PROJECT: NINJA

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This project originally started out as a touch up paint project for my nephew Jeremy. I told him to give it to me for a weekend and I would get it done…he got it back 2 years later.


The bike was pretty rough, a lot more than I had noticed the first time I saw it. It was rusted pretty badly from being near the beach, and the fairing I was going to paint didn’t even fit the bike well. The license plate was held on with plumbers tape, and the more I looked the more I realized the gas cap was the only thing I could leave alone.

I decided to replace the goofy rear fairing with one I would custom make. Being a huge fan of MotoGP, I figured since I was making a custom rear fairing, why not put an exhaust in the rear. A friend of mine found a complete stock exhaust off a 2006 Honda CRF250R for $125.00, same displacement; same redline, weighs 1/3 of stock, why not?

I chopped up the sub frame and reshaped it for the exhaust. Problem was the stock system could not be routed satisfactory. My welder Kerry Puccio came up with a head pipe off a Honda XR400 that almost fit perfect right off the bat. With a few tweaks and welds it worked perfect.

I spent a few months trying to get a single carburetor to work, but settled on stock carburetors rejetted with a K&N filter which allowed me to get rid of the huge ABS plastic air box (again shed more pounds).The air box I removed held the battery and electronics, so I had to make a new battery box. The rear inner fender had to be modified since the sub frame was lifted, so I built the battery box into the modified fender.

For the tail fairing, I made the part, made a mold off of that, and then vacuum bagged the final part off the mold. It was a lot of work but I wanted to be able to make replacements if the fairings got damaged. To make the fairing, I would cut up blocks of foam and hot glue them on the bike in the rough shape of what I wanted. I would then sand them to final shape, and prep them for making a mold off of, by applying wallboard paste, epoxy, and then sanding primer. My goal was to make the fairing and exhaust look like they were designed to be together. I like smooth aerodynamic shapes, and came up with the wrap around look. I kept the parts light by vacuum bagging. The mold was made as a three piece for ease of separating the cured part.

After getting the rear fairing looking nice, I decided that the stock Ninja front stubby front fairing didn’t match the new rear, and that I should design a new one. I started by cutting out of the magazines every picture I could find of nice looking front fairings. I laid them out so I could reference them while I shaped the foam. I wanted to get a dual headlight look, while keeping the stock headlight, so I designed that into the fairing.

I later found that I can use HID headlights and attach them to the new fairing (although this bike does not incorporate them). I used the same mold process for the front, with the exception of having to make the mold a four piece for ease of separating the part after curing. I made a wood framework in the shape of the headlight and windshield and had had my friend Bill Kerchenfaut make an aluminum mold off the wooden frame. I used the aluminum mold to heat and shape the polycarbonate on (which I did in my powder coat oven). After trimming the shaped Poly, I mounted them behind the fairing because it looked a lot cleaner.

Jeremy’s gas tank was rusted through, so I had to find another used one in good shape.

I made a mockup of the taillight/license plate holder out of cardboard to get the shape right, then made the final out of .040” 2024 T3 aluminum. I used an LED tail/running/brake light for the assembly.

I bought a new O-ring chain and put a 2 tooth bigger sprocket on the rear to give the bike a little more jump off the line. Top speed and cruise RPM did not suffer noticeably from the gearing.

Before I painted the frame I sent pictures of the sub frame after I sandblasted it to Jeremy. He liked the metal look of the sandblasted metal, so I had an interior shop match some seat material to the sandblasted metal, and then had the paint shop match some paint to the seat material since it was easier to match paint to material than vise versa. The seat pan had to be reshaped and shortened to match the newly raised sub frame and new rear fairing. A custom 2 color cover was made and installed. A passenger seat pan was designed into the rear fairing and a custom cover was made for that as well that had a coordinating design.

Jeremy is a very skilled artist and is exceptional with computer graphics. He came up with a tribal theme (which really worked great on this project).

After being satisfied that everything fit and worked, I completely stripped the  bike of all parts and began the long process of cleaning and re-painting everything. Cables were cleaned and pressure lubed, all switches were disassembled and cleaned, basically every part on the bike was brought back to like new condition. I wanted all tuning and cleaning to be accomplished before I painted so that the paint would not get damaged doing maintenance after final paint. After masking, I used a two stage paint so that there would be little or no paint edge between colors. I used a satin clear finish on the fairings and a gloss finish on the frame. I powder coated some parts for durability.

I decided on bar mounted mirrors because they were functional, cool looking, and I couldn’t find any that looked acceptable to mount on the new front fairing.

After completing the bike, I rode it around for a week to make sure everything was going to work properly, and I just fell in love with it. It has a smooth power with a great top end. It is extremely nimble with the weight low, so you can flick it real easy. I never weighted it but I am sure that is is at least 35 lbs less than stock. The exhaust sound is real smooth (with a little mean mixed in), but is not obnoxious when riding in the neighborhood. Of course 12,000 RPM is a different story. You know that Ninja 250’s don’t get enough recognition as being a serious bike. If anyone thinks 250’s are just starter bikes, they should ride this one…or try and catch it.

Jim McCloud

Restoration Station

San Jose Calif.

 

5 Responses

  1. Larry Gurley

    04/22/2011, 05:33 pm

    So this is what you have been up to for the last 2 plus years! This little 250 Ninja is a uniquely balanced sculpture made to perfection. Kawasaki should be chasing you down for the blueprints on this beauty. Jim and I ride off road together with our good friend Dave Otermat, not only can Jim work wonders on restoring cool motorcycles, he also has a talent for riding on and off road machines, not to mention the music talent he possesses. Great job my friend, keep up the good work, see you soon on the trail!

    Reply
  2. Senad

    05/05/2011, 08:38 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous. Jim, you have some serious talent! I am moving from Boston to SF in a few months, I hope I’ll have a pleasure of running into you one day.

    Reply

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