BUYING A KAWASAKI GPZ600R/400R - REVIEW AND VIDEO TEST

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KAWASAKI GPZ400R and GPZ600R (1985-1990) (stills taken from video road test of the GPZ400R)

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MY VERDICT:

For:

  • Retro cool
  • Many parts shared between the 400 and 600 
  • Alloy frame on the 400
  • The 400 is surprisingly almost as powerful as the 600
  • Adjustable suspension
  • Comfortable by modern standards
  • Low-ish seat height

Against:

  • Parts availability won't be great due to it's age
  • Soggy suspension by modern standards
  • Very few good original examples left
  • The 400 is less torquey than the 600

INTRODUCTION:

The GPZ400R and 600R were ground-breaking. The 600 kick started the whole 600 Supersports class that is still going strong today. The 400R is a scaled down version of the bike we're more familiar with in the UK but a lighter allow frame.

WHICH ONE TO GO FOR:

The 600R's are much more plentiful here as they were officially imported, but the imported 400's are likely to be in better condition thanks to the lack of gritted roads in Japan.

RELIABILITY AND COMMON FAULTS:

Reliability is quite good, fork seals suffer and carb diaphragms if they've been stored.

As with all imports that have been stored for any length of time, check for rust inside the fuel tank. Also, the 400R's can suffer from stuck piston rings that allow fuel into the oil. This can usually be cured by getting the engine very hot and good regular use after that.

There were some reports of camshaft problems on the 600R, thanks to a high tickover from cold and no center stand leading to oil starvation on the right hand end. Carb icing was cured by heating the carb bodies with the cooling system, although this did reduce the power output. The steel frame also bent easily in crashes, this was strengthened later on.

MODEL HISTORY:

Introduced in 1985, the 600 created the class we know and love today. The 400 had a similar effect in Japan, where it was considered the best sports 400 for quite a few years.

The 400 had an alloy frame and remotely adjustable suspension. The 600 was less sophisticated with a steel frame and fewer adjustments on the suspension.

In 1987 the GPX was introduced, but the GPZ600R was sold along side it until 1990.

HOW TO AVOID BUYING A LEMON BY USING MY BUYERGUIDE BELOW

Before seeing the bike:

  • If it is a private sale make sure you view the bike at the sellers premises - this will help determine if the seller is genuine
  • Always ask the seller to make sure the bike is cold when you come to view it - warm engines can hide a multitude of sins

Find out whether the bike:

  • Has got an MOT certificate, is it taxed and for how long?
  • Has got a race can fitted and if so is the original included?
  • Has it ever been crashed?
  • Has got a current V5 and is registered in the sellers name?
  • Is there any outstanding finance, if you're in doubt buy a HPI report or similar?
  • Does the bike still have both original keys and the toolkit?
  • Does the bike have a service history, and if so is it a main dealer one?

How to check the bike:

  • On liquid cooled engines check for a film of oil in the radiator header tank before warming the bike up - the presence of oil would signify internal engine leaks or a blown head gasket.
  • Make sure the oil on the dipstick  or in the sight glass is smooth and has no bits in it or milky scum - again this could mean internal engine leaks.
  • On starting from cold make sure the engine does not turn over sluggishly - this could mean a worn starter motor and/or a defective battery.
  • Check for oil leaks around the engine and on the ground where the bike has been stood - any leaks could indicate expensive oil seal replacement or crash damage.
  • Check all the lights work and that both levers activate the rear brake light.
  • Run a finger up the fork stanchions and check for oil and rust - leaking fork seals are fixable, but it will cost you if the forks need re-chroming, also sometimes dismantling forks will damage the fork bushes and they'll need replacing.
  • Check to make sure the rear shock isn't leaking oil and that any shock linkage is moving smoothly.
  • Find out how old the tyres are regardless of their apparent wear - some old tyres can appear fine until the conditions get slippy. If in doubt, factor in replacement.
  • If the bike is a European or American import check to see if the headlight has been altered for UK use.
  • Check the brake disks for obvious signs of wear, hairline cracks between the vent holes can indicate critically thin disks. Check the brake pads to make sure they still have plenty of material left.
  • If possible spin each wheel off the ground and check for damaged rims and worn wheel bearings.
  • With the front wheel off the ground carefully move the steering left and right of centre and feel for any notches in the head stock bearings
  • Check the Engine and Chassis numbers match the V5, sometimes, especially on imports there will be no engine number on the V5 but this does not necessarily mean a problem, it's optional when you are registering the bike in the UK.
  • Check the sprockets to make sure they're not 'hooked' and check the chain is not at the end of it's adjustment.
  • Check behind as many panels as possible for signs of repair. They may point to more serious accident damage, the quality of bodywork repair should indicate the quality of any other repairs. There's no substitute for orginal panels.
  • Check for bent levers, scuffed mirrors/bar ends/indicators for signs of a drop.

Road testing the bike:

  • Make sure the bike starts and idles easily, the tick over may have been set high to cover up idling problems or a rattly clutch basket.
  • Check for smoke on start up, a bike in good condition that has been run regularly should be smoke free, unless it's a 2 stroke of course.
  • Make sure the brakes do not bind and feel for pulsing through the brake levers, this indicates a warped disk.
  • Make sure you can select all the gears easily and that you can find neutral when you come to a stop.
  • Check for a slipping clutch by accelerating hard in top gear from a lowish speed.

Finally, trust your instincts about the car and the seller and do not let your heart rule your head - if you are not happy just walk away!!

Want to see why if the GPZ400R is a modern classic? Does it make a good first bike? How fast does it go and how far on one tank of fuel? What it's really like to ride and live with in the real world?  You can see the GPZ in action (warts and all) in our comprehensive and fully  independent video road test - simply click on the link below:

Download the video here

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