Kawasaki ZXR 750 L3 Itoham Suzuka Replica

A new ZXR joins the fold…

By now you’ll know I’m an avid ZXR fan! With a lovely M1 750R in the garage already, it’s not that one isn’t enough, rather; I’d love to have a go at track days and I can’t think of a better bike for me, the R is too special and valuable to chance on track for a bike track day novice…but a lower value version of what is essentially the same bike, with familiarity and a transferable skill set as well as an inherent passion for it in the first place, will surely make lavishing time and money on it so much easier…. thus began the hunt for a suitable track steed.

Good old ebay turned up a 1995 L3 ZXR750. These were the last of the ZXR’s although this one is a little different; The colour scheme was not a factory offered colour however it should have been since these were the colours of the Suzuka FIM 8 hour Endurance race winner of the Team Muzzy Itoham sponsored bike from 1993 ridden by Scott Russell and Aaron Slight, a vintage year for Kawasaki given Scott Russell’s efforts in the FIM Superbike championship.

This particular one had also been featured in Practical Sportsbikes’ March 2017 issue and had been subject to a total restoration to its current condition by the seller, who happens to be an engineer by trade.

The advert listed many new parts including; new front discs and pads all around, Goodrich brake hoses all around, new Dunlop Qualifier tyres, fresh paint to bodywork and frame, full exhaust, chain etc, there was also a new Hagon rear shock and fork springs.

It was on sale with a 28 day advert and was also being sold with a spare engine. While putting this on watch, I ordered the issue of the magazine where it appeared, unfortunately I bought one from Northern Ireland so it was going to take some time to come as it transpired.

I worried that someone else might snap this up so contacted the owner after a few days who kindly sent me photos of the magazine issue. In the intervening time, someone was after the spare motor and so this was going to be excluded from the sale, but given its intended use, I was keen for this to come with it, he kindly agreed to let me have first refusal of the motor, all the MOT history online checked out and so I quickly arranged to view it at the weekend, enlisting the help of a friend who conveniently also owns a van and is a fellow motorcycle enthusiast.

2 cups of tea and a few hours later…the bike is in the van and we’re homebound!!

I’m really pleased with this purchase, I have a huge folder of invoices and history and over 400 images on a USB as well as 2 issues of the bike mag, a spare engine complete with carbs and gearbox, a spare gear set and many other spare parts, including the original exhaust system. The seller was clearly a competent engineer, he had another couple of bike projects on the go and these were clearly a labour of love as opposed to money spinners. The reason for the sale was that the riding position exacerbated a hip injury when ridden any distance. I’m surprised this didn’t sell quicker, with it having been rebuilt it probably put some people off as the standard of any restoration can be questionable. Being a fellow owner who works on my own bikes, I had confidence that if the owner checked out, the bike would be a good one. I’m pleased to say, my faith was rewarded and I’m a proud owner of this individual ZXR 750 🙂

Finally, safely home and tucked up next to its homologation sibling…

Hidden past…not really…Hidden treasure…more like :)

So to the lovely new purchase. Poring over the 400 odd photos on the USB stick gives a good insight into what a lovely project this turned out to be, the amount of effort, time and general dedication invested by the previous owner is just fantastic. Having done my fair share of spannering, I can well appreciate and empathise with the work put in. I did a similar full nut and bolt restoration on an old Suzuki TS50X when I was 16, which was my first proper foray into the world of bike mechanics.

So this restoration came to be, when the gentleman I purchased from was on the hunt for a project. Somewhere in St.Helens, there was a ZXR looking a bit sorry for itself sitting in a lean to. The story goes, the chap in St Helens had bought this off a mate with a gearbox problem. He sourced a spare engine, put it in, couldn’t get it to run right, removed it, whereupon the project stalled and eventually the bike was offered for sale in bits and with 2 engines, neither of which apparently worked properly. The bike as it was bought.

Looking a bit sorry for itself…

So the new owner set about trying to get her running again. Using the spare engine that the previous owner couldn’t get to run right (misfire) it turned out to be an easy fix. The plug caps were corroded, hence the misfiring. Cleaning those up cured the misfire, the project could have stopped there and then, a fully running ZXR bought for a song, looked decent, ran well.

Rob however had bigger dreams, he didn’t like green and he bought this as a project, a project it was to be!! And so the project was on!!

The inspiration was the Itoham Suzuka 8hr Endurance winning racer from 1993…

The bike was stripped and the bare frame, sub frames, forks, swingarm etc despatched off to the body shop for spray painting…

In the meantime, Rob wanted to keep the bike original, so he looked into the gearbox fault on the original engine (literally)…

A selector rod retaining bolt had come loose resulting in the selector gears not selecting second and third. A gearset was previously sourced from ebay, although as it transpired, the original set still looks ok to me, nevertheless the lower mileage gear kit was fitted. This engine was subsequently re-fitted to the bike, along with the carbs from the replacement engine since they were previously tuned with a Factory Pro Ti needle and carb set along with a 4 degree ignition advancer.

With the frame back and the wheels now painted white, the rebuild commences in earnest…

The bodywork was also sent away for paintwork…

The build culminates in a Practical Sportsbikes Magazine feature…

In addition to everything covered by the magazine article, the bike was subsequently fitted with the 4 degree ignition advancer, the spare engine carb set as referred above, new front EBC discs and a Hagon rear shock…

What’s in store for her next?…stay tuned, hopefully she’ll get to see a race track!!

Let the work commence…

Still teeming with excitement from the new purchase, there were a couple of bits I’d noticed prior to purchase that I wanted to sort out. First off, the paintwork was rough, like it had been poorly lacquered, when I mentioned to the seller that I wouldn’t have been happy with that finish, he looked taken aback, then he felt the surface, “ahh”, he said, “it’s just overspray where I’ve been spraying in the garage”. His recent RG125F project had been painted in the background and fine dust had settled all over the bike. A good clay barring later and it was as smooth as the proverbial with a perfect paint finish 🙂

The rear cotton reels that came with the bike didn’t fit correctly on one side as the ZXR has a recess on one side. Fortunately I had a spare R&G kit from my other ZXR and managed to combine the parts to get these installed.

His paddock stand was an under swingarm version, this conversion meant that I could use my Harris rear paddock stand which I’ve modified using brick tie debonding sleeves to prevent any scratches to the swingarm. Fortunately, having the under yoke stand already from my M1 ZXR meant I had everything needed to get the wheels off the ground!

The bike had after market hand grips fitted, the throttle side grip was a bit baggy so thankfully I was able to still source these parts new.

Aah, so much better!!

Freshens the controls up nicely 🙂

The bike came with a replica nose cone decal as the original is now unobtanium. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy decal to apply, so I messed it up. The previous owner hadn’t fitted it as it didn’t line up properly anyway. So with a ruined decal anyway, I ordered some replica decals from RDdecals in the USA. They cost a small fortune, £120 landed with taxes paid for the nosecone and the rear tail number flanks.

I think the nosecone decal completes the look and ties the bike in nicely with its homologation sibling. It wasn’t easy to apply and the quality isn’t quite up to oem standards (it’s not matt finish or as thick/durable) but it’s probably the best of the repro decals on the market and it does the job nicely.

The battery appears to be well past its best, I’ve put it on the tender but it seems to deplete very quickly, I expect it’ll need a new one next season and tempted to go with the much lighter Shido lithium one. A Noco charge lead has been fitted in preparation;

The previous owner had fitted a new chain and sprockets, but due to not having a chain rivet tool had only fitted the clip on type master link. Fortunately he gave me the rivet link also. The clip type link has now made way for the rivet link.

With the chain now cleaned and re-oiled ready for its maiden voyage with me…

The shiny new Hagon rear shock, front forks were also refreshed with Hagon fork springs;

In other news, the spare engine has been strapped to a chair for a few weeks;

This has since been remedied with this new Sealey MES02 engine stand. I’m thinking maybe I should have used a traditional engine stand with motorbike adaptors which would grip the engine from one side only because while this stand holds the engine well, when I come to remove the heads I have nowhere else to bolt the front of the engine to!!

I’ve decided to get organised with some of these “really useful boxes”. They stack perfectly onto one another. I also have the bigger versions for larger items for each bike that are stored in the loft!

The bike is now insured but currently SORN’d. In the highly unlikely event that the weather looks good and the roads are clean at the beginning of Jan I might tax it because I’m itching to take it out now!!