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Janaki Jitchotvisut

Will This Kawasaki Vulcan That's Been Sitting For Over 20 Years Run?

There’s nothing quite like a cool motorcycle with some family history, is there? Now, of course, not all of us come from a long line of riders, so many of us have never and will never experience that particular joy. For those that do, though, it’s something special—and it’s something that YouTube channel Merten’s Workin’s is currently in the process of exploring with Grandpa’s 1987 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500. 

In this video, the bike has just been retrieved from Grandpa’s shed in Wisconsin, then taken back home to Washington state (along with Grandpa’s 1949 Ford pickup truck, which makes a brief appearance). The good news is, it’s been sitting in a shed for the past 22 or so years—so at least it’s had a roof over its head, which has to count for something, right? 

Unfortunately, though, it’s still been sitting stationary in a shed for 22 years, which means it is as filthy as anything. So, its new owner does what anyone would do, and starts cleaning it off so he can get a better look and start actively trying to get the bike to run. That’s the thing: Even though this bike has been in its new owner’s family since it was new, at the point where this video starts, no one knows if it will run after all this time. If it does, cool! If not, of course, then it’s a challenge to be overcome. 

Here’s where it gets a bit controversial, as the guy starts going to town with a power washer on Grandpa’s bike. The paint isn’t perfect on a bike this old, of course—and neither is anything else, but it still seems a bit harsh (I mean, these aren’t dirt bike plastics). Still, there are probably about as many opinions on power washing as there are on chain cleaning methods, and in any case, it’s a preliminary clean, not the deep clean this bike is very clearly going to need. 

After several minutes, it’s time to start taking the bike apart to see if it will run. Unsurprisingly, the battery is flat—and as we later find out, it’s also very likely just something that Grandpa had sitting around and chucked into the bike, rather than being the correct size for the application.  

The carbs come off, and of course they need a good cleaning—I mean, they’ve been sitting undisturbed for twenty-plus years. The jets are gunked up, and there’s other gunk that needs to be dealt with—but they’re not totally terrible since they’ve at least been sitting inside. This video doesn’t show the carb cleaning process, but does describe it—and once they’re cleaned up and back in the bike, and the right battery is fitted, it’s time to try seeing if the engine will turn over.  

The fuel tank is in a bit of a sorry state. Much like a classic movie, where you hear the monster off-screen but never see it, we’re treated to an auditory horror show. Listen closely, and you’ll hear what sounds like some nasty rust chunks shushing around like so many dry, metallic leaves inside what should be a solid steel cavity, but is clearly not.  

Luckily, this guy has a tiny Predator fuel tank laying around, so he’s able to fit it to the bike temporarily in order to see if he can get it to run. The good news is, by the end of the video, this Vulcan 1500 is back among the living—even if it’s only running on a single cylinder. There’s clearly work to do, but that’s why it’s a project bike!  

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