Steve Cooper on his 250/500 two-stroke demon build.
Ithink I’m on fairly safe ground when I say my credentials as a Class One Idiot are now impeccably well established. I counsel novitiates to only work on one bike at a time, (you mean ‘tell beginners’, Scoop? Bertie) exhort those who have been restoring for donkeys years not buy a bike in boxes, advise anyone who’ll listen to never, under any circumstances, take someone else’s abandoned project and avoid the complete but dog rough ‘cheap bargain’. And yet I have accomplished the following: • Run four projects at the same time. • Purchased a Yamaha AS1 in a myriad of pieces all stored in a wet cellar. • Acquired a Suzuki Rickman project that had got the better of its previous owner. • Bought a £250 Suzuki Stinger that was a genuine hound. So you would have assumed that by now I’d have learnt my lesson wouldn’t you? Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread etc. Have I learnt my lesson? Have I hell! I’ve owned various brands of bikes over
the years with the notable absence of a Kawasaki. A Z1 is both too expensive and too large for me; I like Z650s but they’re too much like my erstwhile Honda CB750F2N; F series trail machines aren’t what I need right now and most of the legendary triples are outside of my fiscal abilities. Please understand, I don’t need another bike, project, liability (delete as applicable) yet I do rather want one… and the notion of a stroker triple appeals but with certain caveats. The 750s are either too expensive or unwieldy for muggins ’ere, the 250s have become too pricey for what they personally offer me, the 500s generally don’t handle well enough for my style of riding and 350/400 itch is comfortably scratched by my Yamaha RD350. All of which rather limits the options unless one takes a left-field approach and gets involved with those that take a lateral slant on Kawasaki triples ownership. Enter stage right Ian Bird and the worryingly addictive hybrid he loaned CMM for the August 2017 issue. This bike got under my skin almost from the off and the more I rode it the better I liked it. Some amalgamations of engines and frames result in unhappy bedfellows with poor weight distribution and dubious handling while others can be downright dangerous. Back in the day, Norvins (Norton Dominator frame with a Vincent motor) were the supposed pinnacle of the hybrid concept yet more than a few were seriously compromised by dodgy build quality. The legendary Triton (Triumph motor and aforementioned chassis) came in various guises and many were not unlike the curate’s egg – both good and bad in parts. Simply put many
aspirant specials builders can hurl an engine into a frame it wasn’t built for but it takes a specific kind of dedication working to an unambiguous blueprint if the end result is going to be a viable and safe road machine. I know all of Ian’s bikes are well-built so the 250/500 hybrid was never going to be a rabid hound. The fact that he had the parts on hand to build another might have been too much of a temptation to resist and so it proved. Having verbally committed to the programme a mutually agreeable date was selected and a selection of donor parts laid out on a cold concrete floor. Key to the entire project is a frame with a V5C; attempting to convince one of the DVLA’S finest about the authenticity of a nonnovaed 250 or 400cc frame bearing a 500cc motor of uncertain origins was always going to be several steps too far for both of us. One for the quiet life me, so Ian managed to locate a KH250 chassis with said documentation. The KH and later S series frames are generally recognised as the best handling of the breed even if they don’t and can’t run the iconic body panels of the first S2, a look I personally love. Fortunately even though Project Hybrid is obliged to run KH panels there’s no reason why it shouldn’t ape the earlier triple’s looks. As one of these shots shows, we have pretty much everything we need to get under way but before we get serious the frame needs to be, ahem… gently modified. Against all hope and expectation the 500cc H1 motor will fit in the physically smaller 25/400 frame but there are four sets of brackets that need to be either removed, relocated, refabricated and/or moved. Nothing short of a brutish assault with a disc cutter will apparently suffice but once the old fittings are dispensed with the half litre mill fits in rather well. In fact the tubes and engine look made for each other. Okay yes it all looks a bit snug but there’s a key bonus here that might be easily overlooked. The 500 motor’s new enforced location puts more weight over the front wheel which in half litre triple world offers a significant and substantial advantage – the handling is dramatically changed for the better. Glibly ‘all’ that needs to be done from here is to fabricate a new set of engine/gearbox mounts and weld them in place while ensuring the chain lines up. Which is a piece of cake… for someone else! As we’re using KH running gear everything ought to line up nicely given the interchangeability between the late S series and the KH250/400S but of course condition and availability are now key issues. We have the requisite number of parts but as yet they’ve only had a cursory once over and the lower corner of the tank carries a worrying amount of filler. The fork stanchions will need fresh chrome but at least the mudguards are sound even if they’re not in their first flush of youth; a bit like me to be honest. Better still, a decent seat base has been acquired which looks as though it was a dealer warranty swap out. Bearing an autojumble price of just £8 it must have been sold decades ago; anyone selling complete genuine seats for less than a tenner a pop would get killed in the stampede these days. So we have a set of cases and barrels to play around with and fortunately the gear train and crank have been removed which facilitates a significant improvement in terms of manoeuvrability. With the motor already in pieces it’d be an act of supreme folly not to go through everything with a fine toothed comb. The crank in particular looks and feels like it has seen better days so that’s going to be the first big job and doubtless expense. No one said building a special was going to be cheap or easy!
This is the dream and kinda what Scoop is aiming for!
And this is the current reality: like a Tamiya kit, but bigger!
Classic clocks have been found.
One bargain seat...
Evidence on the tank of some dodgy repairs: filler everywhere!
The donor motor will need a good clean-up.
Frame brackets are at the heart of the transplant. Some removed, and re-sited but the motor fits well and puts more weight over the front.
Tinware for the project looks good.