Resurrecting a Kawasaki KZ650 – Part 4

In Blog, Japan by AbhiLeave a Comment

She lives!

That’s right – after three years, this KZ650 is finally able to putt around under its own power (thanks to Daniel over at Iconic, of course).

I’ve been commuting with it for a couple of weeks and put a few hundred miles on it, but it’s not perfect – there’s a flat spot around 3k rpms, a minor oil leak, and a less-than-minor exhaust leak from the headers.

I enjoy riding it, but every time I park the bike I think of something that Larry Kahn said in the comments of Part 3 of this series: “Hope the ride meets your expectations when you’re done…just sayin’…

He’s a wise man.

When this whole process started, I only had one street bike with carbs – the Honda S90 that I bought to teach Vy how to ride with.

Vy mainly just uses her Monkey first ride review now, so I’ve brought the S90 to the hangar/office to use as a my local runabout.

But now I have three: the S90, this KZ650, and the R100CS I just purchased – here’s the BMW on a recent Sunday ride out to Wrightwood.

I don’t mean to sound negative – the KZ650 offers surprising pep for its size, and I do love the history of this particular bike as well as the fact that it’s now running on its own power. But the BMW satisfies my classic bike craving and it’s a better bike overall (I know that’s not fair seeing as the Kawi is six years older and was much cheaper when it was new, but that’s the current situation). So it all goes back to what Larry had to say, and I have to admit that I didn’t know what I expected from the KZ when it was ready to go.

One of these things is not like the other.

So now the question is, what to do with it next? I’m split between selling it for cheap and keeping it, but if I was going the latter route I wouldn’t keep it as is. One the former side, the previous owner of this bike recently had a bad spill and his bike was totaled. He has another bike, but it does seem fitting for him to get this bike back so he can enjoy it again. I also have an old employee who’s moved on to a new job and needs some transportation – it’d be nice to give it a good home where it’ll be frequently used and appreciated.

Or…I could try and do something goofy with it.

A month ago I was invited to an event for Kawasaki’s 50th celebration of the Z lineup as part of their launch of the new Z650RS (how appropriate).

There was some very cool stuff at this celebration, such as the 4th Kawasaki Z1 ever built:

In 1973, Kawasaki took their new Z1 to Daytona and set a staggering amount of speed records: during a 24 hour session at Daytona, Team Green set all American hourly records from 2 to 24 hours and also set the world FIM and AMA record for 24-hour endurance, covering 2,631 miles at an average speed of 109.64 mph.⁠ They brought that bike to this event, and I was drooling over it – I’ve been obsessed with this bike ever since Nathan and I filmed a video with an early Z1 and the new Z900RS:

I was drooling over it so hard that Ken Essex (Kawasaki’s Senior Manager of Public Relations) asked if I wanted to sit on it. Yes, please!

But that wasn’t the only Kawasaki record-holder at the event. Kawi also brought the KZ650 that they took to Daytona in 1977 to set a new set of records. Despite giving up 100ccs, they went after the 750cc speed records and ended up setting an average speed of 117.2 mph over 24 hours.

They kept one turn signal in place and removed the amber lens – it was just used to light up the number plate for the time keepers.

My KZ650 has already lost the original tank due to rust, so I don’t feel an obligation to keep it cosmetically stock. So now I’m flirting with the idea of turning it into a replica of the record-setting bike. The only thing I might not try to duplicate is the tank that was apparently enlarged at the last minute to minimize fuel stops.

So I’m at a bit of an impasse – at least when the KZ650 wasn’t running, I knew what I needed to do with it. Now that it runs, I’m struggling to figure out what’s next. Any suggestions?

If you haven’t seen the earlier parts of this story, you can check them out here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3