Bill Akin's Drifter
Hello fellow Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter riders. Bill Akins here writing on Oct 14, 2022.
(It’s my Birthday! I’m 69).
On my 2003 1500 Drifter back in 2019 at a Kentucky rest stop riding it home from when I bought it in Michigan to home in Hudson, Florida which is in the middle of Florida on the west coast by the Gulf Of Mexico.
Fast forward to December 26, 2017, the day after Christmas, when after 31 years of not riding motorcycles, I bought my 2014 Polaris numbered (#286) Indian Chief Classic off Ebay (I’ve added lots of accessories to it since that time). Shortly after I bought it, I happened to find out about Kawasaki Vulcan Drifters while searching online for accessories for my Indian. My Indian is a great bike and I enjoy it very much but I almost wish I had found out about Drifters before I had bought it, because Drifters are so much less expensive and I could have bought three of them for what I paid for my used but excellent condition Indian.
As my 2014 Indian looked in the ebay ad I bought it from.
Shortly after buying my Indian, I found out about Indian look-a-like Kawasaki Vulcan Drifters online while searching for Indian accessories. I fell in love with them right away and quickly joined all the different Drifter sites on Facebook to learn all I could about them. I found out there were three Drifter models. A 400cc model only for sale in Asia. A 800cc model (actually 805cc’s) and a 1500cc (actually 1470 something CC’s). I read and learned about them for almost a year and a half before making my decision of whether to buy an 800 or a 1500. At first I thought I wanted the 800, because with its hidden rear mono shock, it looked more like the “hard tail” Indians from the late 1940’s (which is a look I really like). I found an 800 for sale in a nearby city and test rode it. I was disappointed to realize that for my 6 ft 220lbs, it simply did not have enough power to suit me, and especially since I was used to the 1811cc engine power of my Indian. Plus I had found out that the 800 had solid valve lifter shims that the factory manual said had to be checked for wear and proper clearance every 6000 miles, necessitating taking off the gas tank and valve covers to do that clearance test plus needing a shim kit of different size/thickness valve lifter shims plus a guage to check the clearances with, while the 1500 has hydraulic lifters that never require being checked for clearance wear, which also was a big factor in my switch to searching for a 1500 instead of an 800. Next I met Darryl Nelson, A.K.A. “Caveman” at a “bike night”. He is on some of the facebook Drifter sites and also lives in Hudson, Fl where I live. He had a 1500 Drifter he let me test drive. It had the kind of power I wanted and needed, so as a result of that power and the fact that the 1500 has hydraulic valve lifters, I switched gears from searching to buy an 800 to instead searching to buy a 1500.
My Indian in (Caveman) Darryl Nelson’s driveway and his black and silver 1500 Drifter he let me test drive one evening just before sunset.
After almost a year and a half of joining all the Drifter Facebook sites and reading about and researching Drifters, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a 1500 Drifter that didn’t have the unslightly (to me) “two up” seat, (my main complaint along with the moving rear fender of factory Drifters), since then the Two up seat has grown on me a little, but only if heavily fringed in its rear and only if one wants the ability to carry passengers in my opinion. I looked for a long time on the facebook Drifters for sale sites, Facebook marketplace, Ebay and Craigs list for just the right looking 1500 I wanted. It took some months but I finally found it when Dennis Parker put his 1500 Drifter up for sale in Michigan on Craigs list. He had the late 1940’s retro/vintage looking Heather’s Leathers fringed buddy seat with Indian head conchos with tassels and nickel plated studs, grab rail, matching fringed leather saddle bags with Indian head conchos with tassels and nickel plated studs , matching fringed leather inside the windshield bag with Indian head conchos with tassels and nickel plated studs, matching fringed leather fork bag with Indian head conchos with tassels and nickel plated studs, leather covered grips and levers with long tassels, matching leather tank bib with Indian head concho with tassels and nickel plated studs and in the factory metallic Ruby Red paint color I really liked plus brand new white wall tires, leather fender mud skirts/guards with nickel plated studs on both fenders, luggaage rack, the Indian headress front fender lamp, a new battery, the chrome under the headlight chrome twin spotlights bar with chrome visors on the spotlights as well as on the main headlight which has a tri sectional headlight guard with the Drifter logo in the middle of it, the “goats bladder” and original exhaust removed and replaced by the preferreed excellent and very hard to find today Roadhouse exhaust with fishtail exhaust end, and a chrome front fender pinnacle tip. As you can see, it was loaded with all the best accessories. All of which gave it that late 1940’s Indian look I like so well. To me, it looked more like a late 1940’s Indian than even my 2014 Polaris Indian did, or even more so than the then current 2019 Polaris Indian “vintage” models looked. Dennis and I settled on a cash price and he agreed to hold it for me while I quickly arranged to fly to Kalamazoo Michigan and then drive a rental car to Three Rivers Michigan to meet up with Dennis at the rental car agency in Three Rivers Mich where Dennis will drive us to his home in Three Rivers.
Here’s all the pics from Dennis Parker’s Craig’s list ad for his 2003 1500 Drifter in factory Metallic Ruby Red I was flying to get. This was exactly the look and accessories that I was looking for and wanted on a 1500 Drifter. My 2014 Indian is great, but doesn’t have as much of a vintage Indian look as this 1500 Drifter Indian tribute bike did and I only paid around a third of what my $11K used 2014 Polaris Indian cost me (not counting airline flight cost, gas, meals, time and labor etc, to ride the 1500 Drifter home). I’m including all Dennis’s Craigs list ad pics herein because since Dennis was the Drifter’s 2nd owner, they are now a part of the history of my Drifter and I think preserving the history and who the past owners of our Drifters were is important (too bad I don’t know who the first owner was). And besides, they are some nice pics by Dennis of what is now my 2003 1500 Drifter.
My flight to Kalamazoo Michigan to buy a Kawasaki 1500 Drifter and ride back home 1,330 miles to Hudson, Fl.
On Sept 14, 2019 my wife Jeannie drove me from our home in Hudson, Florida, to the St Petersburg/Clearwater airport, for my Allegiant airlines flight to Kalamazoo Michigan.
I only took one carry on shoulder bag containing my helmet, one pair of extra jeans, extra socks and extra T shirts, and the jeans, T shirt, heavy leather motorcycle jacket, knee high riding boots, my white visor biker cap, all of which I was wearing on the plane. I kept Jeannie and family and friends up to date with my trip via my posts and private messages on Facebook from my cell phone. I’ve put together all the facebook posts I made and the pictures from each post while on the trip, in chronological order so I can have everything in one story. I am only including MY posts and pictures and not the numerous replies from family and friends (who were following my trip) to each of my posts. I am also including some of my added narrative of the story that was not included in my Facebook posts.
September 14, 2019
Waiting at St Pete Clearwater Airport for my flight to Kalamazoo, Michigan, then I’ll drive a rental car about an hour to Three Rivers, Michigan (close to Kalamazoo) to meet the seller to buy this motorcycle and then drive it home to Hudson, fl.
Boarding my flight now.
Selfies on the plane. Taking off from St Pete Clearwater Florida Airport to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
September 14 at 4:28 PM ·
Have just landed in Kalamazoo Michingan. We took off early so we arrived almost an hour earlier than expected. My earlier post of the pictures I took out the window when we first took off would not post until we just landed in Kalamazoo because you get no internet connection when you get up to a certain height so I had to wait for it to post my post & pics automatically when we landed in Kalamazoo.
I got a rental car at the airport to drive about an hour from Kalamazoo to Three Rivers Mich to meet Dennis at the car rental facility where I dropped off my rental and Dennis picked me up in his truck and we went to his home. I got to see the Drifter in person for the first time and was not disappointed. Dennis gave me the pocket sized owner’s manual, and a gallon of oil that went with it. He went over the controls with me which were pretty basic and layed out much like my Indian’s controls. We visited for a while and he showed me where his thumb had gotten blown off by when a bullet stuck in his rifle barrel fired by his nephew only had the primer go off (but not the powder) and that primer was just enough force to lodge the bullet in the rifling of the barrel. His nephew didn’t realize what had happened and gave the rifle back to Dennis and Dennis put it away for awhile and then forgot about the nephew telling him it didn’t fire correctly and when he later went to fire another 45-70 cartridge through his Marlin model 1895 lever action rifle, the barrel blew up taking Dennis’s left thumb off just above the knuckle that goes into the hand. So all he had was a small nub left and couldn’t operate the Drifter’s clutch lever confidently, so he had already bought an automatic transmission bike to replace his Drifter he was selling me.
Dennis rode his new bike to lead me out to the main highway and I got on the road about 9:30 at night starting my trip back to Florida. I drove all night through Michigan and into Indiana then into Ohio where the next morning I stopped at a trucker’s lounge to catch a few winks of sleep. My route amended on the road to include staying with Paul and Randi a couple of days at their mountain mansion in Blairsville, Ga, took me from Michigan, through Indiana, through Ohio, through Kentucky, through Tennesse, through North Carolina, through Georgia, and finally midway down the west coast of Florida to my home in Hudson, Florida. Through eight states! I had been looking a long time to find a Drifter accessoried out like that, and I was going to travel however far across the country I had to in order to get it.
September 15 at 6:47 AM ·
Catching a few hours of sleep and rest by pulling some chairs together in the trucker’s Lounge at a Flying J truck stop in Ohio off of I-75 south before getting back on the road.
Parked outside the Flying J truck stop’s trucker’s lounge in Ohio. All I had with me was what I had brought in my bungee’d to the luggage rack carry on bag I brought on the plane plus the gallon of oil in my saddlebag that Dennis had given me.
September 15 at 9:34 AM ·
I passed through Dayton Ohio already and stopped at this Waffle House close to Springfield, Ohio to get some breakfast and I’m coming up next to about an hour or less from Cincinnati Ohio and then shortly after I’ll be in Kentucky
September 15 at 11:45 AM ·
I’m now South of Cincinnati Ohio and I’m in Kentucky now going towards Louisville and Lexington traveling on I-75 south all the way to Florida. Have to finish going through Kentucky then Tennessee then North Carolina then Georgia before I get to Florida.
Motorist next to me took the below pic at the Kentucky welcome center rest stop.
September 15 at 12:21 PM ·
Rested a few minutes at the Kentucky welcome center and wearing my pieced together kidney belt for back support for this long ride. Really helped a lot and glad I had brought it, ugly though it was it did the job. Need to get a better new one but this old one worked with a belt extension I had made and added to it just before going to the airport.
September 15 at 6:34 PM ·
Earlier today I had stopped at a rest stop in Kentucky and got some much needed approximately three and a half hours sleep on top of a picnic table under a shaded gazebo. At that point my trip meter said 395 Miles, but I am now at 460 some odd miles and I am in Kentucky in the mountains at a truck stop call Derby City in Mount Vernon Kentucky. I have 54% battery left on my phone and I’m going to try and see if I can charge it at this truck stop, get a little bite to eat and some more coffee. I also need to check Paul’s message that he is about 6 hours from Lexington Kentucky and check and see how I can get to his place from I-75
since he has been following my trip posts on facebook and private messaged me that he and his wife Randi would like me to come by their home in Blairsville, Georgia and stay with them two days. Paul used to be married to my cousin and we are still good friends.
September 15 at 7:06 PM ·
Sorry but I don’t have time to respond right now to all my notifications since I’m on the road sleeping at truckers lounges sleeping on top of picnic tables under the shade at rest stops and just trying to make it to Paul and Randi’s in Blairsville Georgia, so if anyone writes me a comment I may not get to respond or even to like it I have so many right now pending I’m just not going to be able to get to them all until I get back home to my normal regular comfortable Tower PC and keyboard.
September 15 at 8:57 PM ·
Leaving the Derby City truck stop in Mount Vernon Kentucky and heading for Chattanooga Tennessee which is 229 miles south of here, hope to get there sometime tonight find a truck stop Lounge to catch a little sleep in or a rest stop to get a little sleep and then I get back on the road. Here’s a picture of some of the small foothill mountains that I’m in in Kentucky with my Drifter in the foreground.
September 15 at 9:25 PM ·
I actually prefer driving at night when on the interstate like on I-75 because there’s less semis and less car drivers on the road at night the downside is that sometimes the road is poorly lit and like what happened in Michigan when I was on Highway 30 out of the middle of nowhere in farming country with no street lights a raccoon ran out in front of me but I didn’t hit it so night driving is good as long as there are street lights, but when there’s not, I slow down and don’t do 70 even though I could, I do around 60 mph and sometimes if there’s fog or it’s pitch black dark, I do 40mph or even 35. I can go faster in the daytime, but I like the less traffic at night and don’t want to lose the time not driving at night.
September 16 at 2:53 AM ·
I just passed Knoxville Tennessee and I’m headed towards Chattanooga and Nashville but just outside of Knoxville I stopped at this Pilot truck stop and am going to see if I can catch a little sleep in the trucker’s lounge and maybe if I can get three or four hours sleep get back on the road again but I am past Knoxville and on the way to Chattanooga and Nashville
September 16 at 8:05 AM ·
I’m in Sweetwater Tennessee about 60 some odd miles from Chattanooga and finally after not having slept in a bed since Thursday evening I decided to stop and get a room at a Motel 6 I had driven quite a bit tonight but I got to the point where even the coffee wasn’t doing its job so I decided if I’m not tip top I don’t want to ride the motorcycle because it would be too dangerous so I got here and the girl at the front desk gave me a good rate even though I was checking in early at 730 a.m. regular check-in time is 3 p.m. so she only charged me about $8 more and I don’t have to check out today at 11 a.m. but tomorrow at 11 a.m. so I’m going to take advantage of that and just soak my tired muscles in the tub today and tonight and get some good rest my hands and wrists are sore from levering the clutch and front brake and operating the throttle and going up and down these mountains up and down up and down around the constant never ending curves and having to decelerate and accelerate as the roads went up and down I tell you driving that Cumberland Trail at night in Pitch Black that’ll really increase your Pucker Factor even though we had almost a full moon it only slightly illuminated the mountains against the sky and otherwise it was pitch-black no lights, the only thing that illuminated the road was my headlights and that was a trip I mean blind curves you had to slow down to 40 miles an hour or even slower because I didn’t know what was on the other side of the curve like a deer or stalled car, so it’s been quite an experience driving these mountains at night when it’s pitch black and no streetlights. I’m in Tennessee now so I’m heading towards Chattanooga about 60 some-odd miles from here and just decided to stop and get a motel room. I haven’t had my boots off or my jeans off since Friday morning. Figured it was time for a bed and a hot soak in a tub. The trucker’s lounges only have showers no tubs.
September 16 at 9:20 AM ·
At most all trucker’s Lounge facilities they have a TV room and they have Outlets where you can charge your phones back up they’ve got chairs where you can just sit down and chill or catch a little sleep, they’ve got showers, they’ve got laundry machines, it really is pretty cool. The only thing they don’t have is a bed otherwise it’s free and a lot cheaper than a motel but I did stop and get a cheap Motel 6 room this morning at 7:30 a.m. I haven’t slept in a bed in two days I was tired my muscles tired I needed a hot soak in a bathtub
September 16 at 9:27 PM ·
I’m still in Sweetwater Tennessee and after two days on the road and sleeping in truckers lounges and on top of picnic tables at rest stops, I finally got a Motel 6 room and first thing I did was take my boots off, hadn’t had them off in two days and it was wonderful, then I slept oh gosh I don’t know 5 or 6 hours then I got in the bathtub, filled up the tub with hot water and just soaked in there for about an hour and a half it was glorious LOL, and got out brushed my teeth shaved and had been letting my phone charge and caught up with folks facebook messages and comments who are following my trip, and right now I’m standing outside my motel room by my bike, barefooted, bare-chested, with just my jeans on, puffing on my cigar standing next to my bike and will soon go inside get completely dressed and go out and find a restaurant to get something to eat, then come back get some more sleep and check out in the morning at 11 a.m. Before I check out I need to check with my friend Paul Strausbaugh who lives in Blairsville, Georgia about directions to go by and visit with him and his wife Randi at their cabin in the mountains. All for now.
September 16 at 10:08 PM ·
I’ll be off the phone for a couple hours I’m going out to find a restaurant to get a bite to eat then come back to the motel room get some more sleep and then check out at 11 a.m. in the morning I’ll be checking with Paul strausbaugh in the morning to get directions of how to get to where he lives in his cabin in the mountains
September 18 at 12:49 PM ·
Well yesterday morning I left Sweetwater Tennessee and drove South on Highway 68, made a few route changes and went through the mountains. Just literally hundreds of curves one after another where you couldn’t go much over 30 miles an hour so it took a long time to make any progress but I finally rode out of Tennessee and was in North Carolina for a short while before I entered into Georgia and finally got to Paul Strausbaugh’s house that’s on a mountain in Blairsville Georgia. I’ve been hanging out with Paul and his wife Randi. We went out last night and got pizza and I was able to get another shower and Paul put my dirty clothes in his washer so I’m going to have some clean clothes again because I was almost out of clean clothes and today we’re going to go to a moonshine place and get a little moonshine and I think we’re going to go up to this Lookout point on the top of the mountain where you can see four different states and just hang out. Going to hang out with them again today and then I’ll probably get on the road in the morning and head towards Atlanta Georgia to eventually get back onto I-75 and then head on down back home to Hudson, Florida. So far I’ve logged a little over 750 miles on the motorcycle so I think I’m about halfway home. I’m either at the halfway point or just a little bit over the halfway point. I really wish Jeannie could be with me on this trip because I have seen so much Beauty and the mountains are really great to ride through on a motorcycle in the daytime, not so much fun in the pitch black of night with no street lights though. It’s such a feeling of freedom and being out in the open air on a motorcycle it is hard to describe to anyone who does not ride. I’ll have to bring her up in the car later and show her Paul and Randy’s place and all the beauty around it. I took a few pictures here after I got to Paul’s.
My Drifter next to Paul’s immaculate 1966 Mustang fastback he’s won a lot of trophies for.
Paul and Randi’s two story cabin, (mountain mansion I call it) in Blairsville, Georgia. His basement is like another entire home.
More pics of my Drifter in Paul’s garage next to his award winning 1966 fastback Mustang
Paul Strausbaugh is with Randi Strausbaugh and Bill Akins at Brasstown Bald Mountain.
September 18 at 8:55 PM · Hiawassee, GA ·
Paul and Randi took me to Brasstown Bald mountain. It is the tallest mountain in Georgia at almost 5,000 ft and on a clear day you can see across four states. Unfortunately the clouds were covering the top of the mountain and moving through very fast so visibility was very limited looking down from the mountain. We were actually IN the clouds themselves. Even though the clouds we’re covering the top of the mountain where we couldn’t see out the observation tower, it was still a fun trip and we got to watch the movie in the theater on the history of the area there and on the mountain called Bald Mountain actually “Brass Bald Mountain” and we got to go in the museum to see an antique train locomotive and lots of neat artifacts and it was still a fun trip in spite of us being in the clouds where we couldn’t see anything. Actually being in the clouds was pretty cool in itself. The wind was whipping the clouds around us and it was very cool both esthetically and temperature wise for this flatland Florida guy from the blazing hot state of Florida, the cool temps at the top of these mountains was a nice change from the sauna like heat of my state of Florida.
September 18 at 10:21 PM ·
I got to Blairsville Georgia about 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon been hanging out and visiting with Paul and Randi since then and went out for pizza last night and they took me out in their truck today and took me all over Blairsville AND we went up to Brass Bald Mountain and several other stops and mountain observation points and had a really good time seeing all kinds of places here in Blairsville. It’s a very picturesque rustic and beautiful mountain town. I’ll be leaving about 9 ish in the morning and heading towards Atlanta and I might take an alternate route other than I-75. A gentleman I spoke with today told me about a a route that parallels I-75 without all the semis and heavy traffic so I might be taking that route.
September 18 at 11:08 PM ·
We went to a very neat rustic place today called Pappy Mimms Trading Post where they make their own moonshine and legally sell it. The owner of the place (Tommy Townsend) was the lead guitarist for Waylon Jennings and his daughter sold me some moonshine I’m bringing back home to Florda. We also went to another mountain Lookout Point today called Neal Gap. I don’t have any pics of this, but I took lots of videos on my trip that I can’t use for this blog writeup because I’m having to send the text and pictures separately for the blog’s webmaster to upload as it is, and video files would be too large to send in an email or Facebook private message to him. Maybe in the future this Drifter blog will make us able to upload our own text and pics and videos directly without having to send them to the webmaster for him to upload.
September 19 approx 9:30 A.M.
Paul took this pic of me with the old Blairsville courthouse in the background and just on the other side of that sidewalk is the only motorcycle shop in town I had visited. Paul took this pic of me just as I was leaving Blairsville Georgia after a very nice two day visit with him and his wife Randi, where they took me in their truck out to eat and to see many of the beautiful sites in and around Blairsville. Paul led me out to the main highway for me to continue my trip. My visit with them increased my trip by two days but it was so worth it and I had a lot of fun and saw a lot of beautiful sites and sights.
I am in Cleveland Georgia now getting ready to get off of Highway 129 / 19 to Highway 441 heading south. That will take me a little longer to get home that way but less traffic by getting off of I-75 and Highway 441 eventually becomes Highway 41 which will take me real close within a few miles of my home in Hudson Florida. I’m stopped at a Marathon gas station in Cleveland topping off my gas tank before getting on Highway 441 South.
September 19 at 4:11 PM ·
It’s about 4 p.m. and I’m in Madison Georgia I stopped off at an Arby’s to have a couple of Arby’s roast beef sandwiches and then I’ll be getting back on the road again. I’ve got just a little over nine hundred miles on the bike’s trip meter now, since I picked it up in Three Rivers Michigan.
September 19 at 8:25 PM ·
I am south of a town called Dublin in Georgia and according to MapQuest I’m a little over 5 hours from home, but I don’t know if I believe that. I think MapQuest meant I might be 5 hours to get to the Florida line and not my home in mid Florida. I don’t know, all I know is I’m heading south on 441 and it’s pitch dark out here now and it was great during the daytime made good time was able to average between 60 65 miles an hour. Traffic was light and not congested like I-75, but the problem is now it’s night time and it is 8:24 and it’s pitch-black out here. A trucker told me to be real careful for deer and other animals jumping out in front of me so I’m going to have to do probably between 45 to 55 miles an hour so that’s going to increase my ETA but I’m okay with that and everything’s going good. Here’s a picture of me and my bike that I had somebody take for me in front of the neighbors Express convenience store here just about an hour south of Dublin, Georgia.
September 20 at 11:26 AM ·
I’m at the Pilot truck stop in Ocala Florida 78 miles from home. I rode all night last night and stopped here this morning to get a few hours of needed sleep in their trucker’s lounge.
September 20 at 12:42 PM ·
I’m at the Lake Panasoffkee exit off of I-75, just a few exits before I get to the Highway 52 exit off of I-75, which will then take me home after about 10 or 15 miles. So I’m getting really close to getting home to Hudson, Fl. I just stopped here to pick myself up an orange crush soda.
Just arrived home in Hudson, Florida. Unknown to me, Jeannie had little checkered race flags all along the driveway and hung across the garage entrance to greet me on arrival. I love it!
Jeannie took the pics and her mom is in the background.
I had just gotten off the bike when Jeannie put these flags in my hands and took these arrival home pics.
You can see my Indian in the garage and Jeannie’s mom in the background. Still wearing my Kidney belt, sore butt, and glad to be home.
In this pic you can see my carry on the plane bag on the driveway that I just unbungee’d off the rear luggage rack.
Left and right sides of my 1500 Drifter nose to nose.
My Drifter taking its place next to my Indian in the garage. The Drifter gave me no problems of any kind on the 1330 mile trip home. Purred like a kitten and had all the power I needed on the interstates.
Took this pic several days after arriving home and had put 39.5 more miles on the Drifter. Actual trip mileage from Three Rivers Michigan to Hudson, Fl (including detour to Blairsville Georgia to visit Paul and Randi) was exactly 1330 miles. I know because although I didn’t take the speedo pic right then, I did write the trip milage down.
On the day I arrived home my hands were so swollen from holding the handlebars and levering levers and twisting the throttle, that you couldn’t see most of the knuckles and they were chaffed from my leather gauntlet gloves. Was worth it though. Got my dream 1500 Drifter and I’d do it again. “Ooh rah Marine Corps!” LOL. (Well, old Marine anyway). That concludes my story of my getting my 2003 1500 Drifter back home in September 2019. I hope you enjoyed my story.
Now back to 2022.
I’ve been a member of all the Drifter sites on Facebook since 2018.
I’ve learned a lot about Drifters from the facebook sites and my other research elsewhere online as well.
My tips or advice for new owners/members who want to mod their Drifters is, please don’t remove the fenders and make a bobber out of it nor install ape hanger handlebars or a batwing fairing on this retro, 1948 Indian tribute bike that should stay looking like a retro vintage bike. It isn’t a Harley chopper so don’t treat it like one and leave the apes off it and leave the fenders on it. Otherwise you ruin the entire intended retro late 1940’s Indian look of the bike. Because back in 1948 Indians did not have ape hanger handlebars nor batwing fairings. There are lots of other bikes you can do that to. Please don’t do that to this bike. Putting modification on it like a 1940’s style buddy seat is in keeping with its intended retro look as is putting wide “beach bars”/”longhorn” handlebars that look very 1940’s. Vintage looking leather and anything else that enhances its already 1940’s vintage Indian retro look is my recommendation.
What I like most about being a member of the Drifter community. Is you get to see what other Drifter owners have done to and with their bikes to enhance their retro, vintage beauty. Read about Drifter owner’s rides and adventures and see pics of where they rode to. Learn mechanical tips and read “how to” tutoricals in “files” on Drifter facebook sites. Have questions answered by others who have been where you are now and have a source from which to find parts or buy a Drifter at the buy, sell, trade, Drifter sites on Facebook. And just to hang out and read and learn something new all the time. Also you learn of cool places other Drifter owners have been to for you to visit also depending on your location.
Who or what inspires me when it comes to Drifters? People who stick to the vintage look of springer solo seats or buddy seats with grab rails, beach bars, no apes handlebars. Leaving the fenders on the bike. No fairings. People and their Drifters that stick to the intended retro/vintage look of the Drifters but who change out that awful looking two up seat to either a springer solo saddle or a buddy seat. I am also inspired by expert custom leather work on Drifters.
If I could do one mod in particular to my Drifter what would it be? Why?
Well my 1500 Drifter already came with a 1940’s style finged Buddy seat/saddle and retro looking fringed leather saddlebags, fringed leather windshield bag and fringed leather fork bag and old school 1940’s style windshield, plus fringed leather footboards, chrome passenger footboards replacing the foot pegs, leather covered and fringed levers and handles and leather fender skirts plus an Indian front fender light and the “goat bladder” exhaust section removed and factory exhaust replaced with the now hard to find but preferred Roadhouse exhaust. All of which were not factory from Kawasaki. So about the only other mod I would do to my Drifter would be to install a set of wide retro/vintage looking beach bar handlebars. And why? Because it would enhance my Drifter’s already retro/vintage late 1940’s look because many of the bikes in the 1930’s and 1940’s had those wide handlebars like that and is about the last and only vintage/retro mod left my Drifter doesn’t already have.
What do I love the most about my Drifter? It’s retro/vintage 1940’s look and the fact that it looks more like a late 1940’s Indian than my 2014 Indian. Also the power of my 1500’s engine over an 800’s engine. I also love its handling, since my Indian with its big, heavy fairing with all the stereo and computer stuff in it makes my Indian a bit top heavy, but my Drifter isn’t top heavy at all and handles better than my Indian in my opinion. Also its famous reliability.
What’s a project I’m working on right now? Why is it meaningful to me? I’ve been working on and off on my project to repair and repaint my Drifter’s rear fender which had been badly scraped by a previous owner improperly mounting the buddy seat and the saddlebag brackets to the frame, causing the fender to scrape on both side when it hit the saddlebag brackets. It is meaningful to me because the scrapes were large on both sides and messed up the looks of my rear fender and my Drifter is too beautiful to have a scraped up rear fender and now that it’s getting cooler again, I can hopefully get back on it and get the job finished soon. Also I scraped off the rust and old paint on my saddlebag brackets and repainted them also and rebent them so they won’t scrape my fender again (hopefully). One thing that held me up on the fender project, was in Feb of this year I bought a 2006 Ural sidecar rig and had a lot of work to do to get it where it needed to be. Almost done with that now though and soon will be back to working on and finishing my Drifter’s rear fender.
Scrape damage on both sides due to improperly mounted seat and saddlebag brackets.
Rear fender off the bike on table for repairs/sanding, then primer, base coat and clear coat.
Rebent and repainted saddlebag brackets and luggage rack rebent also so brackets won’t scrape rear fender when it moves up and down.
- What do I respond when people confuse my Drifter with an Indian?
It depends on my mood and how many people have asked me the same question at that time or said “Nice Indian” as to how I answer. If it’s someone I know, or if I just feel like it, when they confuse my Drifter with an Indian, I will tell them the story and history of the Drifter. It is a Kawasaki Vulcan and the word “Drifter” means it is a Vulcan with Indian style valanced fenders and it is a tribute bike to the 1948 Indian and both the 800 and 1500 Drifter were made from 1999 to 2005 for the 1500 and to 2006 for the 800. Or if I’m not in the mood for that much explanation, or have already said that multiple times at the same bike night or event, and another person says: “Nice Indian”, I admit I sometimes just say: “Thanks, glad you like it”.
In summation, I’d just like to say I love my 2014 numbered Indian Chief Classic, love my 2006 Ural with sidecar rig, but I think between them and all the other bikes I’ve ever owned, my 1500 Drifter is my favorite in both looks, performance/handling and reliability. I currently own three bikes right now but wouldn’t mind owning a forth one and it would be another 1500 Drifter but one from 2001 with the two tone Oxblood Red/Pearl Ivory factory paint. Drifters are works of art and are addictive! Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down my fellow Drifter riders! Over and out!