It
was a toss-up whether or not I bought the old Z500. It was cheap and seemed to work okay, Against that, it had a general air of decay and the MOT certificate looked fake. More trouble than it was worth? Had to bear in mind that it was only 150 quid, with no comeback if it failed before it got out of the vendor’s street. Not the sweetest deal in the world but I tossed a coin, told me I should buy the bike.

I tossed it again, told me to ride the bike home. So I did. Judging by the 95mph top speed only about 30 horses remained in the four cylinder engine. The light smoke haze confirmed that there were some components in an advanced state of wear inside the motor.

A couple of weeks went by with no expense other than fuel and oil, thought I’d got lucky. The Z had trouble coughing into life of a morning but then so did I, so we were well matched. It was the combination of shot starter motor and dying battery that caused the problem but it always seemed to catch just before the battery was due to warp all its plates.

The battery lasted for over two months before I had to hunt another one down in the breakers. Not the end of the world, only cost a fiver. The new found power had the starter motor grinding over with renewed vigour but didn’t stop the smoke levels rising and rising as the weeks progressed.

At one point, I put the bike under a jet-wash, y’know, just to see what was there. It only took off the one year’s accumulated crud so then I had to Gunk it and do it again. Welcome to the eighth wonder of the world, the bike didn’t took half bad! All hail Kawasaki workers who deemed to put a decent lick of paint on her.

Of course, that generosity of spirit didn’t extend to either the engine alloy or wheel chrome. The wheels were painted a trendy Hammerite black and the alloy lovingly restored with ten (or so) tubes of good old Solvol. I’m sure it’s not as strong as it used to be.

The next little game in town was getting the lights to work. They occasionally flickered on if I gave the switch a thump. I tried to take it apart, was rewarded with a fistful of springs for my pains. Ended up twisting the wires together which got me dip but not main beam. Alas, running with the lights on meant the battery rapidly drained down.

A simple solution to that was to pop a car battery I just happened to have laying around into the top box, charge it up every couple of days and devote it to the lights. That solved one problem and caused another. The excessive weight slung out the back of the bike meant the front end went all funny, causing massive wobbles.

As it was extremely unlikely that I could persuade any one on to the pillion, I turned the rack around so that the top box sat where the pillion would, which also provided a comfy back-rest. I was well pleased with myself… for all of five days when the insulation tape fell off the wiring, shorted out and set fire to the top box. I had a plastic bottle of petrol in there as reserve didn’t work any more.

The first I knew about the raging conflagration to my rear was the lights flickering and then burning out. Then there was a whoosh as the petrol caught, acrid smoke and flames from the plastic and battery burning.

I managed to dive to the side of the road, taking off a year’s worth of pad material and tyre rubber. The somewhat surreal sight of the rear of my motorcycle being alight drew a couple of cagers, one of whom dived in with a fire-extinguisher whilst I cowered a few yards away. Actually, as I had TPF&T, I would have been quite happy for it to die a death as a fireball, but the cager won out and saved the day.

He even volunteered to drive in front, as I now had no lights, and lead me home. It was some kind of big Ford and he shot off at an amazing rate which had me screaming the valves off the Kawa. I just about held on to him, but the poor old engine was close to melt-down, adding a loud knocking noise to the already rattly top end.

As the winter nights were just around the corner I decided a visit to the breaker was in order. One Z500 alternator later I spent about a week getting its cover’s screws out. Some clever little Dickie had Araldited them in. In fact, he’d Araldited the whole cover on as he didn’t want to spend out on a new gasket! I tapped in some new threads and Araldited it back on!  All that effort, the lights actually worked and stopped draining the battery. Progress found.

At that stage the engine was knocking and smoking with a vengeance so I thought I’d whip the head off. Not even I could bring myself to put it back on! More words with more breakers until one came up with a slightly better one. That is, one with some meat on the camshafts. Yo bro, I had a motorcycle that could accelerate faster than an MZ.

I would’ve kept running it into the ground hadn’t some nutter offered me 750 sovs for it. He reckoned I was the sucker as they are now classic bikes worth thousands. Pull the other one, dingo! Went and bought myself another rat, a Z650 with 98000 miles on the clock but a better engine than the older Z500. That’s another story, folks.

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