A Clean Kawasaki Vulcan Classic Custom

It's the simple things...

custom Kawasaki Vulcan Classic
Milt Causey's custom Kawasaki Vulcan Classic is clean, but it sure jumps.Dean Groover

This article was originally published in the December 2001 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

In the course of our travels, we get the chance to peruse acres of modified two-wheeled machinery. Buckets of bolt-ons are all fine and well, but occasionally we come across a custom that doesn’t impress us for what it has on it so much as for what it doesn’t. Milt Causey’s “Grape Ape” is such an example of designed refinement.

First, let’s clarify: The Grape Ape isn’t only a hackneyed cartoon character from the ’70s. Georgia cruiser Causey reclaimed the animated primate’s name for his own wine-colored creation—a considerably more nimble and clean 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500. The only similarities between the simians are their names and color schemes.

Causey let his hands do the talking on this project. Upon taking delivery in 1999, he immediately stripped the bike down to its frame.

Causey’s sole concession to engine performance was the installation of a DynoJet Carb kit and KüryAkyn Hypercharger for deeper inhalation and clean, forceful aesthetics. To complete the breathing cycle, Causey chose a set of Vance & Hines Straight Shots exhaust pipes with Viper tips for their simple horizontal line and performance boost.

The frame was then moved an inch closer to Mother Earth with Progressive Suspension’s lowering kit and abbreviated shocks. Jardine’s billet Raptor wheels shod with a hefty 16-inch Avon 180 rear tire completed the contact patch.

custom Kawasaki Vulcan Classic
Causey's "Grape Ape" is meant to catch your eye with its signature, uncluttered look.Dean Groover

The electrical system is where Causey really made his mark, though—after a Custom Chrome Bullet Headlight housing was mounted, all stock connectors were cleverly relocated under the stock gas tank. A Tri-Bar light with a blistering 80/100 halogen bulb was slipped in for an elegant front focal point with plenty of candlepower, and the elusive stock ignition was replaced with a Thunder Manufacturing assembly mounted on the console. A Custom Chrome Arrowhead taillight supplemented by SlimLine turn signals took up residence in the rear.

We know the Ape is grape, but its paint scheme is more than monotone—by night, the bike looks solidly ebony. But under a sunny sky, metallic, purple-tinted ghost flames brushed on by Starr Custom Cycles of Dallas, Georgia, leap out at the viewer for a stunning understated effect. It’s clean, but it sure jumps.

Causey says he considers an uncluttered bike his signature—and the Ape is as clean as a whistle. Causey rerouted all wiring inside the stock handlebar for maximum effect. All unsightly control cables were also enhanced by Goodridge stainless steel lines, and the triple trees received shiny Cobra chrome covers. Causey keeps his keister on a custom Corbin seat, with his feet settled on a set of Jardine forward controls.

A Cobra chrome drive shaft and differential bolt covers keep up the Ape’s appearance in the undercarriage, but Causey didn’t stop there—he adorned all the bolts and nuts with chrome acorn nut covers from JC Whitney. So while some might think it’s obsessive, we feel that intense attention to detail allows this Ape to stand out from the rest of the slovenly oafs out there.