Volkswagen Bike That Turns Heads

Chances are you’ve seen Jerry Caballero around Killeen if something resembling a Volkswagen Beetle and a Harley-Davidson passed you on the road and you said “What the heck was that?” Caballero, 65, is the creator of one of the more unique vehicles to roam Killeen’s streets.

It’s a piecemeal trike that is all Harley-Davidson on the front end and all Volkswagen Beetle in the back. He refers to his creation as “Red” or “El Diablo.” The 14-foot trike is a Frankenstein. From the ashes of wrecked and junked vehicles, Red emerged.  It is a combination between a 1979 Volkswagen Beetle convertible Caballero picked up from a junk yard, the front end of a 1985 Harley, a fender from a 2003 bike, and a 2002 gas tank from a wrecked motorcycle.

Add to it some custom upholstery from Ick’s, homemade handle bars he welded in his backyard and a caliente red paint job, and Caballero created a vehicle that combines two of his passions — motorcycles and VW Beetles.

“I tell people I had a nightmare, and this is the result,” he said.

Caballero began driving Beetles in the ’60s. His first was a 1955. Since then he’s owned several VW buses. But all the while, he also rode motorcycles. When his shoulders and back began to give him problems, Caballero knew he couldn’t ride as much as he liked.

“In my mind, I had to come up with something that would be easier to turn,” he said.

That’s when he created his first trike, a 1989 Honda Goldwing he converted with a kit. He liked it so much, trikes became “a lifestyle” to Caballero.  He now belongs to the Brotherhood of the Third Wheel. “We’re bikers, but we’re getting older,” Caballero said. Caballero sometimes refers to the trike as a Harley V-Wagon. He actually tried to register it as that with the state. Officials wouldn’t have it. Instead, Red is registered as a “2010 assembled vehicle,” which does the trike little justice.

Caballero said much credit must be given to shop owners who enthusiastically embraced his unique vision. He is the president of Cen-Tex Road Riders, chairman of Tri-County Toy Run and a member of the American Legion Post 133. The armed forces remain near and dear to Caballero. He is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Cavalry Division. He worked in Veterans Affairs after his service. Now he is one of the last people to send off soldiers before they deploy. This week Caballero will spend each day sending off soldiers as they deploy as a volunteer for the Red Cross.

Five questions for Caballero

What’s your favorite book? “Phantom” — Book 11 of Terry Goodkind’s series The Sword of Truth

What’s your favorite movie? Anything with John Wayne

What’s your favorite food?

Mexican food

What’s your favorite hobby? His trike Red

What’s your favorite saying? “No problem!”

2011 KAWASAKI VULCAN® 1700 VAQUERO

The dictionary defines vaquero as a Spanish-origin word meaning “cowboy” or “herdsman.” Well, if that cowboy happened to be independent, adventurous, undeniably-cool and sported handmade boots and a custom hat, he’d probably ride a 2011 Kawasaki Vulcan® 1700 Vaquero.

Baggers are arguably the coolest cruisers these days, and it’s not a stretch to see why. The really good ones are low, long, ultra stylish and, with their chopped fairings and hard-case side bags, plenty functional.

The new Vaquero bagger is all that – and much more. Kawasaki engineers and designers didn’t just throw custom paint and a blacked-out motif on a Vulcan 1700 and call it done. They digested valuable owner and market research, and scrutinized every system – engine, chassis, features, bodywork and appearance – to ensure that the bike being developed squared nicely with what cruiser buyers wanted.

Custom, blacked-out details are your first clue to the new Vaquero’s mission, and there’s plenty to see. It all starts with the beautiful Ebony or Candy Fire Red paint on the abbreviated fairing, sculpted tank and curvaceous bodywork that looks as if it could be a half-inch deep. Luxurious chrome accents (engine guards, exhaust, mirrors, etc.) provide a beautiful counterpoint to the glossy paintwork, but it’s perhaps the multi-textured blacked-out engine and chassis treatment that best highlights the Vaquero’s radical aesthetic look. The engine, air-cleaner cover, wheels, fork assembly and tank cover all get the blackout treatment, which gives the bike a true custom look that’s beautiful and menacing at once. It’s definitely not a motorcycle you’ll easily forget.

Beneath all that beautiful bodywork, paint and chrome is a superbly engineered motorcycle, one that blends power, handling, durability and confidence-inspiring character in a massively functional package. It all starts with the Vaquero’s 1700cc liquid-cooled V-twin, which powers all four Vulcan 1700 models for 2011 – Voyager®, Classic, Nomad and Vaquero. A thoroughly proven design, this 52-degree Vee boasts the very latest in engine technology yet looks like a throwback to the past, a time when the V-twin was the engine to have powering your motorcycle. Features include an overhead cam design, high compression and a long-stroke dimensional design that results in the sort of effortless low- and mid-range thrust that’s so desirable and useful in a big-inch cruiser.

Vaquero’s throttle valve system works with the advanced electronic fuel injection to optimize engine response without detracting from its distinctive V-twin throb. The system utilizes an Accelerator Position Sensor (APS) and a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) that feed data to the ECU, which adjusts the throttle plates to tailor intake airflow accordingly. The system offers a natural throttle feel, because the APS is activated by a throttle body pulley connected by cables to the throttle grip. Besides the obvious FI advantages such as improved fuel economy and automatic adjustment for altitude changes, the system also permits easy hands-off warm-up and idle speed control. Vaquero also features a water-cooled alternator that produces a staggering 46.8 amps of electrical output – plenty to power a selection of electronic accessories to enrich motorcycle travel.

The result of all this new-think engine tech is a massive quantity of usable torque spread out over a shockingly wide rpm range. With 108 foot-pounds of torque, a mere twist of the Vaquero’s throttle delivers arm-stretching acceleration for freeway passing or spirited riding, and the smooth wave of low-rpm grunt is always ready to please when you’re just boppin’ down the boulevard, checking out the scene and chillin’.

Speaking of just cruisin’ along; the Vaquero offers true touring-bike convenience in the form of its electronic cruise control system, conveniently operated from the right handlebar and usable at any speed between 30 and 85 mph in any of the top four gears. The cruise system can be disengaged in any of the following ways: usage of the brake lever, clutch lever, rear brake pedal, or manually turning the throttle grip past the “closed” position.

Additional touring acumen shines through the engine’s six-speed transmission with overdriven 5th and 6th gears, which contributes to a relaxed ride and excellent fuel economy at highway speeds. Power is routed to the rear wheel via a narrow carbon fiber-reinforced drive belt that has a 40 percent higher tensile strength than current Kevlar belts. And that chopped, custom-look fairing? Although lower than a traditional windshield or full fairing, it still cuts a decent-sized hole in oncoming atmosphere, giving the rider a useful still-air cocoon in which to enjoy the ride.

Lockable side-loading hard bags set the Vaquero apart from its Vulcan 1700 brethren. They’re beautifully integrated and spacious, and styled to highlight the bike’s long, low look. A scooped saddle offers a comfortable rider perch, while a minimalist passenger pad sits atop a wildly shaped rear fender that integrates equally stylish taillight and turn signal assemblies.

The frame holding all this hardware together is a single backbone, double cradle unit designed to be a slim and light as possible for an easy reach to the ground and optimal handling. Bolted to the steering head is a mammoth fork assembly offering 5.5 inches of wheel travel and a thoroughly compliant ride. Suspension in back consists of twin air-assisted shocks with spring preload and rebound damping adjustability working through a beefy steel swingarm. Nine-spoke cast aluminum flat-black wheels hold fat, 130/90 front and 170/70 radial tires that offer light handling characteristics, superb traction and long life. Braking hardware consists of dual 300mm front discs with twin-piston calipers and a 300mm rear disc with a two-piston caliper.

It all adds up to a truly top-of-the-line bagger that encompasses a perfect combination of traits: It’s functional in a wide range of environments, from inner-city cruisin’ to running down the open road. It’s got highly advanced technology. And it’s knee-shakingly beautiful, a bike that’ll put goosebumps on your arms and neck every time you open the garage door to take a peek. We’re sure any hombre would appreciate this one. Custom hat and all…

Authentic Kawasaki Accessories are available through Kawasaki dealers.