Sonic’s Workshop: Kawasaki ZX-7 Frame Transplant

Just for the slower ones in the group, a motorcycle is different from a car.

 

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Case in point – the frame. A bent frame on a car, which in most cases these days is of the Unibody design, usually spells out death for the vehicle. The same medical condition on a bike however may not have the same end result.

The main difference here is that a motorcycles frame has its own part number, which means you can order a brand new one from the manufacturer.

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Now swapping the frame on your machine is like swapping your skeleton for a new one, labour intensive, painful, and expensive, but they say love is blind and I guess some what daft. Now for those CMG Online addicts out there you may recall a friend of mine who last year picked up a 1984 Suzuki Katana 750 in non running condition and received a good dollar thrashing at the hands of the Suzuki Price Book God. Well it must have felt good, because he’s done it again, opting for the higher pain level in the wallet department. A 1995 Kawasaki ZX7 with the above mentioned bent frame. Ugg! “Got it cheap though … $7000.”

Doh!! I had to tell him at that point if it was pain he was after to have a look in the personals of NOW magazine (a Toronto weekly with strange ‘personal’ ads in the back – RH). It’s cheaper than seven grand and you’d probably like it more too. Oh well, each to their own, let’s see how bad it’s going to be.

As always I recommend getting yourself a shop manual before tackling any project on your bike, but in this case I highly recommend getting the original Kawasaki manual. It’s going to cost you a bit more but it will be money well spent when you can’t remember the correct routing for the nervous system, (wiring harness).

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First step after buying the manual and reading it front to back is to order/buy the frame. DO NOT remove a single thing from the bike until you have the new frame sitting in your garage (or living room if you’re like Shovel). Unless you’re like Rob, (add English accent here)… “Oh man, I’m sure I put those spacers here and I know I saw that thingy just last week when I was looking for the points plate. Oh blast damnation bugger, I hate bikes”!

Second step, plan enough time to do the job, not two and a half years at someone else’s place mind you (bastard – RH), but enough so that it isn’t a pressure thing to get it done and go ridding next weekend with yer mates.

With the arrival of the frame the disassembly could begin. All the scuffed, but intact body work was carefully removed – no pry bars or fits of male anger please. With the plastics removed the rear sub frame was unbolted

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from the main frame, (that’s the front part of the frame not a big computer) was removed as a complete unit with all the bits and bites still attached. Because only the frame is being replaced here, it is not necessary to break the bike down into its barest of components but rather remove things as complete assemblies. With the sub now gone the remaining electrics, including the wiring harness, were removed. The heart/engine was drained of its oil and anti-freeze, the exhaust was removed and, with help from jack and dolly, the mounting bolts were removed and the heart was lowered out of the chest cavity. With the motor out, there wasn’t really much left to do, just the front and rear end. Starting at the front end – simply because I was closest to it at the time, I removed the upper triple clamp and handle bars and then, with the assistance from the mad man who now owns this growing pile of nuts and bolts on my back sun deck, I held the front fork/wheel assembly whilst he lifted the frame up and off the lower triple clamp. The front end was now uni-cycled out to join the other parts on the deck. The rear swing arm was done in a similar fashion. By removing the large single rear shock absorber and sliding out the swing arm pivot bolt the complete swing arm, rear wheel and brakes come out intact. Ta Dah!! The Meccano ZX7 kit – Only $7000! Frame not included. Parental assistance may be required.

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So here we are then. We have an old (well not so old) but buggered frame, with those all important serial numbers stamped into the metal. And we also have the new frame, with no serial numbers. Now then, how does one go about getting the numbers from a useless piece of metal onto a very expensive piece of metal? Well, one must take both the new and bent frames, along with the matching ownership and the bill of sale for the new frame, to an authorised dealer. There the papers are checked against the actual item and if all things are as they should be, the old serial number is stamped into the new frame using the official sized steel stamps. At the same time the head of the duff frame is severed and sent back to the manufacturer as proof that no funny business is going on. However, more times than not, the whole thing is dumped into the metal bin for recycling!

Taking something apart is one thing, putting it back together so that it looks like the picture on the box is another … and if you want that thing to run, well that’s something else again. The truth is however that because the bike by large came apart in sections, the reassembling part was pretty

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straight forward. The steering head bearings were safely removed and reused. The front and rear suspension units were wheeled in and installed and carefully torqued to the Kawi spec book value. The motor was then, with much grief, hoisted back up under the new frame. Both Jack and Dolly had a bad case of the awkward and made the whole procedure a big hassle. In hind sight we should have placed the motor on a milk crate or something like (however we all know that taking a milk crate is stealing), and then with two people lowered the frame down onto it. Oh well I’ll know for next time. Ha!! As if there’ll be a next time!

With the heart safely in, it was time to close her up. The sub frame was reinstalled, followed by the wiring harness, electric trinkets, and fairing brackets. The patient was given a fresh infusion of oil and anti-freeze, four new spark plugs and a new battery. New Battery! Seven thousand bucks and you don’t get a battery? Oh boy.

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With the plastics still off we fired it up and let run until it was at normal operating temperature before balancing the carbs. You know, a new bike runs real nice it does. All the fluids were rechecked to be on the safe side and then all the plastics were reinstalled. The forks and tires were aired up to spec and the patient was taken for a gentle meander down the hall, A.K.A. my neighbourhood. The serenity didn’t last long, for only a few blocks away bleeding erupted from the clutch master cylinder causing a loss of hydraulic pressure and thusly a loss of the clutch. The patient was pushed back to the E.R. where pressure was applied to the leaking banjo bolt which stopped it nicely. The second road test went better but not without incident. It seems that when the bike sustained its near fatal injuries it had also suffered a hairline crack in the front brake master cylinder, which would allow a small amount of brake fluid to squeeze out when the brakes were applied. Not a good thing since it’s brake fluid under pressure that stops you. In any case the master cylinder had to be replaced. The third ride was completed with flying colours, everything running top notch as a two year old bike should.

Was it worth it? If you love the thing it almost always is. I think, well I know, I could have bought a new Virago with all the money I’ve tossed into my ’84 over the years. The ZX 7 was certainly cheaper than buying a new one – if don’t have to pay someone else to fix it.

The way it sits right now is that it runs great, although the plastics are a bit rough, scratched, and the colors not matching sort of thing. The bodywork will be done next year once a colour scheme has been worked out and more cash has been stashed away.

Nervous Breakdown:
Hours:12
’95 Kawasaki ZX 7  $7000.00 (Including taxes)
Parts$1315.00
Certification$40.00
Sesame Bagels$5.50
Total$8360.50

Next Sonic: I’ll try to get Marj away from having a life and see if she’ll do the next one for me. It’ll give both you and me a break from me. Oh yes, before I get to leave this blasted computer and go to bed there’s this business about tips.

Tips

  • Don’t get involved with your friends bent bike.
  • Installing exhaust gaskets can be made easier by dabbing a bit of grease on the gasket before inserting in the exhaust port. The grease will keep the gasket from falling out whilst you struggle with that Sure-to-Fit after market header.
  • Installing spark plugs on some bikes with very recessed valve covers/cylinder head can be quite tricky. By placing a length of ordinary gas line onto the top of the spark plug you effectively create a flexible extension that won’t slip while starting the plug into the hole.
  • Removing hand grips can be a bastard! By inserting a small flat blade screw driver into the grip at one end, and using WD40 shot in along side the screw driver, the tool can be worked around between the bar and the grip. Once done the grip simply slides off!

Thanks for reading.

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