The Kawasaki series of triples lived on throughout the 70’s as the most stylish of all the periods strokers. These days restoring one isn’t getting any easier but the results are well worth it, the swept up exhausts, and overall pert look, instantly conjuring up those heady days when the amount of cylinders was everything, and two-strokes definitely ruled the roost.
Danny Stubbs is a taxi driver from Exeter Devon with a real passion for bikes, like many of us but he also enjoys ripping them apart and rebuilding them, not always as the manufacturer intended. Previous projects include a 350LC engined, Suzuki RG250 framed, Yammagamma, and a Honda Fireblade with RC30 rear end, RC45 front, and £3k worth of carbon fibre. He has also built a Westfield kit car but this of course had to have a motorcycle engine, in the form of a big bored Fireblade engine. But after too many speeding tickets and a couple of accidents he decided it was time to slow down a bit.
As a young lad Danny used to cycle to school on his Tracker bike that he had built up in the shed, “Looking back I guess that was the start of this building obsession” he reflected “ I had to cycle past a large Kawasaki dealers in Bournemouth, the window display consisted of a Z900 Z1R and a Candy Red S3. I used to stop every day and stare at the S3, often ending up being late for school, I even went as far as painting my push bike the same colour and promised myself that one day I would have one, but after joining the army at 16 it never happened and I ended up riding a FS1E followed by a number of Yamaha LC’s, first a 125 before graduating on to a 250, and then the Yammagamma.
When I decided I was going to start restoring bikes, I looked around for an LC350, but it soon became obvious that the prices of even rough ones were out of my budget, then a friend told him about a Kawasaki KH250 with only two previous owners and 12k miles that was for sale for £600, a quick trip up the road to Bristol and my first restoration job was bought. The bike was in excellent condition having been dry stored for many years it just needed a good clean and the carbs stripping. But after riding it for only a few miles I realised it was just to slow for me and the memories of the more powerful S3 came flooding back.
The 250 was then sold on eBay for a healthy profit to help fund the more expensive S3. After missing out an a few nice S3’s, one was found on the Isle of Wight, listed on eBay as a “very clean original bike” but, after placing the winning bid and then travelling to the Island, it was far from being nice, although it was fairly standard and original so lesson learned. However, after a bit of bartering the bike was bought and loaded into the back of the car.
Once the bike was home it was taken for a test ride to determine the condition of the engine gearbox brakes etc the clutch was found to be slipping but everything else seemed to be ok. This is one of the advantages of buying a running bike. It was then stripped down to a bare chassis
I put everything into different containers depending on whether it needed replacing, rebuilding/cleaning, painting or chroming, I find this is a good way to get organised for the job ahead, I then made a list of the parts that needed replacing and sent the other parts to be chromed or painted. As the parts were restored or replaced I then placed them on shelves depending on where on the bike they went suspension on one-shelf, brake components on another etc.
Finding parts is all part of the fun and I spent many hours searching the internet for those elusive bits, of course, eBay is a good source but you have to be careful not to pay over the odds, as its all to easy to get carried away.
The days of cheap bikes and parts on eBay are long gone, and some items even sell for more than they are from your local dealer. A lot of the parts I used came from America as at the time the exchange rate was over $2 to the pound and even taking the extra postage into account, it was still cheaper than buying here, I infact even got a set of fork legs for $28 but the postage was $99, but to have mine rechromed here in the UK was over £300.
The gorgeous paint set was brought from a restorer in Italy and is some of the nicest I have ever seen, he uses the correct multi layer method, as used by Kawasaki to get the sparkling candy effect, It’s the first thing anyone mentions when they see the bike. All other parts of the bike went together with no problems but by the time I was ready to put the exhausts on I had still not found a nice set so decided to fit the Higgspeed expansion chambers these are made by a member of the Kawasaki triple club who just happens to work for Blue flame so has the necessary knowledge and tools. Each set is built up on a bike in stainless steel then beautifully tig welded. They are very light and infact a full set weigh the same as one standard pipe!
The most enjoyable part of the restoration was the engine rebuild, I had to strip it completely as the kickstart shaft splines were worn away and to replace it you have to split the crankcases. This caused the only major problem as the first time I built it up, I had positioned the internal spring incorrectly and the kickstart didn’t work, so I had to take the engine apart again. Every thing else was checked and was all within tolerances, the only other things to be replaced was the clutch, and the piston rings, but the difference in the appearance of the engine after having the barrels blasted and polishing all the casings made it all worth while. It’s a nice feeling the first time you start it up knowing that you have rebuilt it and now it runs!
I have now got the restoring bug and have since brought a NOS Kawasaki F7 that had never been fully assembled, having been stored in its crate in a barn in the USA for 32 years, before being brought to the UK by Kawasaki aficionado, Rick Brett. I have fully stripped it and cleaned every component before building it back up.
I also have an RD250DX unfinished project, and a 1985 CB750 to ride around in the summer.
I am now in the process of setting up a classic bike sales and restoration business, having just secured an industrial unit in my home town of Exeter, and hope, one day soon, to give up the taxi driving and make my living doing what I love.”
Tripleparts – Tel 07798 884 939
Rick Brett – Tel 01159 131 333
Higgspeed performance – Tel 07923 360 343
1977 Kawasaki KH400 S3A Specifications
- Price £800
- Value now: £2600 (Danny’s just sold it)
- Power: 38bhp
- Torque: 30ft-lb
- Top speed 101mph
- Dry weight: 159kg
- Colours: Candy Emerald Green, Candy Royal Purple
KH400 Technical Specification;
- Fuel: 16litres
- Rake/trail: 28deg/111mm
- Seat height: 812mm
- Wheelbase: 1365mm
- Engine: air-cooled 400.4cc (57x 52.3mm), 3-cylinder two-stroke. 3 x 26mm carbs. 5-gears. Chain final drive
- Chassis: Tubular steel twin down tube frame, 34mm non-adjustable telescopic forks, twin oil-damped rear shocks with adjustable preload
- Brakes: 288mm front disc with single-piston floating caliper, 180mm single-leading-shoe drum rear brake
- Tyres: 3.25 x 18 front, 3.50 x 18 rearTop Tips;
- Take lots of photos before taking anything apart it could be months if not years before you put it back together.
- Be wary of pattern parts as they don’t always fit and ultimately will devalue the bike, but some times you will have no choice.
- Cover newly painted parts, like the frame, with bubble wrap when building up the bike, as you can guarantee you will slip with a ratchet and scratch or chip it.
- Owner’s forums are invaluable when it comes to never ending help and assistance and they are a great source for parts.
- Never work out the cost of restoring a bike as you would probably never even start it.
- Kawasaki KH400 Restoration Gallery[dmalbum path=”/wp-content/uploads/dm-albums/KH400/”/]