Kevin Gerioux's Custom 1998 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic

The first cruiser to be voted Americade's Best of Show

1998 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic
Kevin Gerioux's award-winning custom 1998 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic.Mark Langello

This article was originally published in the February 1999 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Kevin Gerioux has been riding on and off for 30 years, but he never thought to enter one of his bikes in a show. This year at Americade, how­ever, he entered his 1998 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic in the import cruiser class—and won. Americade's Best of Show award is selected from all the winners of the various classes judged during the week. Since a cruiser had never received the top honor (tricked-out touring rigs usually get the nod), Gerioux almost didn't enter his bike. It's a good thing he did, because his Chameleon became the first cruiser in the 15-year history of the Americade rally to be crowned the best of the best.

Gerioux didn’t just pick this gem off the rack at his local Kawasaki dealership. This beauty is the result of an expensive and time-consuming labor of love. For starters, the Classic had to be stripped to the bone. All factory-painted parts were refinished to match the paint scheme slated for the Kawi. Every visible component, no matter how small, received the beautification treatment. The swingarm, drive-shaft cover, motor mount brackets, footpeg brackets…even the electric fan and regulator housing now sport custom color.

Chameleon in motion
Chameleon looks just as good in motion as it does on its sidestand. Lowering the Classic makes the bike look considerably longer, even though the wheel­-base is essentially unchanged.Mark Langello
Classic rear fender
The careful attention paid to the rear fender makes this Classic special. Look at the seamless incorporation of the brake light, license plate and turn signals.Mark Langello

However, this bike is more than just a cool, custom paint job. (We’ll get to that in a bit.) Some of the bodywork was reworked. The rear fender was split in half down the center, then it was reshaped to be wider and longer than stock. The skirts were extended inward, toward the wheel center. The altered fender is stronger than the stocker, thanks to its double-walled construction which wraps steel on the inside of the OE fender. The brake light was recessed into the fender by building a box for the light and lens into the underside of the fender. (The bulb can even be replaced from beneath the fender!) Now, four slots let the red out at stoplights. And the fender maintains its uninterrupted curve right down to where the license plate was “frenched” into the fender. Under the custom-billet plate frame (which is also recessed into the fender), Gerioux’s personalized license plate reads “Gunne,” the nickname he earned as a Marine Corps machine-gunner in Vietnam.

With the lines of the back end reduced to a minimalist statement, the stock turn signals weren't going to clutter things up with their case of the uglies. So, a pair of Rick Doss directionals were molded into the steel of the fender. The directionals use dual-filament bulbs to act as both running lights and turn signals. The front and rear suspension were lowered two inches with Progressive Suspension fork springs and shocks. The rest of the chassis was left in stock form—only with cool paint. (We're getting to that….)

Scalloped tank and air-filter cover
The scalloped tank and air-filter cover show how a theme can be carried in both paint and chrome. By the time you read this, the engine will most likely be powdercoated.Mark Langello

What custom would be complete without a bunch of brightwork?

Gerioux's Chameleon is no exception. The fork sliders were polished and clad with a pair of Aeromach bullet end-caps to add some variety to the shine. Fire and Steel triple-clamp covers make sure the fork top is as shiny as the bottom. A Cobra freeway bar provides the apropos pulled-back look, and gets held in place by a scalloped bar clamp. Cobra's scalloped covers also dress up the hydraulics' master cylinders. Other Cobra bits include a dash plate, bolt covers and air-cleaner covers. Arlen Ness passenger pegs replace the black-rubber stockers, and a Corbin solo saddle keeps Gerioux's tailbone as happy as his eyes. The removable backrest slips into a socket hidden in the seat, giving an extra measure of comfort for the long haul.

Since the judges at Americade subtract points for excessive exhaust volume, Chameleon had stock pipes when these photos were taken. When we last talked to Gerioux, he told us he'd added Vance & Hines pipes and a jet kit. Otherwise, the engine is stock.

Cobra freeway handlebars
The Cobra freeway bar provides the apropos pulled-back look for the custom Vulcan Classic.Mark Langello

OK, now…the paint. Gerioux had an idea about the type of paint scheme he wanted for his new Classic. So he went to Cycle-Delics to see about bringing that concept to life. Well, Rio at Cycle-Delics liked what he heard but thought it should go further. He and Gerioux refined the plan to the end-product you see here. Once the metalwork was finished, a base coat of rosy purplene chromeillusion was applied to the entire bike—including the chassis components previously mentioned. Over the base color, “flip-flop” paint causes the colors to change over a range of eight different hues—from gold, in low-angle sunset light, to a strikingly rich purple. Now you know where the name Chameleon came from. But wait, there’s more…. Scalloped graphics in colors that are complementary to the prism paint grace the fenders, tank and side covers to tie the whole effect together. Everything was then protected and given the coveted “wet look” with multiple clear coats. Both Gerioux and Rio stress that Chameleon was the product of a team effort. Rio performed the design, fabrication and welding, and his partners Mike Calderone and Tom Finley crafted the paint and custom wiring harness, respectively. John-John handled the molding.

Front Fender
The front fender was left stock to keep the emphasis on the rearward flow of the bike’s lines. Polished sliders sandwiched between the chrome fork covers and chrome tips add variety to the shine.Mark Langello

When we spoke with Gerioux re­cently, we asked if Chameleon would be changing once the riding season was over. He said he thought the bike was just about done…except Jardine’s new billet wheels had caught his eye. And the headers might get a custom bend of approximately 35 degrees to up­sweep the Vance & Hines canisters, which would be extended 10–12 inches to exit up past the rear fender. The engine could get powdercoated as well. Gerioux and Rio were also talking about a Marine Corps mural on the tank. Yep, it seems a good custom is never completed—even one that makes history.