1975 Kawasaki S1 Rebuild: Installment 3

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August 7, 2011 –

The dirty work is now done.

I’ve removed the last few bits and pieces off the frame; the bike is completely disassembled. A few things worth mentioning here:

* I made an effort to document the position of all the original stickers still visible on the frame so that after the frame is cleaned up/painted I can install new/reproduction stickers in – hopefully – the same locations as the factory did. You can see in this picture that I used a tape measure laid up against the top frame tube to give me a future reference point for the two helmet hook stickers (these were still in very good condition, surprisingly. It’s a shame they can’t be saved but the good news is you can buy NOS/repros for a couple of bucks.)

I also tried to get as detailed a shot as I could of the VIN sticker on the steering head – for the same reasons. I haven’t yet found a company that reproduces factory VIN stickers for bikes, but I’m fairly confident someone makes them since I know you can get them made for collector cars. And beyond cosmetics, it’s good to document the VIN just in case there are any issues as far as ownership/title. Most bikes will also have the actual VIN number stamped onto the frame, but the sticker contains info such as date of assembly, weight and so on that you may want to document/keep track of.

* Improvised tools. I wrestled with the odd-shaped bolt that holds the left-side peg assembly to the frame for several days without budging the thing before I came up with a solution. Vise grips didn’t work and sockets would not fit the weird, sort-of-rounded fitting. So I made a tool that would – by (cough) modifying a 7/8 claw-foot wrench. I used a grinder to whittle down the jaw part of the socket, just enough to be able to tap it onto the bolt head that held the peg assembly to the frame. This did the trick. You’ll find it’s often easier (and a lot expensive) to improvise a tool vs. going out and buying some expensive, Kawasaki (or whomever) specific/factory tool that you may only use once or twice every 20 years.

* Frame prep. Even if you have a blasting cabinet you probably don’t have one big enough to fit a motorcycle frame. Of course, you could always just sandblast the thing out in the driveway, but I’ve decided not to do that – I think – and try a different route this time. I say I think because I won’t know until I go visit Ralph – my friendly local body shop owner – and see whether he can sandblast my frame and how much he’ll charge me to do it. Since I am not a painter, I am going to ask Ralph about painting the frame, too.

In preparation, I’ve degreased the frame as well as the swingarm and other large parts such as the center stand and kickstand. Powder coating would be really cool, but I have to find out whether that’s doable (by Ralph) and again, what the cost for that would be. Powder coating gives you a tougher finished product that doesn’t chip as easily as paint does. I’ll keep you posted.

I have everything laid out in the garage, all tidily tagged and (where appropriate, as with loose fasteners) bagged. Each parts was cleaned up beforehand, though many will need to be cleaned further, painted, polished – or sent out for chroming. Right now my plan is to have the wheel adjusters, shifter and a few bolts here and there chromed over the winter. Most of the rest will be painted semi-gloss black to match the frame or polished (which is much, much cheaper than chroming).

After the frame, the next item will be the wheels/front end, with the idea of having a complete rolling chassis by (fingers crossed) Christmas.

On the wheels: The hubs can be brought back. After media blasting they’ll look like new. But the rims are too far gone (ka-ching) and I’ll definitely be needing spokes. Johnny’s Vintage Cycles helped me out a few years back with my Kz900 and I’m hoping they’ll be able to come through with some nice repro rims and new spokes. I will probably go stainless rather than use factory-type replacement spokes because the stainless ones look better much longer. Gonna need a new sprocket set (the originals are seriously chewed up) and chain too.

I decided to keep both the front and rear wheels intact for now so as to limit the mess – and help my memory.

The other item I’m gonna need to find is a new set of front forks – the whole thing. My originals are rusted beyond redemption. I’ve already cruised around eBay some and found you can buy serviceable used replacements – fully assembled – for about $100 or so. So long as the upper tubes are not pitted (and the lowers not bent or otherwise damaged) rehabbing the whole deal is easy and cheap, Mostly just cleaning, polishing, new seals and so on.

Finally: I have found a (good used) seat pan and tach (my original is hopeless). Vintage Connection came through for me.

Now, we’ll see about Ralph!

For Installment 2, see here.



  1. Hey Eric,

    I haven’t read this article yet, although I will. What grabbed me was your ZRX1200 in the background. I had a 1999 ZRX1100, and absolutely LOVED it! Steady Eddie green, engine out where it belongs, and room for a 12-pack (cans) under the seat!

    Sadly, it was the victim of a disastrous divorce, but that first pic is helping me keep the dream of one day replacing it alive. Thank you, and keep the rubber side down, buddy.

    • Yeah man!

      Mine’s an ’03, bought new off the showroom floor (back when times were good). Love the bike; in fact, it’s the only new bike I’ve ever bought. It has a few light modifications, including the Muzzy stainless exhaust, jetted carbs and Pilots on each end instead of the Battlax tires it came with.

      • Mine was new (1.7 miles) too, and other than a K&N filter and re-jetting, the only change I made was the use of racing cast-offs. I was building custom fiberglass race bodies for local AMA racers at the time and had a steady, and cheap ($50 per) supply. After several heat cycles they were no good for track use, but still great on the street, especially since all the wear was at the fringes where I damn sure wasn’t riding! LOL!


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