The Free Kawasaki Z650 Project


Coast to Coast
Having posted the build of my Z650/1170 project, here's my second Z650, one that arrived unexpectedly. Way back in March 2021, I was offered a Z650 for free, from a chap I'd never met in real life, only via a few messages online. Seems he was more into old Brit bikes (he owns three Vincents), so wanted to move the Z650 on to someone who could rebuild it. Well, they say never look a gift horse in the mouth, so it was soon sitting at my mates workshop, as he'd collected it in his van for me.

Decided that one good turn deserves another, so a plan was hatched to get the bike back on the road as cheaply as possible, then give it to another mate, who was without a bike at the time. For various complicated reasons, that plan didn't happen. Here we are in 10 months later and the poor Zed is still getting in the way at my mates workshop.

Time for a plan B.

Today the rolling chassis came back to my packed workshop, not sure where its going to go, but I'll squeeze it in somehow. Meanwhile the engine, which had been removed by the previous owner to fix a broken exhaust stud, will stay at my mates place for the time being.

The bike also comes with a couple of boxes of spares, which I haven't looked through yet.

A quick look over the bike shows its had a nice paintjob, pity about the awful Triumph-like tank decals.. which sadly are under the top coat of the paint. Will probably mean I'll have to respray the bike. The cheap Ebay rear shocks will have to go, as will the rusty exhaust. We think the latter is from a Zephyr, but with the large box under the engine removed. The seat is way too thick, not sure if its the OE seat with more foam? It'll have to be reupholstered or replaced. The engine has done 41,000 miles and looks tired, but was told it ran ok before it was removed.

Good points are that its a F2 model, so has the better 750E front end along with electronic ignition, while the stanchions are in good condition, possibly replaced or re-chromed in the past.

Having considered giving the engine a 810 conversion along with alloy swingarm 17inch wheels etc.. I decided against that idea. As I already have a Z650 with a tuned 1170 engine, along with another Zed.. a MK2 with a 1400 big block, taken from my old turbo Zed. Therefore tuning this Z650 and massively upgrading it didn't hold much appeal, but then again nor did restoring it back to OE spec. So I guess the solution is to do a 'Resto-Mod', with small subtle changes that improve the power and handling/brakes, while still keeping it looking like a Z650. That said I just bought a cylinder block from a Z750.. it'll go straight on or so I'm told...


I love a resto mod. IMHO, the tank decal doesn't look bad. Doing away with it is expensive. JAT. Corbin has better looking seats for KZ bikes.

I'll be very interested to see where you take it. Nice bike!
Have just ordered a Giuliari replica seat, heard good things about them, so will see when it arrives.

My idea of using Yamaha 4 pot callipers didn't work out as they are too wide, the inside hits the spokes of the wheel. So the hunt continues for something that will work.

The Triumph style badge is kinda growing on me.. not worth spending £500 plus a long wait to have the bike resprayed.

Decided to fit 4 pots the discs need to be moved away from the wheel hub by about 5 or 6mm, so need to make a pair of spacers to do just that. Then need a make a pair of brackets to mount the calipers to the 650 forks.

Took the front end off the bike today.. those old 37mm forks and mag wheel are surprisingly heavy.. but am resisting the urge to replace them with something more modern.
Despite the rain, managed to get the the bike down to the frame and swingarm this afternoon. The wiring was in more of a mess than I realised, suspect its going to need a new charging system, and may rewire it with an M-Unit..


You always have nice builds so i'm in for this one. What about a P108 for a vintage caliper? they work great, i have had them on several bikes. I can measure them on my kz750B with stock front end if you'd like. they are relatively cheap as well.
I stuck the entire front end from an SV650 on my FZ600. It worked great and bolted right up with mix and match bearings. They are really cheap since lots of the SV guys swap out for GSXR forks.
The OE front discs looked very worn, and sure enough they were way under the minimum thickness, so will have to be replaced. Given that the disc will need spacers to fit the 4 pot calipers I want to use, it made sense to look into buying a modern pair of floating discs, since the work required to mount them will be no greater than machining the disc spacers I need anyway. Found a apparently good pair from a R6, so bought them off Ebay and they'll be here in a few days. They were suspiciously cheap, but perhaps I just got a bargain.. we'll see. By chance I already have a mint master cylinder from an R6 sitting in a box in the garage.
You always have nice builds so i'm in for this one. What about a P108 for a vintage caliper? they work great, i have had them on several bikes. I can measure them on my kz750B with stock front end if you'd like. they are relatively cheap as well.

Ref P08s I have them on my old Ducati and Guzzi, while they are certainly better than the originals and more in keeping with a 70's bike, I've found good ones to be more expensive than say a Blue Spot caliper.
I stuck the entire front end from an SV650 on my FZ600. It worked great and bolted right up with mix and match bearings. They are really cheap since lots of the SV guys swap out for GSXR forks.
While fitting an entire new front end would be easier, and give good results, I have already used ZRX1200 front forks on my Mk2 Zed and R6 forks on the Z650/1170. This time I want to retain the OE wheels, while the forks on the bike are in excellent condition.. probably rechromed or replaced at some point.
The swingarm has a deep gouge in it, surprised it didn't go all the way through the wall of the arm..
Oh well, it can be filled with weld and linished smooth..

The R6 discs arrived, and seem in good condition, so now need to make the adaptors to allow them to fit the original wheels. Meanwhile, bought a rear light from an early ZX6R to replace the cheap after market one fitted when I got the bike..



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The replica Giuliari seat arrived, looks pretty good, its just resting on the frame in the pic, as hasn't been correctly mounted yet.

Making the adaptors to allow R6 discs to fit the mag wheels is proving to be tricky, as the seven mounting holes required cant be dialed in on the rotary table.. but clamping the two old discs together, they can be used as a guide to mark the seven centre points which need to be drilled. Meanwhile the PCD of the R6 discs and the Z650 Mag wheels are out by 1mm.. sigh. But we'll get there.

By chance I have recently bought a pair of new old stock wheels form a 2011 R6, rear being a 17 x 5.5, to go on my Z1400 Mk2 project. I was struck by the difference in weight between the R6 and Z650 rear wheels.. so I weighed them.. 5.4kg for the R6 Vs 7.2kg for the Z650. The forks are also surprisingly heavy, though haven't had chance to weigh them yet. I don't want to change the bike to modern 17 inch wheels, so unless a nice pair of Astralites turn up, the originally wheels will stay.



With the disc adaptors done, we could see how the Yamaha gold spots look on the front end.. and they didn't look good. The problem is that the gold spots mounts are widely spaced, meaning a bracket would need to be very long. Which would look ugly. Time to dig out the pair of Brembo Goldlines I have and try those instead. Also note that with the discs moved further out, the speedo cable wont fit its drive anymore.. time for an electronic speedo.

The R6 discs and calipers have been fitted to the forks, and now just need to make a spacer to replace the speedo drive which wont be needed anymore. The fork mounts had to be milled down a few mm and the holes helicoiled to mount the bracket neatly, while the inner face of the slider needed a flat machining into it to clear the disc bolts. Its certainly not been an easy conversion. If I was starting again, I'd just fit the matching R6 forks too.. would have been a lot easier. I was planning on painting the fork lowers black and having the brackets hard anodised black too, but could also just polish both.. decisions, decisions..

For the price of a packet of biscuits, a friend let me use his blasting cabinet to remove several layers of paint from the wheels. They will refinished in gold, not sure yet if I will paint them myself or get them powder coated.. the latter being more expensive but giving a more durable finish.

Spent ages polishing the fork lowers of the Z650, one of which had some deep damage.. suspect it must have fallen over on that side. Should've just painted them black really.

All the fasteners are polished stainless, with some, such as the top yoke nut and spacer coming an via Ebay supplier called classic_bike_fasteners .. excellent quality, and not much difference in price compared to the original chromed bolts from Kawasaki.


Collected the frame and various parts.. battery box, electrics panel, headlight mount, from the powder coaters, Triple S. They did an excellent job as always. Once blasted, rust holes were found in the 'ears' towards the back of the frame. These were fixed by a man Triple S use, then the frame could be powder coated. I left the wheels to be powder coated next, in a satin gold finish, along with some machined parts that are getting a new finish for me.. Cerakote.

Also collected some engine parts for my Z1000 Mk2 project. All good, but prices have gone up recently, no doubt heating their big ovens must be getting expensive..

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