Fun Times Resurrecting an Ancient Import Motorcycle

So last weekend I had a chance to help a buddy of mine resurrect a seemingly ancient Kawasaki that had been sitting in a shed for 22 years.

It had not been “put away” for long term storage, it had been parked, literally. Gas tank was about 3/8 full of nastiness, oil in the crankcase looked like old axle grease. The air filter was a mess of cobwebs, dirt dobber nests were all around the engine, and both tires were dry rotted and, of course, flat.

Restoring an Ancient Kawasaki Motorcycle

As it was, the old bike dated from the early 1980s and we are slowly figuring out what it was, but it would appear to be a KZ 700. The good news? Everything was there. It was, really, a time capsule straight from 1994. 13,918 original miles and parked for a young man to go off to war. That young man came home and had no desire to ride so it had simply sat in his parents’ barn for the next two decades. When the man’s father died, he rediscovered the bike (who forgets they own a bike?) and simply put the carcass on Craigslist.

My buddy picked it up for $350 under the assumption that it “ran when parked.”

So what did we actually do? Well, drained everything and flushed it out, pulled the plugs and rolled the engine over and surprisingly, after filling the crankcase with diesel and letting that sit Saturday night, we reflushed the case, pulled the plugs, cobbled together the wiring to get some spark and changed out the battery, the old bike had compression readings that were awfully nice. Every cylinder came back over 120 psi.

We knew we had a runner, so we kept at it.

The biggest challenge was, as always, the fuel system. We ran pure Seafoam through the system manually while the engine was filled with diesel and the funk that came out Sunday morning looked more like something that a sick zombie passes than what could possibly be created in an internal combustion engine, but the air we put in the tires Saturday to roll it onto the trailer was still in the bike Sunday so we stayed optimistic.

New oil, new gas, new plugs, new filters, new lube in the gearbox, new(er) battery. Fire! The old motor rolled over and sputtered. We looked at each other. A big stupid grin broke out on both of our faces.

Keeping at it, we pulled apart the fuel system and started making progress. Tiny bits of funkiness lay in the needles and the bowls, such as they are, held a collection of dusty varnish, even with the fuel treatments.

A run to the store to buy some new fuel line and smoke a cigarette (downwind of the gas tank) and we rolled it over again. It caught, sputtered, ran for a 4 count, and died again. Over the course of the next two hours, we reset timing, pulled the fuel system apart two more times, and realized that the electrical lighting had been chewed up by some rodent, but by four o’clock Sunday afternoon, we had a bike that idled on its own and revved with minimal stumble.
Mark gingerly sat on it and took it for a low speed ride down his street.

The total bill for all this? A hair over $450 for the bike and all the new stuff and a weekend well spent.

The plan from here? Mark is going to restore this one (he had built a café racer/bobber off of a GPX1100 last year that is his daily driver) and he figures that so few of these bikes survived that saving any of them in any kind of shape is a fun time.

I’d have to agree.

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