Yamaha RZR350R | P40 Flying Tiger Custom Bike

Air Strike Motorcycle

As a youngster growing up in Taiwan, Nick Gargano was a natural fan of the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force in the early 1940s, more popularly known as the Flying Tigers. The pilots wore jackets with the Nationalist Chinese flag-now flown by Taiwan-giving them special meaning to the Taipei-born Gargano.

Eventually motorcycles became a focus of Gargano’s life, and two-strokes the object of his devotion. An ingenious amalgamation of parts, his P40 Flying Tiger is powered by a Yamaha RZR350R two-stroke motor rebuilt by Jay Mendoza, featuring a Pro Design Cool Head and custom stainless steel Jim Lomas expansion chambers with one-off titanium mufflers. RG500.com was the source of many custom parts, including an aluminum radiator, billet clutch housing and aluminum boost bottle, while RGV Steve’s Motorcycles supplied custom rear sets, headlight and aluminum kickstand.

To modernize the chassis, a late-model Yamaha YZF-R6 front end was grafted to the bike and a Honda NSR250 single-sided swingarm with a Penske shock was installed. Kunihide Okamoto sourced exotic Japanese parts, including the gauges and solo seat cowl.

But, the centerpiece of the bike is its graphic treatment. "The flashing shark’s teeth of the Curtis-Wright P-40s and trademark as Flying Tigers are world famous. I have seen many different versions of the Flying Tiger paint theme on cars and motorcycles," Gargano explains, "so to honor the AVG, I decided to build my version of the famous paint theme featuring the shark mouth. I used Illustrator to design the over-theme of the bike and decal placement, and RG500.com had the bike painted to my design." Having accomplished his goal, Gargano is selling the motorcycle and moving on to a Suzuki RG500-based project.

The result is a stunning tribute to the brave men who rallied to protect an American ally from aggression in the days preceding our country’s official involvement in World War II.

Paint: PaintBySimon.com

Photography by Cordero Studios