by Lee Meyer
Last month, I began a somewhat ambitious project–to fix up this old Kawasaki GPZ1100 and make a decent rider out of it for a total cost of about a thousand bucks. Well, things haven’t gone exactly as planned. I’ve been advising people against taking on a project like this for years and here’s why…
It seems for every one thing I fix on this old Kaw, I find a couple more problems. First, I dealt with the obvious problems. I gave the machine a good bath and to my surprise it cleaned up pretty good, shiny paint even. Then I tossed the worn out cheap chain and installed a new o-ring type. Next, the front brakes. Both calipers were seized and the pads worn out. I took them off, completely disassembled and thoroughly cleaned them out. If the rubber seals were in decent shape they could be reused, they were, so I did–assembled with some new brake pads and fresh fluid they worked like new.
Next, a battery was in order. This nearly gave me a stroke. The correct battery has an acid level sensor in it with a little wire coming out of it that connects into the bikes wiring harness. Apparently this stupid little sensor makes a battery worth $122.95. Yikes! Gotta have a battery so grin and bear it. With the new battery in and the bike running at its 4,000 rpm(!) idle, the charging system checked out fine at 14.5 volts.
Then I removed the spark plugs and checked the compression. This was the next day and the engine was cold so the readings were a little low but still okay at 125 psi per hole. Now it was time to adjust the valves and replace the leaky valve cover gaskets and seals. Since the engine appeared to be leaking from kinda everywhere I checked and re-torqued the head bolts as well. I found five valves with zero clearance and changed shims to bring them back in spec. After closing the engine up with new gaskets it was time to change the oil & filter. Well, the rusty header pipe was of course totally blocking removal of the oil filter. I had already planned on removing the pipe for sandblasting and painting–just not right this minute, so when reinstalling it I reused the exhaust gaskets. I’ll get new ones after I paint the pipe.
Okay now it’s time to sync the throttle bodies pretty much the same as the carbs. I hooked up a sync gauge and started it up. The beast still didn’t idle too well and throttle response was very delayed, so I cracked it open and maybe two seconds later the engine revved. The sync gauges read zero, that means major vacuum leaks somewhere. Any good spray contact or brake cleaner makes an easy vacuum leak detector as long as its flammable. A few quick sprays around the intake manifolds made the engine RPMs soar–big leakage found. Off to the parts store I go. A couple days and another few bucks later the new intake manifolds were on and it was time to try the synchronizing thing again. After some adjustments the old Kawi now had throttle response and a better although still not great idle.
The bike was now rideable, but some other problems sprang up. Oil leaks. Now that I’ve run the bike for some time the leakage has begun. The shift shaft seal has become worthless over time and drips. My valve cover gaskets are leak free, however re-torqueing the head did nothing to slow down the dripping from the too far gone head and cylinder base gaskets. Also the right fork seal has started to leak as well. Then, there are the steering head bearings, while riding I noticed they were starting to get notchy.
I had to go do some math. As suspected the tight budget was used up. For all these parts–chain, brake pads, battery, intakes, gaskets and seals, oil and filters, spark plugs, chemicals and a mirror and blinker, I had spent $419.38. This brings the grand total to $1,026.38. And I’m not done yet. To re-gasket the whole engine and fix the forks and steering would cost another couple hundred easily and be very time consuming. It’s time to reevaluate my commitment to this project. Repaired and functional, the bike is worth about 1500 bucks. As is maybe I could get my dough out of it, about $1,100. At this point, I really don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Some deep thought is in order. I’ll let you know next month. If any of you have some thoughts, I’m listening.