock KXF450 headpipe along with a custom “S” bend midpipe mated well to a standard YFZ450 canister. The canister was chromed while the head and midpipe along with the muffler end cap were ceramic coated by a company known as Embee. While this coating is useful in dissipating heat through exhaust flow, it also gives the system a custom “works” look. Embee also powder coated many other parts on this clean, green machine.
To get power from this Kawasaki dirt bike engine to the rear BKT tires were mounted on Douglas wheels, a complete Hinson clutch was installed that included a works billet basket, inner hub, outer pressure plate and larger capacity clutch cover to help keep the Maxima Motor Oil fresh.
Of course the gearing was adjusted dramatically from what it used on the dirtbike. Even though this powerplant features a four-speed transmission, the gearing ratio was not as far a departure from a typical 13/38 that would be used on a YFZ450 set up like this. The final gear ratio that we tested was a 14/38. However, in the dunes, this creation requires a 14/44 setup to get the most of the monster 22-inch paddles that Pointer runs. Gearing on the Kawi dirt bike would be somewhere around 13/51.
On our test track (avmotoplex.com), that gear selection was spot on for the four-speed transmission. The Kawasaki engine had the torque to drive through corners in second gear and in most cases you could let the motor rev and not have to shift before the next obstacle. On a normal quad with a five-speed transmission, we have always found ourselves up-shifting on the faces of the long AVMotoplex tabletops.
On the starting line, first gear was the appropriate selection and up-shifting was quick and infrequent. Torque was abundant and we never had to hunt for gears or feather the clutch. Speaking of clutching, the Hinson products on this project were as light as we have ever felt, even lighter than a stock Z400 clutch. And after an extended ride session on the track, the clutch and traction feel was still solid.
Unlike other Kawasaki’s we have ridden lately, vibration was non-existent with this engine and frame combo. The Laeger’s plus one-inch anti-vibe stem and new Renthal “Bubba” bend bars should receive thanks for this.
Although the new Kawasaki Quad will have an electric starter, this kick-start engine was easy to get fired up. That should please racers who will want to shave a couple of pounds off of the new green quad by removing its electric starter.
Throttle response was crisp and spot-on via this machine’s carburetor. With electronic fuel injection, the new quad engine should work as well or even better.
What looked good and may even work better than on the real thing is the painted YFZ plastic. Pointer had AP Designs coat the stock YFZ plastic with a flo-green paint job that not only matches the custom Zing graphics, but it looks excellent even up close and held up to our on-track abuse. We are not exactly sure how we feel about Kawi’s decision to put removable black fenders on its new quad. Time will tell if we’ll get used to it or not. Yamaha still has some of the best-looking bodywork in the business and this machine proves it.
To top off the bodywork on this project quad, Billy Pointer’s business, Quad Tech, supplied all of the aftermarket carbon fiber goodies and the trick one-off seat cover.
Will the new Kawasaki KFX450 quad be as awesome as this Quad Tech creation? If it’s even close, the new Kawi quad will be a big seller. The aluminum chassis will definitely give the quad a more rigid feel, and suspension settings will certainly have to be more of a priority. The Laeger’s/PEP setup on this machine was some of the best we have ridden and will most likely be better than what is seen on the stocker.
But as we discovered with this Kawasaki engine, the power is there to make one exciting quad. The potential for Kawasaki to build one of the most sought-after quads is also there. If their finished product makes us as comfortable on the track and trails as we were on this machine, Kawasaki dealers will no doubt have a hot-selling machine on their hands.
Stay tuned for the first test of the new Kawasaki KFX450R in an upcoming issue. To find out more about the products featured on this project quad, call Quad Tech at (949) 859-7823 or visit their on-line showroom at www.quadtech-atv.com.