H Garage Vampire Squadron | A Custom Boxer
There has always been an intimate bond between aircraft and motorcycles, a connection that doesn’t seem to exist in the doldrums of commuter vehicles. These machines are not for those who live life asleep at the wheel; they are for those who know that one misstep can spell certain disaster.
Hesitation and miscalculation are the mortal enemies of any pilot or motorcyclist—vehicles that thrive in the extreme will always suffer the same consequences. H Garage’s 1983 Honda Gold Wing GL1100 café racer, that we’ve come to know as Vampire Squadron, epitomizes that link.
The name Vampire Squadron alone is enough to let your mind wander to its deepest regions, but there is little association with Vlad the Impaler here. The Vampire Squadron—officially known as the USAF 44th Fighter Squadron—was activated by the US Army Air Corps on New Year’s Day 1941.
During their time in the Pacific Theater, the Vampire Squadron relied heavily on the unorthodox Lockheed P-38 Lightning—an aircraft that you may not know by name, but certainly know by appearance. Its twin-boom and central nacelle design is iconic in terms of aircraft design. As to why this Gold Wing became Vampire Squadron, the answer is simple—the client’s father served with the 44th Fighter Squadron.
Due to its fearsome armaments—four .50-caliber machine guns and a 37mm cannon—the P-38 Lightning reputedly earned the moniker of Der Gabelschwanzteufel (The Fork-Tailed Devil) from Luftwaffe pilots. Its unique design provided some limitations, but when put in its element, it performed admirably.
So, too, can be said of the Honda Gold Wing, which is not a model commonly associated café racers. Scott Halbleib, owner of H Garage in Louisville, Kentucky, saw the unharnessed potential within the ’83 Gold Wing and allowed the former touring bike to shine as a sleek racer, with its unusual flat-four engine as the centerpiece.
Vampire Squadron came into the H Garage workshop with its fair share of battle scars, requiring a completely new front end after a particularly nasty wreck. Once replaced and given a clean bill of health, the Gold Wing began its slow transformation into something far bolder than Honda engineers had ever envisioned.