John Ka­vanagh KAWASAKI Z650

From ut­ter wreck, with a tank held on by Blu-tac, to one of the ti­di­est Z650s around, John’s work in­cluded ev­ery­thing ex­cept the seat up­hol­stery

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Special Build of the Year 2018 -

John Ka­vanagh has had a bit of a wait for a Kawasaki Z650. “I was go­ing to buy one 30 years ago,” says the 57-year-old re­tired print firm di­rec­tor, “But the morn­ing I went out to get it, the snow was com­ing down so I bought a Re­liant Robin in­stead.”

Last Oc­to­ber he fi­nally got a Zed. “I paid £1200 for what was a to­tal wreck.the ven­dor wasn’t very hon­est with me, say­ing the bike had been a run­ner. It can’t have been, the CDI was dead for a start. It was in a right state – the fuel tank was held on with Blu-tac,” he says.

Un­de­terred, John got to work. Less than six months later, he was done.

Not that the path was easy.the mo­tor the US im­port came with was in a sorry state; pis­ton rings were bro­ken, valves and guides were shot and ev­ery bear­ing and seal re­quired re­place­ment. John him­self blasted and painted the en­gine cas­ings and re­fin­ished and re­built the carbs too. One piece of good news – the black-painted Yoshimura ex­haust would pol­ish up a treat.

If the en­gine was bad then the chas­sis was no bet­ter.the head bear­ings had pounded them­selves flat, each fork leg con­tained a dif­fer­ent and cu­ri­ous mix of com­po­nen­try, and the rear wheel con­tained a mys­te­ri­ous and in­cor­rect col­lec­tion of spac­ers.the loom had wires twisted and taped to­gether.

Some­one had taken an un­suc­cess­ful tilt at fit­ting a disc rear brake but John elected to fit a hy­draulic drum unit us­ing a Z1000 mas­ter­cylin­der and Frando slave.

With en­gine and chas­sis now in good shape, John could start on the body­work. The fair­ing is a Forza Rac­ing unit mounted on brack­ets fab­ri­cated by John.the seat is to John’s own de­sign, with a steel pan and a glass­fi­bre cowl, up­hol­stered by Tony Archer in Hud­der­s­field.

John ex­tended the top front of each side panel to meet the seat unit. He’s be­come a skilled painter hav­ing been on a cou­ple of Paint My Ride cour­ses. His Z650 is fin­ished in a mod­ern Kawasaki hue – Golden Blaze Green.the pin­strip­ing is painted on too and the white cir­cle around the LED head­light de­scribes a rac­ing num­ber­board.

Other neat touches in­clude AWP damper, a home-made chain guard, a Kozo clock and Suzuki GSX-R1300 rearsets.

Three decades af­ter John failed to make it to the Kawasaki shop, he has a Z650 that’s bet­ter than any­thing he could have bought and cer­tainly bet­ter than a Re­liant Robin.

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