Others were put off by the GPz1100 ‘s finicky fuel injection, but one man’s hassle is another man’s opportunity.
When I was younger (some 30 years ago) and still in my 20s, I terrorized the roads of Calgary on a 1981 Yamaha RD 350LC. While I loved that little two-stroke, I tried to slow it down a bit by getting a 1982 Honda CB750F. It was a great bike and took me everywhere: up into the Rocky Mountains outside of Calgary and on the winding roads of the foothills and I would eventually go on to rebuild and restore it too. But there was always that temptation to move up to something with a little more power.
Although I always liked and had an urge for the bigger CB1100F and the 1980 and ’81 Kawasaki GPz1100 , I never had the money. The 1100Fs and big GPz Kawasakis were harder to find and much more expensive it seemed, so I never did get my hands on one during that time. But I never forgot.
Years later in 2017, I decided to go find one and ultimately discovered a rough 1981 GPz1100 at a used bike shop in Vancouver and made a deal on it. Lacking any insurmountable dents, scratches or damage and mostly complete, if worn out, the plan was to restore the bike to its former glory. Someone had applied a very quick paint job and the usual rattle can “restoration” work was done but the work was only paint deep as oil leaks and soft forks, all the usual stuff, indicated there was much more to be done. But the effort would be worth it as this GPz still had the original, and still working, first generation fuel injection!
Almost all the ones I looked at on the internet had been converted to carbs, since no one could deal with the injection diagnostics. So to find a working fuel injection model was a rare find for sure. I had the impression that the fuel injection may have been what frustrated the previous owner, causing him to park the machine for years before selling it.
I did a deal with the store owner and my buddy and I wheeled it into the pickup truck. It was barely off the truck before I was pulling the bike apart and soon swimming in parts. I stripped it all down and sandblasted the frame before painting it.
I did the same with the engine as well although I didn’t pull it apart since I just wanted everything stock anyway. But the bike and all its pieces got a good cleaning and new paint.
The red bodywork was in need of a professional paint job so I sent it on to Ryan and Fred over at Fred’s Autobody in Sechelt, BC. Ryan did the paint and Fred the decals. (I ordered the full decal set online from Ontario.) Fortunately you can still get some parts for these bikes from the dealer so new steering head bearings and swingarm bushings went in along with new fork seals and springs. I rebuilt the stock calipers with new rebuild seal kits.
Things like signals, a brake light cover and handlebars were sourced on eBay where a few NOS (new old stock) parts can be found as well.
While the original fuel injection system is what drew me to this particular bike, the fuel injected model’s wiring harness was a real rat’s nest so that took many days to sort out. I was very careful not to change anything or damage any of the rare working fuel injection system, and just cleaned it all up the best I could.
I think finding a good seat was one of the hardest things to get on this build. Lacking options I ordered a seat from the UK. The pattern wasn’t one I would have picked but it was original.
The black chrome passenger grab bar behind the seat was another difficulty and I never did find one in black. A good chain guard was a tough find as well.
The mufflers were in okay shape so I sandblasted and finished them in high temp paint that matched the matte black finish of the original. Once I had the bike looking as good as I could (and afford) to make it, I sent it to my buddy Jason at Penco Motorsports in Sechelt, BC who tuned it for a nice and smooth running ride.
My goal was to keep the GPz1100
as stock looking as possible, and I think it’s a decent job of that. I even kept the stock tire sizes (and yes they do look small) but it handles like a dream with them with being, of course, fresh rubber.
The GPz1100 pulls smooth and powerfully and doesn’t surprise you at all. Riding this old 1981 bike builds confidence in its design, and it’s one you could ride for many hours without wanting to stop. I would say Kawasaki got this model just right. When I was all done the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia had no problems giving me a collector’s plate for my new ride.
Currently I’m on the hunt for that CB1100F and maybe we’ll do all this again.
– Steve Willgoose Canadian Biker #342