Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to 3,000+ Reviews, Guides, & More

Rare rides: 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter

Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter

There are probably less than 40 Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter cruisers in Australia but one owner, Norman Hall, recently caught up with two other Drifters.

“There are lots of interesting and rare motorcycles to come across that can put a smile on your face,” says Norman of Melbourne.

“The Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter is just one of those bikes that you will be lucky to ever come across.”

Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter
Norman Hall with his Drifter

Rare Drifter

Murray Sayle of Kawasaki Australia says the Kawasaki Drifter was imported into Australia for the 1999 model year.

“There were approximately 50 units sold in 1999-2000. There was one 2000 model year unit sold, sales were slow … and it was not imported again after 1999.”

There have been a few private imports but not many.

If we assume that 75% of Drifters are still on the road and ridden regularly then there are probably less than 40 of them across all of Australia, Norman says.

Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter
Drifters owned by (from left) Norman, Rhett and Colin

“Until last week I had only seen three Drifters, other than my own, though between a friend from the Vulcan Baggers Group and myself we had placed roughly 26 spread across Australia,” he says.

“With the aid of Rhett, a new Drifter owner, we arranged a small get together of three of these rare bikes and took them for a spin from Melbourne down to Flinders and back.

“After our impromptu photo session we headed for a coffee and to spin a few stories about our relatively rare bikes.

“Between fellow Drifter owners Rhett, Colin and myself we speculated that this may be the first time ever that three Drifters have ridden together in Victoria in the last 20 years.”

Inherited pride and joy

Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter
Norman’s father, Kerry, on the Drifter

Norman inherited his Drifter back in 2013 after his father, Kerry, passed away.

“It was his pride and joy,” he says.

“The Drifter will remain in our family for sentimental reasons and my youngest son has already placed dibs on it when I die, or sooner if he has his way.”

Since receiving the bike Norman has ridden it about 25,000km through Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, ACT and New South Wales.

“Because this bike is rare, one of the downsides (or upsides) to owning and riding it has been the constant conversations with strangers wherever I go,” Norman says.Norman Hall with his Drifter

“Until the new Indians started to become more common place, most had never seen its like. As well as the ride, the constant waves from kids in cars and thumbs up from drivers helps keep a big smile on my face when riding.

“The Drifter has also proven to be one of the most reliable bikes I have ever owned and only on one occasion did it have any issues that slowed my ride.

“The problem ended up being one wire under the tank with an intermittent contact but the Drifter still got me safely from Newcastle to Melbourne before the problem was found.

“Kawasaki were ahead of their time with this bike with its unusual design, ultra-smooth gear box, responsive engine and smooth ride. It remains a better ride than most other bikes I have been on that are much younger.”

Norman first rode an old Honda C90 at the age of 15. After many years of not riding due to the usual work, marriage, kids etc excuses he returned to riding and in recent years owned several Yamaha V Star cruisers. He also owns a 2017 Indian Roadmaster.

* Now tell us about your rare ride. Click here to send photos and information.

  1. Great story, and awesome to hear that Norman’s motorcycle will continue on to the 3rd generation.

  2. Glad he has a reliable bike, because my experience with the Vulcan was anything but. From memory, dodgy clutch caused by the back torque limiter, cracked radiator mount, problematic exhaust gas valves, carburettor icing in cold or foggy weather. Still loved it however, but man it required some serious TLC.

  3. I had one, on which the dealer in Gosford had affixed an Indian head to the front mudguard like the old Indians had. I really liked the engine and the bike looked good (subjective of course), but being short I found the forward controls absolutely killed my thighs because it was too much of a stretch for my legs. Being my first and only cruiser, I also found myself banging the foot-boards into the road on roundabouts; on one occasion it actually lifted the back wheel off the ground and I found myself sliding towards a motorcar in the other lane. Fortunately the wheel came back down in time for me to regain control and stand the bike up. It was a nice looking bike with a nice feel and was rather unusual in that the rear mudguard is attached to the swinging arm, but I was a bit annoyed that Kawasaki Australia didn’t import any of the accessories available in other markets. I was even more annoyed (to put it politely) when bits started falling off during the warranty period and the response from K. A. was that bits falling off wasn’t covered under warranty! That put me off Kawasaki for life.

    I traded that bike in in Canberra for another BMW in about 2001 and got half what I paid for it (paid $15,000 and got about $7500). By the way, I also owned a Suzuki RE5 for a few years in the late seventies, so I’ve had a couple of unusual bikes.

  4. I have had a 1999 Drifter for 6 years. Have found it an ideal highway bike as long as I do not get too ambitious going around corners. The bike has only done 35,000 km (12,000 km when I brought it.)
    The Drifter has not given a problem mechanically and like an early model Indian i do not go past a Service Station , 220 km on a tank is a bit limiting. I am a member of the Iron Indian Riders Association of Australia and we have now established our own Drifter Section as there are 3 off us owning Drifters as well as Indians from 1935, 44 & 52.
    Around town Drifters are a very heavy bike and we are looking to see if it is possible to import the VN800 version of the Drifter into Australia. The VN800 is a lot easier to ride yet still good for a highway cruise.

    1. I have a 99 Drifter 800 with 4100 original miles on it bike is like brand new Many extras go with the bike. Brand new jockey shifter kit still in box brand new tires still in plastic wrap. I’m in Florida. Joe

  5. i bought a 99 drifter just over 12 months ago. with 32000 km i am the 3rd owner & it has spent most of it’s time in storage.
    the exhaust had holes in it & could not be replaced so a set of ceramic open pipes were made & fitted. the sound is a big difference & has turned heads of many Harley owners. it came with a box of parts such as a home made rack to fit the saddlebags, 2 tool rolls to fit on the bars, a springer seat & brass exhaust heat shields.
    i have put 2000km on the bike & never had an issue apart from a cracked radiator cap, & i still managed to get from Sydney to Newcastle & back before realising.
    it is now in having a minor service, getting the heat shields fitted & the seat remodelled & reupholstered to suit the vintage look.
    the seat i find i sit too far back in & it is not overly comfortable, having owned the 2000 Nomad, i bought the Drifter because i love the engine, this is going to be my forever bike with any luck.

  6. The Drifter R1 is purple with everything blacked out, it also had silver on the engine covers to make it look old, I believe 51 units were sold in 99/2000, the R2 drifter was sold in Australia in 2001 and 2002 it had a better tank with a hidden seam, but unfortunately everything on the R2 bike was chrome which in my opinion didn’t look as old school as the R1, the R2 2001 drifter was a brown and cream two tone colour of which about 21 units were sold in Australia, the R2 2002 drifter was black ( the bike in the center top photo) I believe 30 of those were sold in Australia, I reckon there’s got to be at least 70 still around, a collectable classic ?

  7. Nice to hear all your stories about your Drifters. In 2015, I was lucky and fortunate to purchase and almost brand-new 1999 Drifter with 249 miles on it from Pennsylvania with a number of options added and the original equipment it came with. The gentleman knew very little about the internet and I just got lucky finding it deep into the web that it was for sale. I asked him to hold it for a week while I make my way down from Toronto . I brought it back home, put another 550 miles on it and it’s been in my living room since. I’d still be riding it if it wasn’t for some back issues. Think I’ll just hold on to it and pass it on to my godson when Rider Heaven comes a-callin’. Enjoy your rides my friends.

  8. I have just sold my 1999 Vulcan Drifter after 12 years of daily use. Never had to crack the motor. Replaced battery once. I have now purchased 2010 Vulcan Voyager. Until now I didn’t realize how rare the Drifter is. I am Melbourne based and would love to catch up with other Vulcan riders.

  9. Bought my ’99 in late 2000, NSW. 184,000 K now, still going strong. Very reliable bike, much more reliable than a BMW (’94 140,000 K) . Met 6 owners , including Norman (Vic) who inherited his from his father, and two owners in Qld. All have been personalised. Mine is now two tone (Buttercup yellow & Oxblood red) with red pin-striping and dual exhausts, one of 200 Corbin tan solo seats. Goes to Nabiac Museum when I die.

Comments are closed.