Reader restora­tion: Kawasaki GPZ305 (true)

And face it again, it’s never a first choice can­di­date for a resto ei­ther. But the much-ma­ligned lit­tle GPZ305 has its charms. If you look for them

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Welcome - WORDS JIM MOORE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY PAUL BRYANT

The lit­tlest GPZ (and the most frag­ile) brought back to life. Find out why

OF ALL THE QUES­TIONS Mike Smithers gets asked about his now im­mac­u­late Kawasaki GPZ305 the most com­mon, by far, is: ‘Why?’ It’s easy to un­der­stand why any­one would lav­ish time, money and ef­fort rein­vig­o­rat­ing an LC, a Fire­blade or even a big GPZ – but a 305? Re­ally?

Not only is this par­al­lel twin a brace of cylin­ders short of be­ing a ‘proper’ GPZ, any merit the bike may have had as a sports tool has long been over­shad­owed by a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing less likely to hold to­gether than a hand grenade dropped from 10 sto­ries up.

But Mike’s rea­son for restor­ing his Kwak is as solid as his bike’s mo­tor is (al­legedly) un­de­pend­able. Nos­tal­gia can do strange things to those in mid­dle-age and Mike found him­self at its mercy one evening in 2010 while brows­ing the ’net in search of bikes he used to own.

“I’d been look­ing at GPZ600RS and GPX750S, both of which I’d pre­vi­ously had, when I ab­sent­mind­edly punched ‘GPZ305’ into the search bar.and there it was – 22 miles away from me on the out­skirts of Brad­ford, a low mileage but very cos­met­i­cally chal­lenged ex­am­ple from 1988.That took me straight back to 1987 when aged 17 I bought my first new bike – a red GPZ305. See­ing one again clearly made an im­pres­sion on me be­cause 24 hours later I found my­self in a dimly lit in­dus­trial unit giv­ing this shabby ex­am­ple with a very ob­vi­ous oil leak the once over.”

The 305 had es­caped by a whisker from be­ing bro­ken up; the seller thought it too good to dis­man­tle for spares. Rashly Mike de­cided to buy it, de­spite its clearly weep­ing head gas­ket, leak­ing crank­case, du­bi­ous patina and lumpy run­ning mo­tor.and all the more sur­pris­ing, it still had a valid MOT...

“It looked like it’d been dragged out of the sea.the forks had been hand painted – badly – and the whole thing was fes­tooned with gaffer tape. It even had half ana4 clip­board ca­ble-tied to the front of the frame ap­par­ently to ‘keep the coils dry’ – talk about a bodge.

is a broad church in terms of both bikes and me­chan­i­cal abil­ity, and Mike makes no se­cret of the fact he’s not a nat­u­ral with the span­ners. “I’ll con­fess right now that I’m not me­chan­i­cally minded so I took the bike to Mo­tor­cy­cle Ser­vices in Hud­der­s­field to get it road worthy again.the gaffer there, Jim Ross, ser­viced it, fit­ted new tyres and ad­dressed the rough fu­­ter that I used it oc­ca­sion­ally on lo­cal B-roads un­til the fol­low­ing au­tumn.”

By then Mike had bonded with the GPZ, de­cid­ing it would be­come a per­ma­nent fix­ture in his garage, al­beit in a sub­stan­tially bet­ter state. Cue an­other call to Jim. “I’m a per­fec­tion­ist,” ex­plains Mike. “If I was go­ing to do it jus­tice it had to be done prop­erly.”

Jim, a sea­soned me­chanic, was as puz­zled as any sane in­di­vid­ual as to why Mike wanted him to re­store this diminu­tive Kawasaki. “Let’s face it, they were crap when they were new,” opines Jim in his dis­tinc­tive nonon­sensey­ork­shire brogue.“but Mike’s a nice guy and he was keen to get the job done so I thought ‘why not?’”

De­spite Mike’s ad­mis­sion that span­ner­ing isn’t his strong suit, Jim is keen to point out that the restora­tion work was far from all down to him.

“Mike didn’t just hand the bike over to me and say ‘there you go’; he got prop­erly in­volved and did a lot of the work him­self. I stripped the bike, then once it was all apart Mike would pop in and pick var­i­ous bits up, get them painted, pow­der­coated or re­fur­bished, then bring them back to me ready for re­assem­bly. I’m only a one-man band here, so I worked on the bike when I had a spare hour here or there, or a half day on a bank hol­i­day, and bit by bit it came to­gether.”

The main chas­sis com­po­nents – frame, brack­ets, side and cen­tre stands, tie-bars, en­gine cov­ers, footrest hang­ers, bat­tery box, cylin­der head etc – were all pow­der­coated by Brad­ford basedtriple S. Once done, Mike pol­ished the edges of the cool­ing fins on the head and the raised ar­eas on the footrest hang­ers to re­in­state a fac­tory two-tone fin­ish. The wheels, also two-tone alu­minium and black, were good enough nick to come good again with just a thor­ough clean and pol­ish.

As the bike started to take shape again in Jim’s work­shop Mike’s un­will­ing­ness to cut cor­ners took a stronger hold on the di­rec­tion of the project.the bike had worn a rea­son­able con­di­tion Mo­tad two-into-one pipe which he was happy to re­use, but spurred on by the as-new con­di­tion of the chas­sis and find­ing a new-old-stock link pipe on­line, Mike knew only an orig­i­nal ex­haust would do.

“The other thing that hap­pened as I put it back to­gether,” says Jim, “was a steady stream of cus­tomers com­ing into the work­shop, see­ing it on the bench, and, like me, ask­ing ‘why?’”

Mike’s al­ready ex­plained that par­tic­u­lar point but, as with any tale, there’s a twist…

“I went to buy my first GPZ on the very day I passed my test,” he says. “I had a Honda CB125RS at the time, and wanted to move up to a big­ger bike straight away. I’d been put off the idea of get­ting a 350 YPVS be­cause a cou­ple of lads I knew had been killed on them, plus I rode like a pen­sioner even back then so they wouldn’t have been the right bike for me. The GPZ looked good and it was af­ford­able too, so I went into the shop and said I wanted one that day.

“The bloke said, ‘yes, no prob­lem’ but it’d have to be black, orange and red be­cause that was the only colour they’d got left. I hated those colours, they looked… well, hor­ri­ble. I wanted a red bike so I had to wait a month for it to be de­liv­ered.”

Hang on Mike, why didn’t you do this one red then?

“Ahh, yes, good point. I guess my tastes must have changed be­cause I quite like the colours now...”

The same couldn’t be said for the re­spray,

how­ever. Mike sent the body­work away to a sprayer he thought he could trust, but when it came back the graph­ics were wrong, the lac­quer was soft and the over­all fin­ish wasn’t what he ex­pected for the be fair to the firm, they took the pan­els back, swapped the graph­ics and lac­quered the lot again.

There was more sur­prise with the mo­tor, the 305’s al­leged weak spot. Jim stripped the mo­tor and checked it, and the only thing that needed re­plac­ing were the valve stem oil seals.the camshaft – no­to­ri­ous for seiz­ing due to it run­ning di­rectly in the head – was in de­cent nick, as were the cam­chain and ten­sioner, two other trou­ble­some ras­cals on the 305. Mike had the crankcases cleaned but opted not to re­spray them: “I wanted to keep a bit of patina...”

In terms of new-old-stock parts the 305 is per­fect restora­tion fod­der.a long pro­duc­tion run cou­pled with the bike’s lack of de­sir­abil­ity means NOS parts are cheap. Mike was go­ing to get the pit­ted fork stan­chions rechromed, but soon changed his mind when he found a new set for just £68.An OE clock bin­na­cle was on Mike’s doorstep for just £15. A fac­tory fresh screen, a mere 12 quid; al­though that cur­rently re­sides in Mike’s loft, a Power­bronze replica do­ing the busi­ness on the bike.the rear mud­guard re­flec­tor – no longer avail­able from Kawasaki – came halfway around the world fro­maus­tralia.

Mike’s done such a good job clean­ing up some orig­i­nal parts that I thought they were new; the footrest rub­bers for one. “I dipped them in boil­ing wa­ter to get them on and off the stems. Even then I had to grit my teeth as the fit is so tight I thought they might split.”

The shock was on the shelf at Cradley Heath Kawasaki, just wait­ing for a new owner to give it a pur­pose. Mike was that man. He re­lieved Cradley’s shelves of the pipes too. Jim gut­ted the forks and re­placed the orig­i­nal air-as­sisted damp­ing with a pair ofwirth pro­gres­sive springs.

Mike’s ob­ses­sion for de­tail re­ally comes into fo­cus when he points at the num­ber­plate. The orig­i­nal, still show­ing the dealer logo for Green­side Kawasaki,york, where the bike was first reg­is­tered, was scuffed and scratched, but Mike wanted to keep the link to the bike’s­ter some in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he found DMB Graph­ics in Led­bury could repli­cate the orig­i­nal plate right down to the 1980s-tele­phone area code. “He repli­cated the head­stock­vin sticker as well from a photo I sent him.”

Con­sid­er­able ex­pense and ef­fort aside – “way more than the bike’s worth,” con­firms Mike – this restora­tion has achieved ex­actly what its owner in­tended it to do.and that, surely, is by far the most im­por­tant out­come of any re­build.

“I love it,” smiles Mike. “It makes me feel 18 again. I’ve got an emo­tional at­tach­ment to the bike, so the fact some peo­ple might think it a bit strange I’ve gone to all this trou­ble for a GPZ305 doesn’t re­ally come into it. It cer­tainly gets peo­ple talk­ing.”

It’s got me won­der­ing, too. So what’s it like to ride? Only one way to find out...

The ride

There’s got to be some­thing I’m not see­ing with the GPZ305. Mike’s spent more money than he cares to tot-up on the one be­fore me, and dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tions about the bike pho­tog­ra­pher Paul proudly an­nounces that he’s pre­vi­ously owned six of the things. Strange how he’s never men­tioned that be­fore in the 20 years I’ve known him…

I’m not ex­pect­ing a huge rev­e­la­tion when I jump on board, I sus­pect the lit­tle Kawasaki’s charms are sub­tle, even hard to find, but they must be in there some­where. Only re­cently has this bike come good in terms of the way it runs. Jim didn’t have time to set the car­bu­ra­tion up to his ex­act­ing stan­dards due to Mike re­lo­cat­ing sev­eral hun­dred miles south to Kent at the end of the resto. It re­fused to spin any higher than half its po­ten­tial revs, and 65mph was about as much as Mike could coax from the old twin. On La­guna Mo­tor­cyles’ dyno it made a pal­try 11bhp.a re­cent trip to Ian Scott, the Mo­tor­cy­cle Man in Bex­hill, re­vealed the carbs to be the cul­prits. Stripped, cleaned and re­built, they’re now fu­elling as in­tended.

Head­ing out onto tight, twisty Kent lanes the GPZ feels 125-sized – per­fect for flick­ing be­tween hedgerows and hus­tling around bends by the scruff of its neck. Mike warned me about the brakes be­fore I set off. De­spite re­built calipers and NOS lines, the front stop­pers re­main alarm­ingly lazy, and the lever comes al­most all the way back to the ’bar.a re­cently sourced mas­ter­cylin­der re­build kit should ad­dress the is­sue. But I keep my dis­tance from ve­hi­cles ahead.

I’m not sur­prised so many 305s went pop; the mo­tor de­mands to be caned if progress is to be any­thing other than leisurely.the tacho tells me the twin lump will spin safely to 11K, yet I can’t quite find the spite to hold the taps open that long – 10,000 and a gri­mace will do.

Once spin­ning it’s ac­tu­ally un­der 150 ki­los dry the GPZ swings about be­neath me like a base­ball player flick­ing a ball from hand to hand. For­get the rep­u­ta­tion, the 305 can ac­tu­ally boo­gie on the right road and, to my amazement, I’m ac­tu­ally grin­ning. On a GPZ305. Never thought that would hap­pen…

Nei­ther, I sus­pect, did Mike. “So, what do you think?” he asks, as I pull up af­ter rid­ing an S-bend 20 times for pics. “I get it now, I think,” is as much as I can muster. Maybe Mike’s not bonkers af­ter all.

I ac­tu­ally re­ally like the fact he’s gone to the trou­ble of restor­ing such a ma­ligned ma­chine. For me it’s bust a few myths. Snap­per Paul says he never had an is­sue with any of his 305s, de­spite abus­ing them all ter­ri­bly, and hav­ing rid­den Mike’s I now see that the bike has some, if mod­est, sport­ing cre­den­tials.

I’m no longer ask­ing why.the why is sim­ple. It makes Mike smile, and that’s as good a rea­son as any.

“I get it now. Maybe Mike’s not quite bonkers af­ter all”

Even stand­ing still it looks like a GPZ305

Early ones chain, but most of them belts

Will come good af­ter mas­ter­cylin­der fet­tle

Bar­gain bin­na­cle a mere 15 sheets Adi­das Samba con­ven­tion in full swing

Mike styling in ’87 on his orig­i­nal 305. Gag­gle of girls just out of shot

Paint scheme has grown on Mike. Un­der­stand­ably

Tick­ing time­bomb has not yet gone off

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