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
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 fuelling.after 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 money.to 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’s past.after 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...
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 fun.at 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