Ads for endurance extenders are all over the TV these days, and while those salves and pills may be of dubious value, another form of endurance extender was tested and found effective during the second world war. Droppable belly tanks extended the range of the escort P51 Mustangs, allowing them to accompany their protectorate B17s and 24s deeper onto the continent, and keeping the ME109s off their backs. As the tanks were expendable, they needed to be replaced after each sortie, and the allies cranked them out to meet the demand.
War's end saw a considerable volume of military surplus material - including a whole lot of these belly tanks - hit the civilian market. Hot rodders, realizing the aerodynamic cat-turd shape of the tanks, grabbed them up as cheap and slippery bodies for their cars in which they plied the outer edges of the performance envelope on the hard, unforgiving salt flats of the Utah desert.
One of those cars, which is a multi-record holder, is the subject of today's heated debate- the Johnson and Shipley #48-B land speed belly tank racer. One of a series of three, this hemi-powered lakester holds the 1963 B and '64 A speed records at, respectively, 259.92 and 263.350 mph. Don Johnson was the driver for these runs, and Jeff Shipley kept everything bolted together. The center of Shipley's attention was, no doubt, the 331 c.i.d. Chrysler V8 which is topped with a 6-71 GMC blower and two-port Hilborn fuel injection. A Gilmore in-and-out box transfers power to the quick change Halibrand rear end.
If you are interested in seeing one of 48-B's sisters, #28 may be found at the Peterson Automotive Museum. The other may be more difficult to catch as it sold to a private collector in 2007 for $440,000.
This Moon-disc equipped salt rocket is set at a price a bit more dear than its sister- $500,000. At that price, you're really getting three pieces of historical significance- the WWII angle; the Bonneville speed trials bit; and the individual history of this particular car. For that price, it has been fully restored, but needs mechanical work should you want to hit the salt with your investment.
So, is half a million a Nice Price for a storied Bonneville bomber? Or does that price seem more like Crack Pipe than Salt Lake?
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