I’ve decided to participate in the Ozark Mountain Scramble, a three-day event/ride in June that has just three simple rules: Your motorcycle must be from 1980 or earlier, 750cc or less, and cost no more than $1000 complete. This appeals to my sense of practical motoring.

I’ve chosen two bikes for the OMS. (Yes, I know I can only ride one at a time.) One is a 1974 Yamaha RD350 that I’ll write about later, and the other is a 1977 Kawasaki KZ400. I spent some time Christmas Eve checking it over, and I’ve already learned that while the bike is a 1977 model, the engine has been swapped in from a KZ440, probably from 1981. (The frame should be the limiting factor for the OMS age requirement, so I think we’re in the clear on that.)

1977 Kawasaki KZ400
1977 Kawasaki KZ400

An initial list of things that will need to be addressed, or perhaps just ignored to stick to the budget:

  • The rear sprocket is pretty ugly, so it would be good to replace it. That means replacing the front sprocket and the chain, too.
  • The fuel tank is ugly on the outside, but what matters is that it’s rusty inside. I’ll treat it with either Caswell’s or POR-15 so that rust doesn’t end up getting into the carburetors.
  • Tires, tubes, and rim strips should probably go without saying, since the bike hasn’t seen a road in many years. The OMS route is about 600 miles, and the ride out and back will add another 1000 or so miles.
  • The steering head bearings are a lot loose. Regardless of that I’ll need to clean and regrease them, but “loose” often means “screwed up,” too. If the parts are cheap enough I might just replace them for good measure.
  • I’ve already removed the carburetors, and they don’t look all that bad inside. They’ll get new o-rings and rubber plugs where needed and maybe rebuild kits for good measure. The carb holders are pretty well ruined, so I’ll order a new set. The airbox-to-carb boots look good enough, though I suspect they’re not a perfect fit.
  • The headlight and chrome trim that holds it in place are both missing. Since I believe in stock motorcycles, I’ll probably try to get stock parts for this. Adding an LED headlight could be amusing and might fit the budget, but it would be weird to use a modern component here without changing anything else from stock.

Oh, and then there’s the right muffler rubbing on the rear brake arm, plus the angle of the luggage rack relative to the fuel tank, handlebars, etc. Based on the evidence so far, I suspect this bike was crashed at some point, and that as soon as I get it to where I can do an actual road test, I’ll find that the frame is “tweaked.” Whether I try to remedy this problem will depend on just how badly it rides. Fingers crossed on that one; I’d really rather not have to convert this into a parts bike. (Or maybe it will give me a chance to learn frame straightening, because that’s a great idea.)


  • Note to self: a previous owner put later-era cast wheels onto this bike, which means it takes tubeless tires. Besides being better than tube-style tires (easier to fix punctures), this saves me money on both tubes and rim strips, since they’ll be unnecessary. Maybe I’ll splurge and install new valve stems.

  • Hi I was wondering how much you was wanting for your kawasaki
    You can contact me at this email.
    Please let me know how much you want for it thanks

  • Ended up selling it at a swap meet to a local rider who needed a cheap second bike. He’s already made a bunch of improvements, and he refuses to sell if back to me. 🙂

  • Hello,
    I have the same bike but looks a little better (sorry), and was wondering what you ended up getting for it? I’m doing some downsizing and need to let some of my toys go and came across this blog and read it with great interest. My KZ is the same color and I did spend a lot of money at my local dealership last summer getting the carbs rebuilt and just a complete going thru. Thanks for your time.

    • Pretty sure I was talked into selling it for $200 just because I needed the space. Then I bought it back for $250 because I forgot what I’d sold it for. The timing chain slap damaged the cylinders, so the engine had to come apart. Ready to go back together with a bit of welding done to it, along with a gasket kit and new parts. When I’m done again, I’ll probably value it somewhere between $800 and $1000.

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