1988 Kawasaki KX500AF Super Motard E-Start – Readers Ride

Words: Séan Hendley, Jason Wessels, Dorren Loureiro

Editor: Glenn Foley

Pics: Deon vdl


Let’s face it…. None of us are getting out of this life alive, so you might just as well live a little. Why not choose something exciting and you then have the added benefits of the bragging rights and a cool story to bore all your dinner guests and grand kids with…

We got a call from local lad Jacques Swart, or Jack Black if you speak Americanese, asking us if we would like a spin on a bike that he built in his garage. 

A legendary Kawasaki KX500 engine, shoehorned into a 2011 250cc KXF ally frame.

We do know some fairly fast motard riders, so we invited Jason Wessels and Dorren Loureiro along to give the 500cc 2T SuperMotard a proper whirl around the Formula-K track just off Snake road in Benoni.


The Bike…. Or should that be a Beast?

It is a true Frankenstein’s Monster, built out of bits and pieces from an array of other bikes. The rolling chassis is a 2011 Kawasaki KX250F fuel injected Motocrosser, still with the stock forks and rear springs. The Swingarm, however, has been modified to accept a wider 150 section tyre. The engine is from a 1988 Kawasaki KX500 two stroke unit. The wheels are some Excel SM jobs the owner had lying around his garage.Then, this is where things really get interesting: 

The clutch cover mounting point was machined to accept a Kawasaki KX450F clutch cover. New Wiseco crank bearings. Hot Rod connecting rod. Inlet, transfer and exhaust ports were cleaned, casting lines were smoothed out: 

Jacques: “We changed the exhaust port timing by 4mm. Also took 1.5mm off the cylinder head. We are running a 38mm Keihin PWK Air Striker carburetor and a FMF exhaust. Then there is the KTM 300 ignition system, a modified KTM 300 flywheel, a modified KTM 300 starter cover, bendix and idler gear and finally the modified Kawasaki ZX1400 starter.”

Yip! The bike has an electric start with a starter motor from a Kawasaki ZX1400 because, according to Jacques, that is the only one strong enough to spin the jam tin of a piston around. That’s  mated to the engine casing via a KTM starter cover onto an adapter the owner Jacques designed and made himself.  Incidentally, the wiring loom… with mapping switch, ignition system, coil, CDI, rectifier, stator and starter relay are all 2012 – 2016 spec KTM 300. An FMF Fatty from a Honda CR500 was then modified to fit the KX exhaust port and the mount brackets were altered to suit the AF chassis. The stock KX500 Rad block, reed valves and carb were mated to the standard KXF air box, albeit with some light modification. 

Keep on reading…. or chill out and watch the full video of the test, review and interviews  here.

The info is a bit more condensed, but you just have to hear this Monster howl at the world, for full details… KEEP READING

Makeup and lipstick: 

The frame has been anodised, swingarm powder coated, exhaust ceramic coated and a whole host of green anodised bits have been added. Gold anodised rims, green after-market foot pegs, custom machined paddock stand bobbins front and rear, gold chain, green rear shock, aftermarket side stand, green anodised bar raisers, ceramic coated triple clamps top and bottom, flex bars, Magura lever and hydraulic clutch mated to custom modified and built KTM hydraulic clutch, Airtime brake pedal, flame cut and wavy brake discs, Tusk radiator cap with built in temperature gauge, Optimate battery monitoring system and remote charge plug, and so very much more… just just check out the pics… Jacques has fitted a 2016 KAWASAKI KX250F fuel tank, rear subframe, and plastics (to have the 2016 look). The bike is all rounded off by new plastics with a custom decal kit.

But the question on everybody’s lips is, “What’s it like to ride?”  

You all know Jason Wessels by now, a local racer now trainer, mentor, race mechanic and now bike tester and reviewer extraordinaire as all around good guy. We also snagged Dorren Loureiro for a few quick laps, and quick being the operative word, regularly seen on the world stage and on our TV’s, Dozza is quick!

He likes nothing better than hanging a bike sideways to make your eyes pop out of your head as he slides a bike flat into a corner and then picks it up and keeps going fast. 

We stuck them on the KX500AF and asked them what they thought. 

Jason: “For its maiden voyage it is very, very well put together. An ’88 KX500 engine in a 2012 KXF 250 chassis and Jacques did an awesome job assembling it. Obviously, it needs to be tuned a bit, it was a little bit flat at the top, so we didn’t get the full horsepower feeling, but still very awesome to ride. Something really different to the norm.” 

Jason: “Jacques has converted this to an E-start or self-starter so you don’t have to kick it because they are quite difficult to kick start, especially when it is hot. So, I think it is used more as a hot start than anything else, and ja… it made life a lot easier than having to kick that big piston into life.” 

Dozza: “Overall this bike is really, really cool. It is the most unique bike I have ever ridden my whole life; I’ll be honest. The two stroke – it’s the best thing ever, I really wish two stroke racing would come back, there really is nothing like it. The bike itself, overall, everything was really perfect, built really, really nicely, but as with any shakedown ride there are some snags to sort out. As uncle Jason said, the flat spot at the top was one. It is a little bit higher than a normal Motard, but I think that is because of the motocross suspension, with a bit of tweaking on the fueling and suspension this bike would be sooooo FAST. And overall, I really, really loved it and he’s done a really good job. Most self-built bikes you can feel that… they’ve been self-built, and this one was done properly, almost like it comes from the factory this way and I was so really impressed!.” 

Jason: “I really like the final look of the bike, Jacques has done so much with the powder coating, cera-coating, the new plastics, the colour combinations were very well thought out, very much in line with the current look of the modern Kawasaki’s for 2023. That beautiful expansion jug coming out the front, the gold rims also look fantastic. Even the graphics are done really well, the whole bike just flows and looks factory” 

Dozza: “In my honest opinion it is as good as any bike I have ever seen in my racing career locally and internationally. The small details he has got about it is carrying, you know like even just the green foot pegs, the green nuts and bolts everywhere just to match the plastics and etcetera… it’s all just insane! You can see he has put a lot of attention to detail into this bike and a lot of effort, it is a s good as any bike I have ever seen and easily one of my top five favourite bikes of all time.”

 “I would 100 percent be proud to race this bike internationally if I could, the colour scheme… the detail he has put into this bike is insane, not a lot of guys put this much effort into the detail, not only did he do all the nuts-and-bolts green, but he also did the rear spring…. All the small things, he has just done so much effort. It is sooo pretty.” 

We asked Jacques about the project: WHY? 

Jacques: Well… “WHY NOT?”

“That’s actually the correct question. You’ve got technology that was stopped in the 500cc two strokes, but there is new technology frame and suspension and marrying those two together is just a match made in heaven. It’s a dream project that I have always wanted to do, and when the parts, the engine, the frame came across my path for whatever reason the universe decided, I just had to grab it with both hands and build it.” 

Some details on the build itself: 

Jacques: “The engine was already in the frame, with the fabrication already done. The frame was cut… which they call the Y-piece on the front of the frame. The guy who did it did an amazing job with the fabrication, but I believe his customer ran out of funds and I bought it as a half-completed project. I got it, stripped it down to the floor, motor included because I didn’t know what was going on inside. I replaced bearings, piston, rings… absolutely everything with new parts and from there completed the rest of the project.” 

RF: “Tell us a bit more about the electric start conversion you have done to this bike, that is very unique, was that completely your own design?” 

Jacques: “Jaaa… getting older, it is getting more difficult to kick these things into life, so I was really interested in getting a starter on this, but… uhmm…. They do make a starter conversion in Canada, but in ZAR it would be almost 100K to land it here, so I decided to design my own or look for a way to design my own and I found a guy in Australia that had actually attempted to put a KTM 300 starter on a 500 engine.

But again, he didn’t complete the job but I could see there was potential there. So, we started designing the adapter plate for it, played around with starters and ended up with a Kawasaki ZX1400 starter, the only one that would turn this big ass piston. It took me about eight months of R&D just on the starter side to get that designed and built… all in my garage.” 

RF: Then, being a two stroke motocrosser, did it have a charging system or did you have to build one of those as well or do you have to charge the battery up before you go ride? 

Jacques: “It’s got the KTM 300 ignition system in it and that has a charging system in it, I also have the map switch connected so the guys who know the KTM 300’s and Husky’s, it’s got the map switch where the timing on the ECU actually changes and the charging system with a lithium battery as well, so the whole lot actually works together very well and extremely reliably.” 

RF: How many evenings, weekends and holidays did it take you to build this Monster from start to finish in total? 

Jacques: “About three and a half years a couple of evenings in the week and a lot of weekends, it all about time and money. If it wasn’t for that, it would have gone a heck of a lot quicker. It was great fun, I loved building it. My aim wasn’t to ride it, I just really wanted to build it and have a complete project done and finished like this – that was the dream and those three and a half years was really a lekker time for me, it was really fulfilling.”

RF: Did you handle all the work yourself or is there anybody you would like to give a shout out to? 


“OH! Very definitely my mate Marius vd Berg.  My mate Marius is a genius with engineering, operating the lathe, milling machine… just a brilliant guy and a lot more clever than I could ever dream of being mechanically, not that I am incompetent, but he is the genius.”

We did this together for the most part. 

What an awesomely spectacular machine, a true Frankenstein’s Monster of bits and pieces from other bikes that were never meant to be together, but through the minds, skills and talents of a couple of geniuses a truly once off unique machine has been born. 

If you guys and girls out there have anything along these lines or any cool motorcycling adventure stories you would like to share with us, hit us up in the “Contact Us” tab on this website. 

Keep an eye out on our YouTube Channel if you wanna see this Monster make its presence known around a race track – make sure you have some decent speakers…

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