Kawasaki Vulcan 750 – Stepping on Harley Davidson Toes

The Kawasaki Vulcan 750 was Kawasaki’s first ‘Cruiser’ motorcycle and it hit the mark so well that it remained largely unchanged for its full 22 year production period. 

It is a motorcycle well worth reading about so without further ado let’s start with it’s history.

Table of Contents

History of the Kawasaki Vulcan

The Vulcan was first introduced in 1985. It first hit the market as a 699cc displacement before being bumped up to 749cc in 1986. The reason being initially tariff restrictions in the U.S meant displacement needed to be below 700cc. These were lifted in 1986 and so the 749cc was implemented which remained in place for the full life of production until 2006.

It was Kawasaki’s first four-stroke street engine that was not the transverse in-line design which was seen in most of their sports bikes. Instead it was a liquid cooled, 55° V-twin, with 4-valves, DOHC and two 34mm carbs. 

A gear-driven counter balancer and rubber engine mounts gave the Vulcan it’s legendary smoothness. The bike was also known for its shaft drive which was normally only to be found on bigger cruisers. 

The engine delivered 66HP and a top speed of 125mph. 

Kawasaki shocked everyone with the release of the Vulcan 750 as they had been known for their sports performance machines up until that point. However, the famous manufacturer was also known to take risks and they usually paid off, risk meant reward and so did diversifying their line-up.

The Vulcan 750 hit the market at a time when the 750 engine was revered by the industry and it created a market for riders who were used to sports bikes but liked the appeal of a cruiser. The smooth engine was a fresh approach for a big V-twin and was a huge part of the appeal for those who loved the cruiser style but not the vibration of a cruiser ride. 

It was the best of both worlds.

The bike was comfortable and capable of chasing down miles for as long as the rider wanted with ease, it was reliable and maintenance was affordable. It weighed in at 498lbs which was considered lightweight (and would still be now) compared to the competition which was also a great selling point.

The only real changes over the years to the Vulcan were cosmetic and some upgrading of components but nothing really significant. 

Variants would arise in the shape of different engine displacements. The Vulcan 400 was released in 1986, it would start life with a belt drive and 398cc but was soon replaced by a chain drive, and air-cooled 399cc, V-twin engine. The strategy behind the smaller Vulcan was simply to appeal to as many riders as possible. 

The Vulcan 500 arrived in 1990 and remained a successful model for 20 years of production until after the 2009 model year. 

The Big Brother Vulcan 1500 arrived in 1987 with a 1,470 cc liquid-cooled SOHC V-twin and would survive until 1999. 

Kawasaki’s foray into cruisers turned out to be one of the best business decisions the company could have made, which given their success with their high performance motorcycles meant they were truly cementing their place in the motorcycle industry as one of the leading giants. 

The 22 year run of the original Vulcan 750 with very little changes is a major testament to its original design being exactly what the people wanted both at the time and throughout the following two decades. 

The Vulcan 750 appealed to a wide range of riders which was more than could be said for the leading cruisers at the time which were mainly being bought by middle aged men as status symbols or riders in motorcycle clubs. 

Motorcycle Cruiser magazine ran a poll about the Vulcan 750 in 1996 and the “Respondents’ ages ranged from 19 to 58. Women accounted for 5 percent of the responses.” Over 97% responded by saying they were satisfied with their bike. 

The running costs of the Vulcan compared to a Harley Davidson were much lower and this most certainly was (still is) part of the appeal of choosing this Japanese cruiser; it would have also helped diversify the age range, making it more accessible for younger riders. 

Today it is reasonably common to hear about riders doing 100,000 trouble free miles on the Vulcan 750.

Buying an Original Vulcan 750

If you were looking to buy an original Vulcan 750 today CycleWorld has a few examples online with prices between $1,999 and $5,699. 

The $3,000 point is the average price across various sites, both from private sellers and dealers. 

The exception is the early 1985 models that had the 699cc engines. These are now becoming harder to find and as such, sellers want a premium.

Restoring a Vulcan 750

When it comes to restoring an original Vulcan 750 there are plenty of components on the market that you will have your pick of, both original and replica parts. The popularity of the bikes and long lifespan for a model, means there were plenty of bikes produced.

So now parts, frames, rolling chassis’ and donor bikes are quite freely available at good prices. The Vulcan 750 makes a perfect choice for a novice looking for a restoration project on the basis that parts are easy to attain and fairly priced. Some examples are listed below just off eBay:

  • $324.99 Original Frame
  • $25.99 Rectifier
  • $72.85 Windshield
  • $18.75 Indicator Set

Is a Kawasaki Vulcan 750 Collectible?

If you can find one of the earliest model year Vulcan’s then yes, they are desirable by collectors and make a worthwhile investment, and if kept original, will undoubtedly continue to crawl up in prices as they are coveted by collectors.

However, the Vulcan 750 isn’t a classic motorcycle that is going to shoot up in value so shouldn’t be viewed as a financial investment. 

The Vulcan 750 is a popular donor bike for a Bobber, Chopper or even for a Cafe Racer project due to their V-twin engine, low price and proven engine reliability.

Kawasaki Vulcan 750 used as a donor for a bobber build
A lot of the old Vulcan 750’s have been snapped up and used as a donor for custom bike builds

Also, the cost of a custom project based around a Kawasaki Vulcan 750 should be much more cost efficient than say that of one based on an 80’s Harley Davidson V-twin engine

So, invest in your own creativity and the value will be in riding a motorcycle that you designed and put together yourself

Verdict

Kawasaki was under pressure to bring back the Vulcan for years after it was discontinued, in 2015 they caved and brought to life the new Vulcan. In my opinion it doesn’t stand up to the original (as with nearly every bike that is inspired from an earlier design).

As the first attempt at a cruiser to come from Kawasaki, the Vulcan 750 was a beast and nailed its purpose, offering a more affordable and different feeling to a cruiser when the world had come to accept Harley Davidson as King. 

Kawasaki Vulcan 750 - Stepping on Harley Davidson Toes

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