Pick of the Ads: Good, Bad & Ugly - Kawasaki Zephyrs

Every Friday we bring you three selected bikes from the classified ads and auction sites in the form of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Casting his expert eye over the internet for your benefit is Scott Redmond. For over 25 years he's bought, sold and broken up motorcycles for parts. From doing deals in person under the streetlights of London to surfing the web and buying bikes on his phone he's purchased bargains, howlers and few he'd rather forget.

This week he's picked three examples of the first 'retro' bike, Kawasaki's air-cooled, four-cylinder Zephyr range. At 25 years old, the Zephyr is no longer just a copy of an old bike, it is an old bike. So how are they standing up to the sands of time?

Kawasaki Zephyr 1100

The Good: 1992 Kawasaki ZR1100 Zephyr

You can’t move these days for factory retro machines, yet some are better than others. Some are now so old that they’re retro, retro machines.

Kawasaki sensed that there was Yen to be had in cashing in on the past. They did some research and brought the Zepyhr range to market, first in Japan and latterly in Europe and America. This was in the early 90s but, for most Brits, they were too soon. We were still hooked on race rep machines and although they sold at a steady pace they never really set the world on fire. 

The biggest of the Zephyr trilogy was this, the Zephyr 1100. It was a big bike that had Zed series DNA pumping through its oil ways. The engine was a reworked GPz1100 unit. One modification that it received was an eight plug cylinder head. The chassis wasn’t anything too remarkable, but it just about kept the power in order.

There aren’t too many left roaming around these days. Those that survive have had some tinkering. This one hasn’t escaped scot free. The standard paint is long gone, although the respray doesn’t look too terrible. There’s a few cosmetic touches. A chrome oil cooler grill, some braided brake lines and aftermarket shocks are the things that are most obvious. At £2,799 it’s a fair price for a big air cooled inline four Kawasaki.

Anorak Facts

Daytona Motorcycles created several Zephyr specials, although I'm not too convinced that any survived.

Calipers are prone to seizing but there are plenty of other calipers from more modern bikes that can save the day.

Kawasaki Zephyr 550

The Bad: 1991 Kawasaki ZR550 Zephyr

The 550 was the baby of the bunch. It was also the least exciting to ride.

The engine came from the old GPz550, and the same unit was used in the GT550 except that had a shaft drive attached. The 550 was up against a crop of 600s, but if you wanted performance the Zephyr 550 wasn’t your friend. Looks wise it wasn’t terrible and time hasn’t done it any harm. It actually looks quite tidy still all these years later, and the low seat makes them very accessible and easy to ride.

Like the other Zephyrs, finding one is your problem. They were built on a budget and winter riding could make them vanish before your eyes. This bike is a real find. It’s done less than 3,000 miles from new. Spending 20 years in a lock up has helped to keep the mileage down. The current owner got his hands on it and he’s given it plenty of TLC. He admits it's not a concurs restoration although the photos make it look pristine.

£2,700 is a lot for an old 550, but if you really need a Zephyr 550 in your life, this one is probably the best one on the market.

Anorak Facts

Check tank seams, they rotted when new, properly repaired tanks are acceptable.

Used parts are plentiful but good condition bits are hard to find.

Kawasaki Zephyr 750

The Ugly: 1991 Kawasaki ZR750 Zephyr

It used to be that 750s were everywhere. Every manufacturer had a stack of three quarter litre motorcycles in their range and Kawasaki even stuck a turbo on one in the 80s. Like the 1100 and 550 Zephyrs, the 750's engine was found in the 'out of date' pile.

Road tests were actually favourable for the Zephyr 750 and it was the best of this bad bunch. It suffered the same blight that affected its siblings, with poor build quality being the most obvious.

This bike looks pretty manky. The Z1 inspired paintwork suits its flanks but don’t be fooled, it’s no Z1.

Information is scarce in the advert. Prices have been dragged up by the tsunami effect of classic bike prices but £1,995 is optimistic for a bike that’s not really a classic.

Anorak Facts

The 750 engine grew from the Z650.

The Zephyr name refers to a breeze.