Military surplus is cool. The MotorPunk workshop is littered with bits of dead planes that we think might possibly come in handy for something one day, but more realistically were just bought because they looked fantastic. American racers in the ’40s and ’50s put their aircraft detritus to better use, using fuel tanks as a low cost and extremely aerodynamic bodywork for custom racecars called ‘lakesters’ or ‘belly tank racers’. The belly tank of choice was the 315 gallon unit from the Lockheed P38 Lightning.

Bill Burke of the So-Cal Speed Shop built one of the first from a P51 Lightning belly tank and bits of Ford and inspired hundreds of others. Home mechanics could pick one up a tank for $5, stuff in an engine, and head to the Bonneville speed trials. Original belly tanks are hard to come by nowadays so some companies will make a fibreglass one for those wanting to recreate a retro belly tank racer. We want one because they are beautiful, and because they’re considerably more fun than this useless lump of DeHavilland Vampire sat on my desk.


Rich Duisberg

Photos: Wikipedia, Pour 15 mins d’amour, scta-bni.org, bellytankcar.com, cokertire, justacarguy and modern mechanics

One Response

  1. Dr.Octane
    Dr.Octane

    To be fair, a Vampire fragment as a door stop sure beats a common-or-garden house brick as a talking point old chap!

    Reply

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