Samurai Chopper


Custom, Japan-style

Brad Pitt’s got one. Can you live without it?

Did you see the recent Iron Man movie? If you’re an observant sort of person, and reasonably quick, you may have seen a motorcycle sitting quietly in the background in Iron Man’s garage while all the mayhem went on. Well, that was a Japanese bike.

Didn’t look like it, did it?

That’s because it was a “Zero Style” Samurai Chopper. Powered by Harley-Davidson, everything else by PLOT/Zero Engineering.

Never heard of them? Well, they fronted at the Milan motorcycle show with a neat stand with a mediaeval Japanese theme showcasing their Shogun model and a just slightly strangely translated press release.

“SHOGUN is the next generation custom production motorcycle to be adapted European homologation with the Japanese high technology evolved from SAMURAI CHOPPER,” said the release. “HD Evolution or Twin cam engine (or S&S shovel type) is optional to install. ZERO originally developed DRAGON NECK frame is equipped with rear suspension and also available fuel injection on possible engine type, and catalytic convertor oxidation considering environmental friendly.”

And that’s pretty much the whole story right there. Actually, there’s more good stuff in the press release.

“Designer of the Samurai Chopper, Zero Engineering is widely known throughout Japan as the country’s first custom-made motorcycle manufacturer. We are based in Aichi Prefecture, the heart of Japan’s automotive industry as well as a center for technology. Since our establishment in 1992, Zero Engineering has been delivering visually-stunning custom-made motorcycles worldwide.

“Motorcycles designed by Zero Engineering are characterized by their minimal amount of decoration and meticulous attention to detail. Each model has a well-defined design concept with styling cues taken from the ’60s and ’70s. Nothing compares to ‘Zero Style’ — exceptional design and originality that have garnered unwavering popularity in Japan. As a result, we have had a tremendous influence on custom motorcycle builders and gained a large following.”

Production is severely limited because of the amount of detail work. That also makes the bikes very expensive — nobody would give us a possible price for Australia. Not ready yet, they said.

“Each of our motorcycles is completely handmade, taking several months to complete. The Samurai Chopper was developed as Zero Engineering’s basic model. The name Samurai has come to define the elegant vintage look, which has the unique style of a beautiful, yet functional weapon. The Samurai features the latest technology from Japan, and embodies the ‘Zero Style’ in every way.”

There seem to be five different types of Samurai Choppers, available with different Harley-Davidson engines ranging from old shovelheads to the latest donks. The bikes in the photos are a Type 1, the green bike; a type 2, the red bike with the rounded tank; a type 5 with a modern engine, the red bike with a longer tank; a Type 5 with a shovelhead engine (the blue bike); and a Type 9. The construction and detail close-ups are of a Type 9 as well.

The bikes featured in the movie Iron Man were a Type 6 and a custom bike called the Junkyard Phantom.

Samurai Choppers are produced and sold by PLOT, the largest aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories company in Japan. Sales began in Japan in 2003 and, according to the company, have been increasing there every year. The bikes now also sell in the United States.

Zero Engineering and PLOT launched their push into Europe at the Milan show, but don’t worry: they have Australia firmly in their sights as well. Watch this space. We’ve been promised a ride on one of their bikes by the very efficient Ms Kazuyo Sakakibara as soon as they get one to this country! In the meantime, check out the website: