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From Rust Bucket to Beauty Queen

Paul Olesen


From Rust Bucket to Beauty Queen

This week I thought I’d switch gears and share with you the restoration of my 1975 Kawasaki H2. When it comes to the handful of bikes I have owned, this bike was the one where I would be completely heartbroken if something happened to it. Unfortunately that was just the case.

My love affair with two-stroke bikes started while in college and the Kawasaki H2 happened to be the king in this arena, it fascinated me. Naturally I had to get my hands on one, but I couldn’t afford a running or restored one. So it turned out I needed a project! On a Wednesday night in the spring of 2008 I was perusing craigslist, using one of the national search engines, and found a pair of 1975 H2s in Dallas. Instead of dutifully studying for an exam I had on Friday, I got to thinking about how I could feasibly get these bikes over the weekend. Thursday rolled around and I was still mulling things over in my head. One of my girl friends came around that night to study for an exam we had on Friday and I mentioned to her how I wanted to get the bikes. She suggested we leave that evening and go pick them up. She had a commitment on Sunday but if we left almost immediately we could make it back in time. I wasn’t completely sure if she was serious, but I found out soon enough that she was dead serious. So we set off for Dallas and I got a pair of basket case H2s.

When I got to Dallas I found that the bikes were in a worse shape than I had suspected, but I bought them anyway.

Once I got back to Minneapolis, my friend and I promptly submitted our doctor’s notes so that we could make up the exam. Along with finishing up my studies for the year I got to work on the bike.

Here the bikes are shortly after I got them home





The restoration has started!

Parts got sand blasted


Covers got polished


It took awhile but I was able to replicate the paint scheme pretty well using my homemade paint booth.


I carefully rebuilt my engine




Eventually after a lot of care, some head scratching (mostly due to the old wiring harness), and an awful lot of time I got the bike together and running.



As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this bike was the bike I would lose my mind over if something happened to it. Unfortunately the beauty was short lived. One fatefully hot summer day in July the bike tipped over and fell. Despite having the bike on its center stand, it still sank into the gooey tarmac and dented the freshly painted gas tank. Needless to say I was devastated.

One GP bike build and three years later, I finally got around to repainting the body work, making new exhausts pipes, reshaping the cylinder heads, adding reed valves to the engine, getting rid of 2lbs of brake rotor, and adding a decent caliper and master cylinder.







Now this bike, once a rust bucket, is even better and more beautiful than before. It’s hands down one of my favorite bikes to ride.

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thank  you for  positing  this.  very  very  cool 

Your welcome, glad you enjoyed it, and stay tuned as I have more interesting topics planned in the coming weeks!

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"....adding reed valves to the engine...."


Wait what?


You heard right, there is a reed valve kit available for the 750 and 500s.  You can follow the link for more information:



A friend of mine makes the kit and they are top notch.  It's a simple one sided valve but the stock look is kept and the bottom and mid range of the power curve is greatly improved.  Some guys have also gone as far as welding in KX250 reed blocks and adapting the reeds to the 750 engines but that is much more difficult!


A great resource for anything Kawasaki triple can be found here: http://kawi2strokes.com/forum/

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Can I ask how you were able to get the engine cases (inside and out) so clean? The engines I have restored and rebuild, I have never been able to get them nearly as clean as yours. 

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Can I ask how you were able to get the engine cases (inside and out) so clean? The engines I have restored and rebuild, I have never been able to get them nearly as clean as yours. 

Sure,on the outside it takes a little time to prep but I just bead blast the cases, cylinders, and whatever else needs cleaning. If you can pre-clean with degreaser before you blast it usually makes things go a little faster. After that a medium - fine grit glass bead will restore the finish to the cast look.


On the inside I just use brake cleaner or any other heavy duty degreaser to remove all the old oil and other crud.


When you bead blast make sure you have the case halves bolted together and mask off all openings to the inside of the cases, cylinder bores, etc. It is imperative you don't blast any bearing surfaces, gasket surfaces, or your cylinder bore.



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