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						Ford Lakester11
Bonneville Belly Tanker

Flathead Ford-powered Lakester

Back in the 1940s and ’50s, they didn’t build speed with ball bearing turbos, titanium valvetrains or methanol injection. At least not in the case of your average hot rodder or shade-tree mechanic, as speed was more commonly created with cutting torches, mills and lathes. It was all about modifying and fine-tuning bits and pieces from the big OEs or military surplus, like a ’30s Ford chassis here, a small-block Chevrolet engine there, and maybe even some aircraft switches for good measure. These methods were taken to extreme in the traditional lakester, or belly tanker.

The idea for converting aircraft fuel tanks into streamlined racers is most commonly credited back to So-Cal Speed Shop’s Bill Burke, who noted the aerodynamic shape of the drop tanks after seeing a barge full of them at Guadalcanal. These tanks were produced in huge numbers, and allowed aircraft to carry additional fuel supply with the ability to drop the tanks afterward. After noting that the dimensions of the tank would accommodate early Ford mechanicals, Burke created the first lakester with a 168-gallon tank from a P-51 Mustang. Most lakesters would follow Burke’s formula from there on out, albeit with larger tanks from aircraft like the P-38 Lightening, and the drop-tank silhouette would become a common sight on America’s salt flats for decades.

The lakester project offered here on eBay exhibits a high degree of originality, with most major components derived from period-correct sources. The drop tank itself was allegedly sourced from a WWII aircraft, but no model or make is given. The tank measures 148 inches in length, by 35.5 inches wide at the center, and the seller reports that the tank has been stretched in the center. The chassis rides on a 110-inch wheelbase and utilizes a ’39-’40 Ford rear axle.

Power comes from the iconic Ford flathead V8, which is expertly tucked in the lakester’s skinny beltline. Reported to be from around 1950, the engine would likely be either the 8BA or 0BA. But the seller is including another engine in the sale, and presumably had planned to install it in the car eventually. The 1937-’39 flathead is the 60 hp V8-60, which was a popular little mill for post-war midgets and other racers. With its three-speed transmission, this V8-60 looks to be in good running order and would be worth swapping in.

With 34 bids placed thus far, the current high bid sits at $6,921, but the reserve has not been met. Beyond that cost, the seller figures there’s roughly $2,000 of work to get the lakester up to snuff. Comparable machines have sold in the neighborhood of $14,000, suggesting this one is should move for around $10,000. But make no mistake, the right lakester can bring serious money, as BringaTrailer sold a notable lakester for over $100,000.

See the Lakester here on eBay.

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Hot Rod Salt Flats