I Have A Strong And Sudden Desire To Build A Belly Tanker

Illustration for article titled I Have A Strong And Sudden Desire To Build A Belly Tanker
Photo: Craigslist

You can find the weirdest shit in Nevada, and nowhere is that more true than on Craigslist. Two feet across, almost 19 feet long, and built from the beginning for going stupid fucking fast, these huge tubes were originally tasked with carrying fuel for an airplane. Right now they’re just hanging out in the middle of someone’s desert back yard, but imagine one of these suckers going 250 miles per hour ripping across the Bonneville salt flats. Hell yeah.


Following the Second World War, American fighters came home with a speed-shaped hole in their heart, and the only thing that would bolt in there to replace it was a big thumping American V8. The 1950s were packed with speed innovations, and the hot rod culture that sprung up around it. Going fast was a new kind of life that took guts and gasoline in equal measure. Bonneville became a holy ground.

While the average hot rodder couldn’t afford, or even understand, aerodynamic testing. Aero was a science still in its infancy back then, but the smarter hot rodders knew it was incredibly important. With surplus fighter plane parts basically littering the ground in the U.S. racers figured out that drop tanks were super slippery and stable in the wind, so naturally they bolted wheels on and stuffed hellaciously large flat-head motors in them.

At that point it was a hang-on-and-pray method of making it down the 8-mile course at full throttle. Now obviously back then the cars were powered by hopped up flathead Fords with a couple hundred horsepower, knocking on the 200 mph door.

This pair of belly tanks on Craigslist has me dreaming of building my own top speed racer. I imagine something super compact powering the rear wheels, like a high-revving motorcycle engine would be the hot ticket. Give the driver’s seat as much recline as possible with just enough helmet poking out the top to be able to see, and a streamlined roll structure over the driver’s head, naturally. I can just imagine something like Ducati’s 224 horsepower Panigale V4 engine screaming at 16,000 RPM a few inches behind my head. I don’t really have any interest in setting records, I just want to go hellaciously fast for no damn reason but the speed.

Here’s the full listing in Lynn’s own words:

For sale or trade, I have ( 2 ) ( sold as a pair ) Two North American Aviation external 275 gallon auxiliary fuel tanks, model F100. These are aluminum, and weigh about 210 lbs each, as the tag reads. These measure 18 feet 7 1/2" long without the tail fin, and about 2 feet in diameter at the middle area. The tail fin is about 28" long, there is only one tail fin. Looking thru the fill spout, they are clean inside. Have spec tag info if you are interested. I thought about making a pontoon boat or scuba sub. To many projects. Thanks for looking Lynn

May consider trade for some vintage dirt bikes.

I’m not sure what someone in the Nevada desert is going to do with a pontoon boat or a personal submersible. Perhaps that’s why they never got around to getting those projects started. I’m sure if I bought these tanks with a similar level of ambition, they’d end up on Craigslist again in a few years. Too many projects. Thanks for looking, Brad. 

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.



Those don’t look like the ideal drop tanks for a belly tanker. Too long and narrow. I know those sound like good things, but you won’t fit in that tank.

Every one in a while, I browse drop tanks on ebay. I share your sickness.

Like you, I don’t want to set records, but I’ve thought about records like “fastest 50cc” or the like.  I’m certainly not looking to set any absolute record, and a belly tanker wouldn’t do it now, anyway.