Weeks ago, as I was strolling throught Instagram, and not through the park as Iron Maiden would say, I spotted a beautiful photo of a 49 black Chevy. And as I always do, I went and checked more about the initial source. When I saw what Eddie's Rod and Custom shop in Iowa are about, I was immediately attracted. The one that popped most from their projects is the 1917 The Crow Lockhed Lakester. And with a super cool feedback from Eddie, I was all pumped up for this article.

     The lakesters, or belly tankers as they are also known, simply put, are extra fuel tanks that planes had to carry for long range missions. These tanks were ditched on the way home or removed when the plane arrived at its destination. Hot rodders saw the potential of this streamlined shaped components and with one thing in mind, speed, they started to get'em cheap as army surplus after World War II. With a little magic, an engine, wheels and a steering wheel they had a speed purpose built machine. Hot rodding was always about innovation and going fast/er.
   Soon, El Mirage dry lakes and Bonneville Salt Flats became battle grounds for records.

   A bit more on this subject is the awesome video below from King Rose Archives. The video also tells the story of fins on cars, but the belly tankers history can be checked from minute 1:50 through 2:40 with pretty cool archive photos and film.

This Lockhed Lakester has a pretty uncommon and special story though...    The production of the elegant Lockheed Constellation started in the late 30's and early 40's with Howard Hughes as an influential driving force behind this top secure project. Lockheed designed this powerful plane in secrecy for TWA until WWII broke out and the military requisitioned commercial planes for wartime service. The aviation industry was shocked by the technological advancements of the Constellation.
   The "Connie" as it was affectionately dubbed, had unprecedented power with four 18 cylinder Wright R 3350 engines, top speeds of 340 mph and a travel distance of 3,000 miles. Early in the 1950's an even more powerful version took to the skies known as the Super Constellation. Increased power meant increased fuel consumption. The need for increased fuel capacity was addressed by the addition of twin 700 gal low wing tip fuel tanks.
   As the 1950's drew to a close, the advent of the jet airliner rendered the piston engined Constellation obsolete. Over time most "Super Connies" were disassembled, with the tanks sometimes used for new and unique purposes.
  In 2010 this tank was purchased on Barnstormers from a long time plane salvager who at the young age of 96 had used this tank as a hot water source for his cabin. His reason for selling the tank? To acquire money for his whiskey and cigar fund. His great spirit adds to the unique history and mystique of this project.

   This all aluminum wing tip tank has been transformed into a two-person turbo charged 1980 Toyota 3TC (Hemi) 4-cylinder speedster in the style of a vintage salt flat racer. It puts out around 200hp's at 6000 rpm's and a torque of 225 lb/ft at 4800 rpm. The engine is linked to 5 speed transmission and the lakester also sports a 9 inches Ford rear end, disc brakes all around, custom chassis and 20 inches steel wheels.
   Faithful to the aviation theme, the Lockheed Lakester is a unique hybrid of automotive and aviation components, celebrating man's longtime passion for airplanes and automobiles.

   The cockpit features gunner seats from a Lockheed Neptune Submarine Chaser. Directional control is achieved by a vintage steering yoke from a 1948 Rockwell Aero Commander. The ignition switch is adapted from a 1940's era airplane magneto. Situational awareness is aided by a 1940's cockpit pitch indicator and airspeed is measured in knots and mph by a pilot tube and airspeed indicator.

   Even though for this particular belly tanker it took a bit longer to do what it was originally built to do, or better yet originally re-purposed to do, now it's any hot rodder's dream. A going fast slingshot.       It looks like it's doing 200mph just by sitting still. Maybe El Mirage background helps a bit, maybe... 

   Many thanks to Eddie for the support in making this article. I'm really happy that I discovered their shop. This is a family operated shop and from what I can figure it's driven by passion and hard work and it really tries to be an inspiration for the young generation.
   Thumbs up !

Check more on Eddie's Rod and Custom on Facebook / Website / Instagram.

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