As the antithesis of most bikes produced during the Chopper Boom, Zero Engineering's machines sprung from a place where chrome had long rusted and austerity ruled.
The motorcycles designed by builder Shinya Kimura screamed Americana, as distilled through a Japanese aesthetic that celebrates beauty as imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
The bikes that came out of Kimura's Las Vegas shop were a combination of rustic simplicity, patinaed metal and V-Twin brute wrapped around a rigid, gooseneck frame rolling on fat tires, front and rear. Each one was unique, but still carried the distinct feel of Kimura's design.
So when Plot Engineering, the Japanese company that financially backed Zero, decided it wanted to make a production version of a Zero bike, it found itself with a challenge: How do you turn a custom one-off into a mass-produced product?
To do this, the Japanese company established Plot USA and Zero Engineering Original Samurai Choppers five years ago (also in Las Vegas) to produce and build the Kimura-designed production motorcycles.
"The Zero Engineering custom bikes are almost like pieces of art, but they're not necessarily made for riding every day," says Hiro Sasaki, Zero's sales manager. "Most of them ride great, but still, they are what they are. Most of them use old engines so what we've done with the [production bikes] is modernize everything and made them into something you can ride every day."
See the full story and more photos in the October issue of Dealernews.