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Bike Tale - Posted 22nd June 2015
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Kawasaki Z650 - Part 3

It took 15 years from start to finish, but Darren Carter finally completed the rebuild of his Classic Kawasaki project. At last it's time for paint and powdercoat, wiring and fettling...

The bodywork on this bike came with a former Z650 I’d owned, so I can’t take any credit for the paintwork. I’d long since parted with that bike but kept the paint as it is so striking to this day, in spite of being nearly 30 years old. I did give it a clear lacquer overcoat last year to gloss it up a bit, that that’s all.

So, back to the long-term build. With all the engineering done and working, then came the traditional strip down and powdercoat of all steel parts and the alloy wheels. I made a frame to hold the engine and painted it in high temp gloss, and polished all the outer engine cases. The engine’s internals all seemed OK previously so I thought there was no point stripping it at this point. That could have just invited more expense!

Kawasaki Z650
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This was followed by the final assembly. Things were looking good… but then came the wiring. Compared to the rest of the new, shiny bike, the wires looked rather shabby and dangerous. There was nothing else for it: out with the Haynes book, find out what does what and what colour it is. Cup of tea and make a start. In fact, it was more like ‘think and worry about it for a week and then make a start’. A long time later, after weeks of lunch-time working, a new loom was complete. it wasn’t perfect but it was functional, and included a clever little modification involving a relay in the ignition circuit that I picked up from an Australian performance website. This links the ignition coils directly to the battery when made live.

I won’t bore you with what worked and what didn’t (field coil anyone?!), but this was my first go at wiring. It all works now, and that’s all that matters.

Kawasaki Z650

There were a few teething problems when the bike came together, including the carbs flooding and coils failing, hence the interesting exhaust manifold colours. However, it was finished. At least, it was until I saw a Metmachex swinging arm on eBay and thought ‘now that would finish it off properly.’ I was determined to get the arm and fortunately won it at what I considered a reasonable cost. It was fitted with minimal fuss shortly after, and now the Z650 really is finally finished.

As my first full project, I have to say I am quite happy with how the bike has turned out, except with how long it took to complete. With hindsight a few details could have been done differently but they are not bad enough for me to re-make it. Life’s too short!

Kawasaki Z650

The Zed is now a bit higher than standard and tilts slightly forwards so the fork angle is decreased to about 25 degrees. It rides just great. The balance is good, it tips into bends nicely and holds a line so much better than before. The suspension is well matched front to rear and the tyres now testify to how well it goes round bends. The only thing it needs now is a GSX-R750 motor, because the upgrades mean that it now handles better than it goes. However, this isn’t too likely to happen as it is currently insured on a classic policy. I am just happy they don’t cause trouble about the changes that have already been made.

Kawasaki Z650

The bike gets a nice bit of attention where ever it goes, which is an unintended bonus that I really enjoy. Conversations normally start with ‘I used to have one of those when I was a kid, but it wasn’t quite like that…’

All in all, the rebuild took about 15 years to get to this stage, partly due to budget and time restrictions but mainly because I didn’t start with a plan. Without a plan, I didn’t know when it was finished. Lesson learned? Of course! The next bike took only two and half years to do: the transformation of a perfectly normal BSA A65 Thunderbolt into a quick-handling hillclimber, but that’s another story which RC readers already know about…

Kawasaki Z650

Photos by Darren Carter and Richard Jones

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