76 KZ400 "Grimy"


Been Around the Block
I figured it was about time to post my thread here to share and track my progress. I picked up my first bike (new rider too) a little over a year ago in May of 2011. It looked like this when I unloaded it and rolled it into my garage. My wife was less than pleased at the "hunk of shit" in her garage.



The pictures make it look better than it was. It was really, really grimy, lots of corrosion on chrome and aluminum. I don't think anything was shiny. It was missing a lot of pieces here and there (side covers, cam cap covers, missing a lot of cotter pits, brake and clutch lever were broken, speedo cable was broken, dry rotted tires, old tired battery, etc). But it ran, only had a little over 14,000 miles on it, and it had good bones, no major rust - just the normal rusty bolts here and there - and hardly any spots of rust on the frame. Some PO had shot a coat of flat black on the tank but didn't take the time to do much sanding of their poor bondo work.

From what I could tell from the title history and the seller, it had been sitting for a while but then I was the third owner in less than a year. The 2 owners before me fixed a little here and there but they left me a lot to still do.

Over the first two months since I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned, fixed broken parts, replaced the missing ones, replaced the fork seals and dust caps, added gaitors, performed regular maintenance and cleaned up the appearance a little with smaller turn signals, replaced the rear bumper and fit a rear cowl from a 78 kz400 in its place, drilled the front rotor, sanded, painted, polished, etc. It was a trial by fire in motorcycle maintenance and repair. A lot of stuff was missing: the caps over the valve adjusters, the side covers, one passenger peg. A lot of stuff was busted: broken speedo cables, both brake and clutch lever were broken, the threads on the front axle were stripped - the castle nut was just kind of hanging there, horn didn't work, turn signals didn't work, forks leaked, needed new grips, needed new tires and tubes, the stock mufflers had baffles drilled out and it was running really rich and wouldn't rev past about 3000 RPM.

Here are a few pics of how it looked as of July of 2011 after a few months of cleaning, repair, and getting everything sorted. It cleaned up really well. Under all that grease, grime, dirt and rust was a good looking bike. It really was in good shape for the most part, just looked like it had been neglected for quite a while.







At this point the only real customizations I had done so far were the paint, rear fender removal, use of the 78 rear cowl, rear tail light, turn signals all the way around, aftermarket headlight ears to lower the headlight, and lowered the gauges. I wrapped the seat with a piece a leather from a coat I picked up at Goodwill (for $7 !!). Some former PO had trimmed up the foam a bit and I cleaned up the mess a bit, but it still looked a little lumpy and I planned to take it apart and trim up the foam a bit again eventually. I had also just put on the new tires this weekend (Shinko 712s, 100/90-18 up front and 110/90-18 rear) and I had a new set of mufflers on the way: a set of 23" megaphones (EMGO probably, an Ebay score).

By October I had the new mufflers, superbike bars and new grips installed. I finally got the carb issues sorted too - it was missing the rubber plugs on the pilot tubes. I replaced the coil and added new plug wires and boots, and I did the coil-power mod as well as replaced the old fuse box with a new ATC-style box and fuses. I sanded (steel wooled mostly) the black paint off the headers and they weren't in bad shape - chrome wasn't beautiful but it had more of a polished stainless look.

I had not ridden it by this point yet other than up and down the driveway a few times because I was to take my basic MC safety course starts a week after these pics. Luckily we had a warm fall and I was able to get a couple short rides in October and November.





That pretty much takes me through the end of 2011. I'll follow up with another post or two to bring things up to date.
As can be seen in the last pic of the first post, the paint on my tank started to bubble and I found 2 small pinhole leaks. The tank has been RedCote'd by a previous owner, but after stripping off paint I found a lot of bondo (up to 1/2" in some places) and I started thinking of getting a new tank. I used some epoxy to fix the leak and that worked fine, but I was still looking for a new tank.

In the meantime I had collected the electronic ignition parts from 82-84 KZ440s and in February 2012 swapped out my points-based ignition for the electronic one.

In April my Dad sent me a link to a guy selling a tank on Craigslist in Tennessee that looked in really good shape for $50. At the time all the tanks on Ebay were either NOS tanks with a price to match, nice on the outside but rusted on the inside, or nice inside but dented outside. I finally broke down and bought that tank.

It was awesome. It had some rust dust inside the tank but I fixed that by filling it with Evaporust and letting it sit a few days. Once that was done I set about stripping the old paint. There are a couple very small dings in the tank but it was very nice. I stripped off the old paint with paint stripper, scouring pads, wire wheels on my rotary tool. And then finished cleaning it up with steel wool and sand paper. I liked the clean look so much I decided to keep it like that (at least for a while). So I sprayed it with a couple of coats of satin clear.

Over Memorial Day weekend I swapped out the petcock and lid on the tanks and installed the new one. While I was at it I took the carbs apart again and cleaned them. There was a ton of junk in the petcock screen, which might explain why it was running a little rough the last time I took the bike for a ride. And the right side carb had some sediment and gunk in it too. I polished the carb piston covers and float bowls while I had them off.

The bike started right up after I had everything together and it idled really steady, better than it ever had before. But I know that I messed up the float height on the right side carb when I had it apart. The bike ran well except for when I tried to give it a quick twist of the throttle and then it stuttered a little and even backfired once. A few days later I reset the float heights and everything ran fine.

After putting the tank on I knew that the green headlight bucket and side covers didn't look good with the raw tank. So I disassembled them and painted them satin black. I also removed the 78 rear cowl that I had on there and put the old duck bill rear fender back on. I may end up bobbing a few inches off yet. I also removed the headlight visor that I had added previously. It had looked fine with the "British retro" look that I had going early on, but it didn't fit with my newer "industrial look" as my wife calls it.

Here's some pics as it looked as of Memorial Day weekend 2012. The new tank had Kawasaki emblems in fantastic shape too...






After seeing those pics I decided that it was finally time to fix the lumpy seat. A PO had done a pretty poor job of trimming the seat foam and when I got the bike it was covered in a green canvas. I covered it with leather almost immediately but did not deal with the lumpy and uneven foam.

I could not stand it any longer so I took the cover off, sanded the foam to a better shape and re-installed my cover. Probably difficult to tell from the pics but it looks a lot better now in real life.

So that's where it stands as of today, mostly. I lowered the headlights another inch and I lowered the gauges another quarter inch, but I don't have pics yet.

I found a few new issues to sort out. One of the throttle cables is frayed badly with only about 3 threads holding the barrel on. I'm getting ready to order a new pair of throttle cables now. Additionally one of the places where the throttle cables attach to the throttle cable bracket on the carbs was stripped so the cable was loose and I couldn't adjust it well. I found a new bracket on Ebay and that's sitting on my desk now. So that means I'll be pulling my carbs and tearing them down once again next weekend or maybe sooner.

I don't plan on doing to much more to it this riding season. I want to do something more with the seat and the rear of the frame and rear fender. It looks okay now, but I think I can make it cleaner - maybe cut off the rear of the frame and add an upswept hoop. And I'll eventually want to tear everything down and paint the frame or get it powder coated. I don't know if I'll teardown and get the frame powdercoated this winter or the following. Also on the to-do list is a new pair of rear shocks. The stockers on there are okay but they're 35 years old and I'm sure something newere will perform better.
Oh yeah, and as for the wife. I don't think she'd say that she likes the bike yet, but she's doesn't call it a piece of shit any longer. And she went with me (for a couple of hours at least) to the Cincinnati Mods & Rockers event this past weekend and had a good time looking at the vintage bikes and scooters. And she's decided that she wants a retro scooter! She spent a couple hours last night searching Craigslist and Ebay and pointing out the styles that she likes: Vespa, Stella, Buddy, etc. Of course she wouldn't like anything cheap :)
looks WAY BETTER black and raw!
nice one!

ps it sucks its "HER garage"....haha.....
sounds like shes been sucked into the scene! my girl bought a rusty old rat vespa too! haha too funny...
im going to start a thread for that aswell!
keep up the improvements!
Thanks, Sinbad. I've been following your 750 twin build - love it, you're doing a lot of creative stuff there. I follow all the KZ twin builds :)
Yeah, by "her garage" she meant that she figured she'd never get her car back in the garage. Obviously the bike doesn't take much room so she actually did get it in the garage during the winter. And of course she has much more crap in the garage than I do ;)
I changed out the Emgo 23" Megaphone style mufflers for a pair of MAC tapered mufflers I found on Ebay recently for a very good price. The MAC pipes sound fantastic compared to the old ones. They are a bit louder, but different - they have a deep tone and a "gurgle" sound that is simply awesome.

I also completely removed my old duckbill rear fender and added a much shorter and smaller one instead. It is actually half of a front fender from a 76 Goldwing that was partially mangled (no good vintage Goldwing fenders were harmed). Looks much better now.

The only thing left to do on the rear of the bike is get a new pair of shocks that are a little shorter than stock - around 12" instead of the 12.5" on it now - and cut off the back part of the frame after the shock mounts and replace that with an upswept hoop that follows the line of the seat.






What a transformation! Golly that's a beautiful bike now! Love the seat and the rear fender. The tank is really sweet too!
I've heard it said that "It's not yours until you cut it." If that is the case then you can consider it mine now. After figuring out a way to move the rear indicators to the tail light / license plate mount I no longer had a need for the factory fender and turn indicator mounts along with the 3-4" of frame that go with them. So I cut off the frame rails after the cross brace. I covered the freshly cut frame ends with plastic caps from 20 oz water bottles. They fit perfectly and I just hit them with a coat of satin black before pushing them on. (you can see the cap just to the right of the "Helmet Hook" sticker in the first couple of pics)

I was considering buying of the the integrated tail lights that do tail light, brake, turn signals and license plate light all in one unit. But after pondering it a while, I modified my cheap cats eye tail light to be able to also mount the mini turn indicators. The part of the bracket that mounts the license plate is about 2" tall but the holes for mounting my plate are in the top 1/2" of it. So about in inch down I used a saw to cut an inch in on each side. Then on each side I bent the bottom part of the bracket (an inch in on each side) down at 90 degrees. After that I just drilled holes in the bent down portion of the bracket large enough for the turn signal stems and then just put it all back together. It doesn't look nearly as clean as not having the turn signals with the tail light, but I can live with it for now... and I like having turn signals :)

Eventually I'll buy a rear hoop and find someone to weld it in for me.

I have new rear shocks on the way. Once I get those mounted I'll post some new pics of the whole bike.



i have too say....when i cut my frame i was like "oh fuck".....but 2 hours later i had it welded up and riding....trully felt like it was now mine! i know the feelings! haha

looking real good....
a hoop and a seat upholster and it would be really really tops!!
That cleans up the tail section quite a bit! I think it looks great without a hoop and I really like the seat as is, it's clean and creative.
I stopped and took some "glamour shots" while out on a ride this morning before it got too hot. Some of the recent changes include new shocks, Girling reproductions that are a little shorter than stock - 11.9" and a little stiffer than stock 110 lb springs, I pulled the front forks up about an inch through the trees to match the drop at the rear. The MAC mufflers look and sound great. And the rear of the bike with the "new" fender and cutting off the rear of the frame look great. I also lowered the gauges just a little more. I'm really happy with it for now, I'll probably not mess with it too much more until after this riding season.

I thought I really wanted to add a hoop, but I'm with PjkF - it looks pretty good as is. We'll see.

What I ought to do this winter is tear it all down and paint or pc the frame and tear down the top end of the engine to replace some leaking gaskets. They don't leak a bunch, just get a drop or two under the bike after riding it and the jugs keep a nice coat of oil on them :). I can live with it for now. I'm not sure if I'll do that this winter or wait another year.

But if money were not a concern I'd like to clear the triangle my switching to Mikuni VM30s and K&N filters and moving all the electronics to a tray under the seat. I'd also swap the stock speedo, tach and idot lights for a single Acewell gauge to clean up the front end quite a bit. I may end up doing all that but it will take time.






Love your bike as it sits. I am looking to lower my KZ too - where did you source your shocks from? The stance is great.
Pukes, sorry for the late reply. They are Girling repros made by Emgo, 11.9" and the product number is 19-2332E. DomiRacer carries them: https://www.domiracer.com/comersus/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=124930
I had about a dozen leftover 2x4s from a recent project and a sheet of particle board in the garage for a while. I decided to go ahead and build something I've been wanting for a while, a stand for my bike.

I based the design from a couple different ones that I've seen online but I didn't use a plan per se.

I cut the 2x4s for the frame:


... and then magically it turns into this (sorry no build pics):




Because I had the 2x4s, the particle board and the screws to assemble it all I only have about $100 into it including $40 for the pair of ramps and $40 for the wheel chock (both from HF on black Friday) plus the casters. The bottom shelf is just some scrap beadboard I had sitting around.

It is 30" wide by 7' long so it really doesn't take up much more room than the bike itself. The platform is 22" tall and after adding another 2" for casters it is right at 2' high. I cherish the gained storage space for spares and bike-specific tools, etc. underneath it. Thanks to the casters it is easy to roll away from the wall to get some work done and then roll back when I'm done to leave room in the garage for the wife's car. I added a little "shelf" to hold the ramps up and out of the way and they easily slide in and out. The screw hooks on each post provide easy spots to attach tie downs. The stand itself is really solid and could hold a bike much heavier than mine.

I was able to roll the bike up and get it in the chock with just a little help from my wife, mostly just to help balance, so as long as I have someone else around I ought to be able to move the bike on or off of it.

This should help with the work I want to do on the bike this winter.
So now that I have the bench I can start working on the bike.

First step, goodbye to Keihin CV carbs, they are being replaced



with new Mikuni VM30s

and new carb boots from liljerry594

Let's see what it looks like in place. Ah, that looks nice:


The yellow wire in the pic above is my coil power relay mod wiring that is extra long and has extra connectors in it so it can easily be bypassed if I need to go back to stock setup for some reason. I'm planning on cleaning this up.

Stock airbox gone. I was actually surprised that it came out fairly easy. After removing all the side brackets and hardware and removing the chain guard it slid right out this side.


That's a lot of stuff to fit into a new battery/electrics tray I'll be making under the seat. But a new combined regulator/rectifier unit from either Rick's or Oregon Motorcycles should help. I also considered going with a Shorai battery but the one that I would need to keep electric start is no smaller than the AGM battery I'm currently using, though it probably is lighter. Battery, flasher, fuse block, starter solenoid and coil relay should all go inside the tray and I'll mount the regulator/rectifier underneath it.



I have a set of K&N filters coming that should be here Friday. They have a bit of an offset angle so hopefully they'll clear the backbone. Then I just need to figure out what/how to make the battery tray with my limited skillset and tools. I may go with a sheet of steel or aluminum and bend it up and rivet it or I may make it out of something else, like ABS or even fiberglass.
That stand is a great piece of work! Kudos on that for sure. Great design and execution ideas too. Jealous over the new carbs, as you probably know, KZs can get a bit grumpy over the removal of the stock airbox, I'll be interested to see how you jet for it. Can't wait for the next update, this thing has come a long way and you are an inspiration for us builders/tinkerers/tankerers.
Top Bottom