Mark Bennett's Kawasaki KH400
Here you will find out more about my latest project which is the restoration of a 1976 Kawasaki KH 400 two stroke 3 cylinder motorcycle. I had been looking casually for a suitable restoration candidate for some time. Like everyone else I was really looking for a H2 750 or H1 500, or even a 400 S3 preferably 1975 vintage. They are all getting hard to find now, the 750 & 500 particularly due I suspect to people buying them as an investment. I still have vivid memories of the mid 70's when a "Kwacker" was the motorcycle to have. At the time I was an apprentice & in College I was desperate to own a Kawasaki triple so I saved up & purchased a brand new 1975 250 S1C. It was virtually the same bike as the 400 S3, the only major difference of course being the engine size. It was a good bike, quicker than the Honda CB250 & Suzuki GT 250 but not quite as fast as the Yamaha RD 250. Nevertheless I could coax it up to an indicated 100 mph especially after changing the engine sprocket to give a higher gear ratio.
At the time I really wanted the 750 H2 but legislation restricted beginners to 250 cc maximum. I recall watching guys pull effortless "wheelies" at 60 mph just by changing down a gear & cracking the throttle open. The magazines captured the mood of the period perfectly & to an impressionable 18 year old made the triples even more desirable.
Click icon to see the headline page from a 1974 motorcycle magazine.
I never did buy either a 500 or 750 triple but moved onto Honda 4 cylinder 4 strokes instead, (yes, a crime I know). A couple of friends owned 400 S3's so I got to ride them & remember being impressed how smooth & quick the S3 was compared to my Honda 400/4 Super Sport. I've never forgotten the sheer charisma & magnetism of the Kawasaki 3 cylinder bikes which brings me up to now....
I have since purchased an H1F project which can be viewed by clicking here....
A Short History of the Kawasaki 400 3 Cylinder two stroke.
The first model year for the 400 was in 1974, the 400cc S3 Mach 3 which replaced the 350cc Mach 2. 1975 saw the introduction of the 400 S3-A which was basically the same bike as the previous model, the only real change being the colours offered. The KH400 A3 was introduced in 1976, again basically the same bike as before but due to impending environmental legislation the exhaust system had been reworked to make it quieter & the air box was more restrictive to air flow. These modifications robbed the engine of 4 bhp making the KH 400 a little slower than the S3 models. Looking through the magazines of the day the consensus seemed to be the KH was still a good bike, just slower (100mph vs 110 for the S3). In 1977 the KH400 A4 was introduced, same bike, different colours, the last model year for the 400 was 1980, (1978 in North America), the 750 had disappeared in 1975 & the 500 in 1976. The only other remaining model was the KH250 which was also discontinued in 1980 thus ending the reign of the 3 cylinder two stroke Kawasaki's.
Click the icons for a larger picture.
The bike you see in the picture above was previously owned by a co-worker, I'd been discussing the possibility of finding a Kawasaki triple with another colleague. I was pleasantly surprised when he told me about this bike (thanks Shawn!), I went to look at it one lunchtime and a few days later struck a deal to purchase it. The owner had purchased the bike in 1977 from a co-worker & had ridden (and fallen off!) the bike until 1992, At that point it was put into storage. I was hoping the bike was in reasonable shape but was a little concerned that it was under a tarp outside. I don't think it had been stored outside for the last 12 years though because when we pulled off the tarp it didn't look too bad. The bike was virtually original &100% complete with a reasonable amount of surface rust & corrosion in the normal places. The odometer shows 10,748 miles from new which was also a good sign. More of an issue is the amount of damage caused by various accidents, to be a perfect restoration the entire exhaust system will need to be replaced plus several other major components. The owner told me the engine had not run since 1992 but was running fine at that point, I made no attempt to turn it over, not wanting to run the risk of damaging anything. A collection date was arranged & with the help of yet another colleague (thanks Chris!) brought to my house.
Click the icons for a larger picture..
Initial inspection confirmed my lunchtime investigation & also came up with an additional list of things needing to be fixed or replaced. After that I did what all keen restorers do & put the bike in the corner of the garage, covered it up & left it alone for a while....
This is not the first bike I've restored so after deep consideration & 3 minutes of careful planning I stripped the bike down during thanksgiving week. I was glad to see that most things are in reasonable shape, little things like rubber grommets, spacers, cable ties, etc. Some of those items are hard to find nowadays, I took lots of digital photo's during disassembly & labeled items to aid reassembly in the future.
Click the icons for a larger picture.
I've been busy in the last few months buying parts, mainly off Ebay, there are still some bargains to be had if you shop carefully. I also decided to paint the bike candy purple which is the colour of the 1975 H2 750, this colour was very popular at the time and remains my favourite of all the colour options over the years. I realise that painting the bike purple will make it non original but I didn't buy it to win competitions at bike shows or hide it away as an "investment". Having said all that I still might end up painting it candy red which is one of the 2 colour options offered on the 1976 KH 400 series.
Update! (September 2005)
During the Winter (2004/5) I moved the engine & most of the smaller parts down into the basement so I could work on them in comfort. My garage is not heated & I didn't like the idea of working in minus 25 degree centigrade temperatures ...
My aim is to restore the parts as close to original as possible with some exceptions where I'll probably do some mild customization. Like I already said I'm not restoring it to be a show winner. Never the less I've spent hours wire brushing, sanding, buffing & painting various components with satisfactory results. Most of the fasteners are rusty so I looked for a source of stainless metric fasteners which considering Canada is a metric country is harder than you would imagine. For the moment I've replaced most of the 6mm frame fasteners with bright zinc plated as per the original spec. I found these at Canadian Tire, fairly expensive but worth it due to how they look compared to the 30 yr old originals.
I found a local source & had the frame, swing arm, & stands shot blasted for $60 cash. I elected to paint them myself staying true to the "do it yourself" mentality I am blessed with. So armed with my trusty paint gun applied a couple of primer coats, rubbed it down & then three coats of gloss black. The finished result looks as good as the original factory finish.
Click the icons for a larger picture.
I've also been busy repairing & restoring numerous other parts including the handlebar switches, battery box, coils, casings, etc. Most things have turned out to look as good as (or better than) new. I'm actually quite impressed with the high quality of the various components on this bike, most have stood the test of time very well. It goes to show that when Japanese bikes were branded "Jap crap" in the 70's that the comment was based more on ignorance than facts.
I'm rebuilding the brakes starting with the front, I've purchased a rebuild kit for the master cylinder & also the caliper. The Caliper piston turned out to be pitted which would have damaged the seal for sure if not replaced. My advice to anyone when restoring any old vehicle is replace or rebuild the brakes! It's much more tempting to focus on making the vehicle go fast but far more important is the ability to stop....
At the moment I'm busy restoring the seat, the original was defiantly looking the worst for wear. So I stripped it down, removed all the rust, primed & painted it back to the original standard. To finish it off I purchased a new reproduction seat cover from RB 's Classic Kawasaki, you can access his site by clicking.....
here : RB's Classic Kawasaki
Here is the photographic sequence for the seat restoration, riveting stuff eh? Took around 20 hrs from start to finish.
In my haste to get the seat finished I rushed the installation of the new $70 seat cover & although it looks ok at a superficial level, any Kawasaki anorak will spot the mistake. In addition to this I should really have doubled under the vinyl prior to attaching it to the retaining tangs. It would have made a neater edge & given more resistance to tearing, time will tell but I'm expecting to have to swap the cover again but for now will reluctantly live with the screw up.
With the seat finished I've turned my attention to the carburetors, predictably they were in a filthy state as you can see in the pictures. I needed to find something that would clean off all the dirt & old gasoline "varnish" & after a few experiments gave up & handed them to a colleague who has a friend "in the Trade". They came out really well & I finished them off by polishing the tops & float bowls. I purchased 3 new Keyster carb rebuild kits (Ebay again) & will use them to rebuild all 3 carbs.
Carbs before Restoration.
Here is one of the Carbs cleaned up & ready to be reassembled.
Update! (June 2006).
It's been quite a while since I've been able to do any work on the Kawa, a busy work schedule & basement renovation project have used up all my time. However summer is finally here & while poking around in the garage the other day I got the bug to do a little work on the Bike. The seat is "finished" with a few more things to install like the brackets, rubber stops, etc so I switched my attention to the carbs which are cleaned up & ready to re-assemble.
For some reason I was thinking rebuilding the carbs was going to be more difficult than it actually turned out to be. I'll also need to replace the throttle & choke cables, the originals are cracked & kinked.
Here is the carb rebuild photo sequence, they now look a hundred times better than they did...
Update! (September 2006).
I finally got around to Restoring & rebuilding the front forks, I have purchased a very good pair for the S3 400 off Ebay, they are meant to be better than the later KH400 ones. I purchased new seals & dust covers (Ebay again) & a litre of Bel-Ray fork oil. naturally I've cleaned up & polished the fork legs so they now look better than new. I attempted to put the first one back together the other day but ended up distorting the seal. It didn't leak & I toyed briefly with the idea of risking it but common sense prevailed & I've un-assembled the fork & have ordered new seals. I guess the moral is to not rush things & make sure you have the right tools for the job....
Finally! A new Update (June 2007).
So the Theatre project is finally over & apart from a few minor things I've decided to not do too much work on the house this year which means time spent rebuilding the Bike! I have been busy over the Winter getting various parts restored, painted, nickel plated & chromed. I have a friend at work who restores motorcycles & by the way has a personal collection of 30 + (mainly British) bikes, including 6 or 7 in his lounge... Anyway he has a large network of "people in the trade" which is lucky because he has provided a lot of help in getting some of the restoration work done. I gave him the wheels & he got them rebuilt, including nickel plating all the spokes, re-chroming the rims, bead blasting & re painting the hubs & fitting new tubes & Bridgestone tyres. Needless to say the wheels look better than new & I'm was looking forward to getting them on the Bike. I said was because I had a bit of a setback, I assembled the rebuilt S3 forks into the yokes last week & they looked really good, along with the re-chromed headlight "ears". Imagine how P.O'd I was when I tried to install the front wheel & found out that it does not fit the S3 sliders...
As it turned out the KH has a different (larger diameter) axle assembly than the S3 which really left me with only one logical choice which is to rebuild the original KH forks :-(
So with that little disappointment under my belt I turned my attention to the rear wheel, I stripped & rebuilt the rear brake, the linings were hardly worn so I re-used them. Then I stripped & rebuilt the Sprocket carrier, cleaned out the bearings & re-packed with grease. Finally I buffed the rear brake cover plate to a mirror finish, here are a few before & after pics.
With that out of the way I installed the finished parts back into the rebuilt rear wheel along with the re-chromed axle assembly & installed (temporarily, anyway) the wheel into the swing arm, yes it fitted...
A while back I purchased off Ebay a complete air box assembly for a 1975 S3, it is a lot less restrictive to air flow than the KH version, I'd rebuilt the carbs with S3 rebuild kits & figured that without doing something with the air box it would probably run far too rich. Anyway I stripped & repainted the S3 air box, removed the already installed KH one (a royal pain, it meant tearing down half of the back end) & installed the S3 box. It takes up a lot less space than the KH box, the only downside being that the oil tank has to be removed for air filter changes...
Update! July 7th 2007.
The new fork seals I ordered arrived a few days ago so I was finally able to strip & rebuild the original KH 400 forks. Of course nothing comes easily & the KH forks were a bugger to get apart, I needed to make up a special tool to stop the damper assembly rotating while I unscrewed the cap screw in the bottom of the sliders. I finally got them apart & compared the internals with the S3 internals, they are identical therefore if you are reading this & need to replace your KH front forks everything except the sliders will fit, unless you want to fit the S3 front wheel assembly as well...
Here are a couple of pics of the fork restoration, you can see the difference between the KH & S3 slider length in the one pic. The KH slider is the longer one, overall fork length is the same.
With the forks now replaced I was finally able to check to make sure the rebuilt front wheel fits which I'm glad to say does.. I can finally wheel the bike around which makes life a little easier, tomorrow I'm going to work on installing the headlight shell which on initial fit does not seem too good.. I can't seem to get the turn signal stems to point out at 90 deg to the headlight ears therefore some "adjustment" will be required. Also I need to work on the rear brake spigot, all looked good prior to painting the frame but with the brake pedal installed the angle is all wrong, more "adjustments"..
The red tail piece in the above pics is one of the colours I'm thinking of painting the bike, I threw it on this morning just to see how it looks. Right now I'm on the fence with this shade therefore I may try another one..
Update! August 11th 2007.
Over the course of the last month or so I have worked on several of the smaller things that needed to be installed. I got the brake pedal sorted, along with the new footrests, these were pattern items & naturally did not fit without making a few alterations. I got the master front brake cylinder & caliper rebuilt with all new seals & components. I'm currently looking for new hydraulic brake lines, probably the high performance braided type, I'll be using Dot 5 brake fluid, it won't attack the paintwork like the Dot 3 stuff.
I buffed up the original chrome on the front fender, it is not 100% perfect but is in really good shape for 30 + years old, I also got the turn signal stems pointing in the right direction & just installed the new turn signals. I got these from a company here in Ontario for $12.50 each! they look to be as good quality wise as the originals & come complete with bulbs, lens, mounting bolts, etc., you can find them here.. PartsNmore
Next up I'll start work on the engine, I have one more casing to buff up but it requires some minor repair work beforehand.
Updates! September 2nd & 9th 2007.
Well, not quite, I will get round to working on the engine over the winter in the warmth of my basement, for now I'm back on the search for more items. I was lucky enough to purchase a NOS S3 400 exhaust pipe, (the upper right hand) off Ebay, lets just say they are very rare & therefore priced accordingly... I also won an auction for the lower right this evening, not NOS but no dents or dings for $46, all I need now is the left hand one..
I also found a restoration shop locally which rebuilds the 3 cylinder cranks, & will do re-bores, there is a Guy advertising new piston kits on the Web for $119 per set, I'm going to wait a while before I commit the cash & may just re hone the standard bores, assuming I can find standard rings..
Right now I'm working on the left hand switch restoration, again I got lucky & bought a mint left & right switch assy for around 30 bucks, they were off a 76' KH250 so the wiring is a little different. The Canadian model does not have a light switch installed in the right hand switch body, I was going to use it but it would be a pain to alter the stock harness so I'll restore it & put it back up on Ebay..
The original left switch was falling apart therefore I'm restoring the KH250 one, it is identical to the KH400, also it is not broken where the choke cable nipple fits.. The original plastic sleeving was cracked so I have removed it & installed woven nylon sleeving which looks quite sharp.
As mentioned above, just recently there was news that a Guy in the US was making Wiseco piston & ring sets for the 400 triples, these have not been available new from Kawasaki for years & therefore are almost impossible to get. Well, the Guy just started advertising them as available & put up a set on Ebay. I corresponded with him several times mainly to make sure he was on the level & was in fact offering the correct article & took the plunge & ordered a full set of 0.5mm oversize. I'll post pics when I get them
I'm running out of things to do on the bike at the moment, basically it is 75% complete regarding restoration of the frame & associated parts. I have a couple more things to restore & will then make a start on tearing down the motor..
So my piston kits arrived yesterday, actually much sooner than I expected, less than a week from ordering from the US. They are very nicely engineered & well worth the $$'s when you consider that a New Old Stock set of piston rings sells for $70 - $80 per set. I may bring the engine up from the basement in the next week or two & strip it down in the garage. I'll put it back together downstairs during the Winter as previously noted. Here are a few pictures of the piston kits.
Two Updates in the same weekend? Whoa, slow down..
Well, it was a nice sunny & warm day today so at a bit of a loose end I decided to extract the motor from the basement & muck around with it a bit. I didn't do too much with it but managed to remove the pistons & cleaned them up with Carb cleaner. It was a surprise to find under the varnish that I could still see the original machining marks so I cleaned, oiled, & bagged them up for future use (maybe). I also decided to keep the original barrels stock along with the pistons, they look good enough to get away with a quick hone. As a consequence I'm now on the look out for a set of stock bore barrels to re-bore for my new Wiseco pistons. Here are a few snaps.
Update November 07'.
Well I finally got around to doing an update, I have not been able to do too much but did get the engine stripped down to all the component parts. I had a real bugger of a time separating the engine crankcases & finally after 2 hrs of mucking around found a couple more 6mm nuts hidden under the rubber engine mounting bushes. Doh! One of the front engine mountings was cracked during the strip down so I've taken it to be TIG welded up at a local shop, The selector fork for 4 & 5th gear is badly worn so I'll be looking for a replacement soon. Finally I found a lot of bits & pieces lying in the lower crankcase, which I identified as segments from one of the clutch friction plates. I noticed when I stripped the engine that the clutch cover had been off at some point, also the clutch basket has some heavy wear grooves , so I guess the clutch blew up once.... Luckily I have already purchased complete spare clutch assembly off Ebay for 25 bucks.
My biggest issue right now (apart from the cost to finish this project) is finding a decent set of exhausts, they really are harder to find in good condition than Hens teeth. Therefore despite my earlier thoughts I may end up having to go to aftermarket expansion chambers. But of course these are also hard to get & expensive to boot, Higgspeed in the UK are making them in stainless steel but it would cost me well in excess of $1200 to get them here :-( Sooo, I'm thinking of making a set for myself, I have a set of dimensions for the various segments & will probably make mock ups using stiff cardboard. I also found some design software to help to get the lengths & diameters of the various pipe sections correct so they will actually work!! Watch this space for that story..
I put the rolling chassis away for the Winter today (11/18/07), I need the garage space, It's getting cold & scraping the frost off the car windows in the morning is getting to be a bit of a chore. As I mentioned before the engine will be rebuilt in the warm basement providing I can prep the workshop / office in time.. More work to do...
Update April 26th 2008
Time flies for sure, I didn't get around to working on the engine over the Winter, mainly due to the failing health & subsequent death of my Father in Law, he was a real Car & Bike enthusiast & a total inspiration to me. Dad, you will be deeply missed.
I did get the engine cases repaired, Keith did a great job & once I have them bead blasted the repair will be invisible. Some time ago I joined the Canadian Triples Board, there are lots of like minded nutters there & we got into the discussion about making expansion chambers. A couple of the Guys have put their money where their mouth is & between them come up with several really cool designs. One set has already been produced & is being tested by Andrew, who designed them with the help of Don who built them. The plan is to make sets available to those interested for a very reasonable cost, therefore I'm abandoning my plan to make my own, I can use the time for something else instead.
However I'm still on the lookout for a decent set of standard exhausts, I purchased a full set off an S3 from Don (mentioned above) for a very reasonable price. They will need some work to be perfect but they are very solid & therefore restorable. I'll eventually fix them up & put them on the bike for special events only, for general mucking around I'll fit expansion chambers.
I gave Don my Crankshaft a few weeks ago for rebuild, he is a multi talented Guy, he now has it rebuilt with new bearings & seals. So I'm really looking forward to getting it back then I can start putting the engine back together down stairs in my (nearly complete) Office/Workshop. I'm also waiting for a bunch more parts to be chrome & zinc plated.
Something else I managed to get around to was taking the spare Speedo & Rev counter apart, I wanted to freshen up the gauge faces, the originals are very faded & just won't look right on a restored bike. After a couple of false starts with RB I hooked up with Andre, another Canadian board member, he runs a business here in Ontario making up decal kits for various classic bikes. He was kind enough to make me a couple of new sets of gauge faces which really do bring the gauges up to the standard I'm now aspiring to. You can reach Andre's website by clicking this link..
Update July 2008 (Finally)
One of the things I decided to do early on was to upgrade the headlamp, these old bikes never had the best lights & although I don't intend to do a huge amount of night time riding it is going to happen at some point. In addition to this, my rational is that a brighter light can be seen more easily during the day, having head lights on in daylight is compulsory here in Ontario. The new halogen unit takes a 60/45W bulb vs the original sealed beams rather pathetic 45/35W, just a bit brighter than a tea light candle..
The unit I was advised to buy was a unit distributed by Motorvan, it is about 5 3/4" diameter & takes a standard H4 halogen bulb. In my haste to get it I didn't pay enough attention to exactly how or if it would fit inside the original (re-chromed) headlight bezel. So of course when I got it home it didn't take long to realise my mistake, the new unit is actually about 1/4" smaller in diameter than the original sealed beam unit.. Doh! I was going to take it back & just put up with the original but posted my dilemma on the Canadian Triples forum, one of the replies suggested making up a Perspex spacer ring to compensate for the reduce diameter. It is a very neat solution but it got me thinking, I then had a brainwave & wondered if the new unit would nest inside the reflector assembly of the original sealed beam. The advantage of this is that all of the mounting & adjustment brackets are integral to the sealed beam unit, therefore I would not have to go through the hassle of making up new brackets & mountings.
I had an old headlamp unit with a non working high beam so I put it in a plastic shopping bag & dropped it glass side down into the concrete garage floor! Well, that broke it, so I carefully pulled out the remaining glass & then wondered how I was going to remove the (soldered in) bulb assembly. This I did by simply breaking the bulb, removed the class centre core & then hack sawing off the tail. This left me with a 5/8" hole which needed to be enlarged to around 2" in diameter in order to allow the bigger bulb flange of the H4 unit to pass through. Normally I would have used a 2" hole saw but I didn't have one, & I'm too cheap to buy one, so I broke out the Tin snips for a hack & slash session...
To cut a long story short with a combination of the snips & an angle grinder I got the hole done, not too pretty but it won't be on public display once mounted on the bike. The original unit has a rubber seal between the glass & reflector unit, I peeled it out & re-installed it back to front, this made a really nice tapered mounting surface for the H4 unit & allowed me to centre it in the original reflector housing. To my surprise & relief, the H4 fitted into the original reflector assembly like the proverbial glass slipper, it looked like it had been designed to be mounted that way..
My next challenge was how to secure the H4 unit into the old housing, it does have 3 mounting tangs but they would be inaccessible once mounted. So I very carefully bent them in to get them out of the way & allow the unit to nest properly, having done this I elected to secure the new light into the old housing using silicone sealant (caulking). This stuff will stick to virtually any surface & therefore makes a very effective adhesive with a high bonding strength. A slight fringe benefit is also that it mounts the new unit on a flexible base thus allowing a little more vibration resistance.
I marked the bottom position of the reflector housing & H4 unit to ensure I got the lamp in the correct orientation, it would be a total bummer to have mounted it upside down... Squeezed a good amount of caulk into the prepped & sanded reflector, mounted the H4 unit & left it to cure overnight. I'm happy to report that it stuck like sh1t to a blanket, as the saying goes..
All that remains is to trim the 1/8" gap between the glass outer diameter of the H4 unit & the original reflector housing. My plan for that is to use a length of fibre optic side glow cable. It is really neat stuff, if you apply a concentrated light source into the end of the cable it illuminates in a similar way to those glow sticks you see at parties, etc. I already have some 3/16" dia side glow so after experimenting a little using high intensity LED's I now know it will work really well, more on that another day...
While fitting the Halogen headlight is a good idea, it also means that the load on the bike's electrical system will be significantly higher. My plan here is to replace all of the remaining incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, these are getting quite popular now & therefore a wide variety are available. I purchased a full set for the turn signals, rear light, & instrument lights along with a new electronic flasher unit. It is important to use an electronic flasher, the current draw on LED's is so low, the original flasher will not work..
Here is where I purchased the LED "bulbs".
SUPER BRIGHT LEDS home
For fun I bought a few coloured bulbs, I wanted to see if they would work in the instruments, here are a few pics with the different colour LED's, I really like the blue & will more than likely keep them this way to match with the paint work.
Update September 2008
I spent quite a lot of time this Summer working on the Girls bedrooms, putting in new floors & re-decorating so I have not spent a huge amount of time working on the bike, I really need to get my priorities straight..
I did manage to get the paintwork stripped off the tank & tail piece though, my Buddy at work knows a good painter locally so I have been messing around with Photoshop trying to get an idea for colour schemes. I'm defiantly going with dark blue but wanted the graphics to compliment it. I finally settled with orange for the main stripe & lime green for the additional stripes. Sounds a little lurid but I wanted to use a couple of "traditional" Kawasaki colours, the orange is from the H1B, & the lime green is a Kawasaki staple..
Here are a couple of snaps of the stripping, I used a chemical stripper & de rusted with my Dremel & wet & dry paper, overall the tank & tail are in good shape with only a few minor dents & dings. The last pic is my Photoshop rendering of how the finished tailpiece will look.
I also got around to finishing off the Speedo & Rev counter, I installed the new faces, restored the needles with orange fluorescent paint & polished the glass. Finally I zeroed the mileage counter, the 1.1 miles shown is a result of me testing it with an electric drill. I also installed the blue Led "bulbs", it looks really nice at night.
Finally, for now, I had the crankcases, barrels, & heads bead blasted & then had the barrels re-bored & honed for my new Wiseco pistons. My Buddy Ken gave me some awesome high temp aluminum paint which I used to paint the main engine parts with. It now looks brand new, hopefully it will stay that way once I get it back on the road, which if things go to plan will be early next summer.
Update February 2009
Been a while since I did an update, had some computer related problems, & lost my copy of Frontpage amongst other issues. Still managed to do a couple of things to the bike though, I took my other set of gauges & decided to add custom faces to them. I decided they would look good in a light shade of blue along with my "screen name" from the Canadian Triples Forum. A little pretentious maybe but who cares? It took me quite a long time to do the faces using Photoshop, I got them made by Rick Brett over in the UK, the link to his site is further up this page. Here are a couple of pics of the finished instruments. Nice eh?
I finally got around to starting the engine rebuild as well, yesterday (Feb 21st) I bolted the crankcase halves back together & should be able to get the motor fully assembled by the end of March. I ordered a set of WTF custom expansion chambers from Don & Andrew, I'll have them either chrome plated or ceramic coated, whichever is the more cost effective route. The design I chose is based on an old Allspeed design from the late 70's, the look according to Zambia from the Forum is "modern retro" which is a perfect description of their shape.
I'm currently studying for my written test to get my Motorcycle licence. Ontario has a graduated licencing system which starts with a written test which once passed is good for only 90 days. You have to take & pass the second stage (M2) within that period. M2 is a riding skill test, there are many week-end training courses being run with the test at the end of the second day. I booked my training for late April, with a bit of luck the weather will be kind enough at that time to keep me warm & dry..
Right now I'm restoring a front fender (mudguard) from a 1972 Kawasaki 350 S2,. I got it for the cost of shipping from Andre at Reproductiondecals.com. There are a few corrosion problems that require steel patches on the inside to repair but I think it will fix up nicely. I do have a really nice original chrome front fender on the bike at the moment but I've always preferred the look of the painted ones on the earlier bikes. The S2 is also smaller & a nicer shape than the later fenders in my opinion.
Update Early March 2009
Finally got round to stripping out the rust on the inside of the gas tank & coating it with a product called POR 15 (Google it!). It is a product specially made to line old gas tanks to seal any slight leaks & create an impervious lining to prevent rust issues. It was quite easy to do & looks really good.
I took the prepared bodywork to the painters today (7th) he showed me a few examples of work he recently completed, I have to say I was impressed. I did finally choose to go with a GM colour, Laser Blue Metallic, it is so dark it's almost purple, defiantly has a mauve hint to it. I bought the Decals from Rick Brett, I decided to go with the standard 1976 layout but with custom colours. As mentioned above I went with the orange & green stripes, sounds lurid I know, but in my mind at least I think it will look awesome.
Update: Early May 2009
Last week I did my rider training & am glad to say passed the course with a 100% pass mark, it was a whole lot of fun to be riding a bike again. The Honda CBR 125 bikes the riding school uses are a lot of fun to ride, being back in the saddle made me realise just how much I missed the rush you get when on a bike.
Project wise, I'm still waiting for the bodywork to be finished, I spoke to the painter a couple of days ago & he told me that it will be ready to pick up on the 9th. I'm working towards a goal of having the bike complete by the end on May which given the list of things still to do is going to be a challenge.
I have been working on the motor & am hoping that it will be ready to go back into the frame next week-end, I have to rebuild the clutch & install it & that's pretty much it for the motor. The 2 stroke engine is simple to work on, certainly not as much as a challenge as the Honda 4 cylinder engines I used to rebuild many years ago. Here are a few pics of the motor assembly.
Update: Mid May 2009
So here we are in mid May, it is the "May two four" long weekend here in Ontario, 4 days on which to spend time working on my bike. I finally picked up the painted bodywork on Thursday evening. I have to say that it was well worth the wait, the colour is absolutely stunning & the orange & green stripes contrast perfectly. Here are a few before & after pics.
Engine assembly has had its perils & pitfalls, the motor is finally bolted back in the frame & while assembling the clutch I had an interference between the clutch basket & pinion gear on the end of he crankshaft. I had visions of having to take the motor apart to investigate the problem but was confidant that I'd re-assembled it correctly. To cut a long story short I finally figured out with help from the guys on the Canadian Triples Forum that somehow an S2 pinion had been installed instead of the KH one. The KH gear is thinner which of course allows the clutch to fit correctly. So after a bit of messing around I finally started breathing a little easier.
I'm expecting things to come together very quickly now, so look out for updates before the end of May!
Update: Late May 2009
The last week or so has been a blur, I've spent a lot of my spare hours working on the bike trying to get it finished. My goal is to ride it to the vintage motorcycle rally on Fathers day week-end which is June 20th.
There have been a few more technical issues to resolve along the way, one of which was caused by converting to Led bulbs. I noticed that all 4 turn signals were flashing at the same time with the pair opposite to the direction of the switch much dimmer. This is because both sides of the circuit are wired to the idiot light on the centre consol & due to the very low current draw of the LEDS it allows current to illuminate the opposite pair of lamps. Disconnecting the idiot light solves the problem, but I wanted to keep it in circuit, so with some help & advice from the Guy's on the Canadian triples board I added a couple of diodes into the turn signal circuit. These of course only allow current to flow in one direction & therefore solve the issue. The following pics show the circuit, along with the pigtails I made up, along with my temporary lash up & the completed wiring.
I still have to come up with a solution for the licence plate illumination, normally this would be taken care of by the taillight bulb but the New taillight Led does not have any white LEDS built into it. I'll probably come up with a simple white led wired through a resistor & hooked into the light circuit.
I installed the blue Led "bling" lighting as well, this consists of 4 high output blue Led's all wired together via a inline 1 amp fuse & push button switch hidden under the saddle. These illuminate the motor & along with the side glow fibre optic ring around the headlamp look really cool at night, but maybe just a bit pretentious...
My new pipes have not arrived yet, & I have no indication of when they will eventually show up. I'm really disappointed because I wanted the bike to be fully completed in time for the rally but apart from complaining I can't do much.. So I have ended up borrowing a set of Bill Wirges expansion chambers from a couple of the Guy's on the triples board, (thanks Andrew & Roland). These are period pipes from the 70's & are in pretty good shape, never the less I scrubbed them down & gave them a new coating of high heat satin black exhaust paint.
Once back together I had a bit of a scare, I could not get the bike into any gear other than 2nd. I had horrible visions of having to take it back apart to establish the reason but something did not feel right, the gearshift felt mushy & vague. I looked back through the pics I took prior to dis-assembly, I wanted to see how the gearshift linkage looks when properly installed. I ended up on Lee Doxey's website & found a perfect image of the shifter linkage on his immaculate 76' KH400. Needless to say I had assembled the linkage upside down! After cussing myself out I installed it the correct way & voila! I have 5 gears again...Here are a couple of pics, the first showing it incorrectly installed upside down.
So the big moment finally arrived, I made up a premix solution of 40:1 & carefully poured it into the gas tank, no leaks! With the tank back on the bike I filled the carbs carefully, no overflow or leaks there either. Then I half filled the oil tank with Amsoil full synthetic 2 stroke oil & watched as it snaked through the clear hose to the oil pump. My buddy Don arrived & I wheeled the bike outside to prep it for start up. I kicked it over a few times with the ignition off to prime it. Alex had the video camera running, ignition on & half a dozen kicks later it spluttered back into life 18 years since the last time it ran...on 2 cylinders, doh! Investigation revealed no spark on the centre cylinder, I ran out of time & have not troubleshot it yet, hopefully it is not too serious.
Update: Early June 2009
Troubleshooting the electrical problem was not too much of an ordeal, having already established that the centre plug was not firing, my first check was to swap out the plug with a known good one, still no spark. I found a .PDF file of the original Kawasaki service bulletin which described how to check the ignition system for faults. I checked the coil resistances which measured correct to the manual. But as a precaution swapped out the centre one anyway, still no spark. Next I checked the resistances of the 6 coils in the stator assembly. All measured ok with the exception of one signal trigger coil, which showed a dead short. A quick cross reference to the wiring diagram confirmed it was the centre signal coil. I pulled off the cover & quickly found the reason, the coil was badly damaged, I have no idea how it got like that & can only guess that it was damaged by the previous owner. I still have no clue how I didn't spot it when I restored the stator assembly though.. The first pic shows the original restored stator assy, 2nd pic shows the damaged signal coil, the 3rd pic is the unrestored replacement stator assembly I bought via Craig on the Canadian Triples Board.
With time running short I posted a wanted ad on the Triples board & got a few replies, Andrew (Walms) very kindly offered to loan me the unit out of his KH 400. Needless to say I was driving to his place ASAP, a quick check with a multimeter confirmed his unit to be good. Once home I quickly replaced my damaged stator with his & with fingers crossed kicked the bike over. Finally! it burst into life 2nd kick on all 3 cylinders, it really is a great feeling when something you spent a significant chunk of your life on turns out ok in the end. I checked the timing with a strobe & made slight adjustments until it was perfect then went inside & celebrated by having a cup of tea...
Next day my Buddy Don dropped by to check out the bike & without too much arm twisting persuaded me to ride the bike a few yards along the road outside the house. First impressions were good, the bike pulled well & the gearshift was flawless, it also sounded awesome if a bit loud.. I took quite a few pictures of the bike on what I considered to be the final part of the restoration, but of course there is more to the story.
The next week was a blur, I needed to get a safety certificate prior to registering the bike & an appraisal done prior to insuring it. Once again Don came to the rescue & arranged for a Buddy of his to trailer the bike to the safety inspection station. I'm glad to say the bike passed without any issues. Next was the insurance appraisal which after a couple of attempts was completed a week & a half prior to the Paris rally, the appraised value was $3500. With the valuation completed I phoned a few insurance companies & managed to insure the bike liability only, they would not insure it for fire or theft, you'll have to go to the rant page for the full version of that story. The Rant Page.
Finally with a week to go before the Paris rally I got the licence plate, Keith had made me a custom licence plate holder out of stainless steel so I assembled it & bolted it to the bike. The LED tail bulb does not have a white light so I came up with the idea of using 3 white LED's mounted into the bottom of the tail light lens. This is required by law in Ontario.
My first ride consisted of a 10 mile jaunt "around the block" during which my first impressions were confirmed, the clutch & gearshift worked flawlessly & the motor pulls well & even has decent torque at low revs for a 2 stroke that is.. I want to break the motor in by the book, i.e., no more than 5000 rpm for the 1st 500 miles. As it turns out this won't be an issue because the engine does not want to go over 4000 rpm, trying to do so just results in the motor bogging down & trying to stall. My guess is that I have jetted it too rich, I installed a K&N washable air filter along with the Wirges pipes took a guess at the jetting so I installed 95's, stock is 85's. The other thing I noticed was that the motor would not idle very well, it wanted to idle at nearly 3000 rpm something I could not adjust..
Update: Mid June 2009
So on Sunday morning I unbolted the carbs & decided to replace the main jets with the original 85's. I also found out the cause of the high idle, I'd installed one of the slides back to front, really easy to do if you're not paying attention..
With everything bolted back together I kicked it over & it fired up immediately on a low idle, perfect. The other thing is it sounded different, at idle it was running very evenly without any trace of the four stroking it had before. I took it for a spin & quickly established that the bike was now transformed, it pulled cleanly past 4000 rpm & although still very tight gave me the impression that I'd got the jetting spot on.
The week-end of the Paris rally was a disappointment weather wise with rain on the day. I did manage to ride over when it cleared up for a while & got favorable responses from the other Triples Guy's. The icing on the cake for me was that Don showed up with my custom pipes. He has done an awesome job, they look fantastic, all I have to do now is decide if I'm going to ceramic coat or chrome them..
The last couple of pics in this set are of the pipes during construction, Don builds them on the bike to ensure a perfect fit. You can also see that he constructs the header pipes as individual sections also. The reason for this is to be able to taper the header pipes, this improves exhaust gas flow & improves the power by quite a lot. It also gives the pipes a cool look, some one dubbed it the "lobster tail" look.
Update: Aug 2nd 2009
It's hard to believe that 6 weeks have gone by since my last update. The weather has not been very kind to us this Summer so I have not ridden the bike as much as I would have liked. Never the less I have put nearly 830 relatively trouble free miles on it now, the only things of note being a couple of oil leaks, both from the head gaskets despite installing my pattern ones properly & re-torquing the heads after the first heat cycle. I read on one of the triples forums that the aftermarket gaskets are not as good as the OEM versions so I may dig the originals out, anneal them & re-use them.
I also found out that with the use of modern synthetic 2 stroke oils it's ok to reduce the engine break in mileage significantly. With this in mind I have been revving the motor to 7500 rpm since I passed the 700 mile mark & can report that once the rev counter hits 6000 the bike is transformed & just leaps forward. Kind of like hitting a switch actually, riding it on the pipe is a lot of fun & with the Wirges pipes it really howls like a banshee.
Since I got it on the road Alex decided that she would be interested in riding on the back. We bought her some riding gear at the Paris rally & have been out on quite a few rides since. She is now pretty comfortable & relaxed, the only exceptions being when I'm leaning over into a tight bend or giving it the gas & getting beyond 75 mph or so..
Update: Jan 7th 2010
It's been a little while since my last update so I thought it was high time to add something...I finished the riding season with over 1850 trouble free miles, the bike performed flawlessly. I even managed to avoid getting it wet, came close a few times but Lady Luck was smiling on me.
With the bike off the road until (probably) April / May I figured that it was about time I got round to installing my new pipes. With the Wirges removed I took a peek into each exhaust port & was surprised to see zero discolouration on any piston. No signs of wear either, even the honing marks are still visible in the bores. The lack of any visible wear must be testament to how good modern synthetic oils are.
Next was bolting on the new pipes & here is where things have gone slightly awry. The left hand pipe installed & fitted perfectly, but the right hand will require the hanger bracket to be removed & re-located. The pipe is hanging too low & is hard against the rear shock spring. Not too much of an issue really, the main problem is with the centre pipe. When installed it is simply pointing in the wrong direction. To retain the lines of the bike both RH pipes need to be vertically aligned, not even close in this case.
I pondered the issue & eventually decided to cut the centre pipe & make up new cone sections to get things properly aligned. At this point that is a work in progress. Here are a few pics showing progress so far.
Once completed I'll get the pipes chromed, the overall look is exactly what I wanted & with the chrome should give the bike the right amount of bling to finally finish it off.
Update : Mid June 2010.
With the 1st canadian triples rally of the year coming up later this month I decided to do some much needed maintenance on the 400. I had planned to give it a rest this year & ride the H1 500 but due to some illness & lack of funds have had to push that project over to next year.
Over the course of the last year the bike has been getting progressively harder to start, particularly when hot. Probably due (I suspected) to the windings breaking down on the low speed coil assembly in the stator, a well documented issue with the KH400. Measurement with my ohm meter confirmed this to be the case. It is possible to get the coil re-wound but after a bit research by reading through the various forums I decided to modernise the ignition system a bit by installing a new high voltage unit manufactured by a small company in New Zealand Called Starfire Electronics. The unit, called an HVU, is mounted in series with the existing low speed coil & basically provides the voltage necessary to the CDI unit to ensure reliable hot & cold starting.
Link to Starfire: http://kawatriple.com/cdiearly/starfire.htm
My original plan was to mount the unit directly under the battery box, therefore I made up a frame & bolted it to the battery box. I had about 1" of clearance from the top of the chainguard & the underside of the bracket which i thought was a bit marginal, depenting on suspension travel. More of an issue though was that the air filter housing was hard against the side of the bracket, after a bit of mucking around decided to abandon the idea & mount the unit in a different location. After a bit of wrangling I managed to get it into the tail hump behind the toolkit. I hooked it up as per the nice clear instructions. The bike fired up immediately, a really good sign, with that I finished for the day & went to bed.
Next day I could not get the bike started, I had done a couple of other changes at the same time as installing the Starfire HVU which in hindsight was not too clever a thing to do. Now I had a few things that could be causing the problem. Anyways to cut a long story short & with excellent assistance from Dayle Edwards of Starfire eventually traced the problem to the CDI unit which after 34 years had decided to quit working. Luckily I have a spare unit which once installed had the bike running like a champ once again.
One of the other modifications I made along with the Starfire HVU was to install larger main jets, 90's instead of the standard 85's. The reason for this was the installation of a modified S3 airbox which I'd added more holes to, the idea being that it would flow more air & allow the motor to breath a little easier.
My first test ride confirmed a couple of things; 1). the bike defiantly starts easier from hot, & 2). the holes I'd cut into the airfilter housing made the induction roar unacceptable. It actually made more noise on induction than the fairly noisy Wirges expansion chambers.. Once home I broke out the trusty duct tape & taped off one of the extra holes, this made quite a difference to the noise level but I'm currently on the fence about removing the modified housing & replacing it with the original one. Performance wise my "butt dyno" could not really tell if there was any difference if it was significantly quicker It might have steered me more towards the keep it side of the fence.
Update : Early December 2011.
Yikes! Time flies & I have been really delinquent in keeping my website up to date.
Needless to say much has happened in the last year & a half since my last update so here is my lame attempt to bring things up to date in a rough chronological order.
I got my replacement HVU fron Starfire but never actually got around to installing it! Dayle had in the meantime designed an all new unit that combined the low speed coil along with the cdi all contained in a small plastic housing.
I decided to purchase one of these units instead with the intention of installing it in place of the original cdi which is under the gas tank. I had an old burnt out cdi box which I re-used to house the new Starfire unit. Here are a few pics which should be self explanatory.
Along with the new unit I installed a ballast resistor beneath the left hand side cover, this resistor prevents any unwanted voltage spikes from causing damage to the new cdi.
I'm really pleased with the new cdi, the installation is neat & to a non expert eye looks stock. The biggest bonus is in its performance though, sparks are nice & fat & since installation the bike has not failed to start within 3 kicks from cold. It always starts first kick from hot
Another thing I finally finished was the modification, & chroming of my custom expansion chambers. Needless to say I think they look awesome but more surprisingly (to me) made quite a big difference to the performance characteristics of the bike.
Here is the bike running with the new pipes: Youtube
After installation I went for a test ride & truthfully was a little underwhelmed, the Wirges pipes hit pretty hard at 6000 rpm making the bike leap forward. The new pipes did not seem to hit as hard but power was lurking, something I discovered when winding it open in 1st gear had the front wheel heading skyward at 7000rpm.
Needless to say the next week or two proved to be a bit of a saga, I tried many jetting & airfilter configurations but struggled to get the performance I wanted. Finally, I had to admit defeat & remove the stock airbox & replace it with uni-pod individual foam filters. With this done I finally hit the magic formula & along with a small change on the needle clip setting got the mid range perfect without losing power at the top end. In comparison to the Wirges my new pipes allow the motor to rev freely up to and beyond the redline. The first time I realised how much better they allow the motor to breath was during a ride when on a nice clear stretch I wound it to 8000 rpm, went to select 5th gear & discovere I was already in 5th.... The bike was still pulling like a train & i have no doubt that it will easily rev well beyond the redline in top gear.
My curiosity on how much power the motor was making finally got the better of me & I subsiquently booked a baseline run on the Dyno at the local bike shop. After an initial set up Craig (the shop owner) did a few runs, made a few adjustments & ended up with 42 rear wheel HP. This number compares very favorably with the original dyno performance figures from "back in the day" of 28 RWHP. Craig also told me that the engine was running a little lean at high RPM & bigger main jets would yield more HP. The pipe designer ran some simulations & thinks the motor will make 50 HP at 10,000 rpm.
Here is the Dyno run video
What all this means in reality is that out on the road the bike simply has a better ability to cope with inclines & headwinds. It also means of course that it is a hoot to ride & will easily wheelie in first gear & second too if really pushed hard.
I took it off the road in July of this year in order to give it a break, my H1 500 is finished & is currently my regular ride. You can read about it elsewhere on this site. I'm looking forward to starting my next project which is a 1976 KH250.
I hope you enjoyed reading through my ramblings on this project & will continue reading about some of my others
MarkB Dec 2011.