The Unique Creations Made From WWII Aircraft

Michael Barera CC BY-SA 4.0

Some incredible weapons, machines and aircraft were designed by the United States to help win World War Two. While these were great on the battlefield, once the war had ended, these creations became redundant, and were scrapped in huge numbers.

This mass of spare equipment quickly found its way into civilian hands, who made use of it in all kinds of ways.

Sergeant Ray Petit of the 15th Air Force in Italy built a chair using the wood crate from a belly tank. His chair is equipped with a reading light, ashtray, magazine rack, and a radio that turns off on a timer once he dozes off. (NARA)
Sergeant Ray Petit of the 15th Air Force in Italy built a chair using the wood crate from a belly tank. His chair is equipped with a reading light, ashtray, magazine rack, and a radio that turns off on a timer once he dozes off. (NARA)

1. Cars

United States Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38L Lightning aircraft ( Serial Number – 44-25734 ) and a ground crew member of the 94th Fighter Squadron 1st Fighter Group, poses in his self-styled auto made from salvaged Lockheed P-38 Lightning parts including a fuel tank with wheels added and a plexiglass windshield. This P-38 while assigned to 1st FG, 71st FS was shot down by AAA near Munich April 15, 1945.
United States Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38L Lightning aircraft ( Serial Number – 44-25734 ) and a ground crew member of the 94th Fighter Squadron 1st Fighter Group, poses in his self-styled auto made from salvaged Lockheed P-38 Lightning parts including a fuel tank with wheels added and a plexiglass windshield. This P-38 while assigned to 1st FG, 71st FS was shot down by AAA near Munich April 15, 1945.

Aircraft drop tanks are fairly large, streamlined metal containers to carry extra fuel. These often became the go-to parts to modify.

A ground crew member of the 94th Fighter Squadron 1st Fighter Group made a car out of salvaged Lockheed P-38 Lightning parts, and a fuel tank from this aircraft. He added wheels to the fuel tank, and finished it off with a plexiglass windscreen.

2. Racing Sailboats

On Palau, the 7th Air Force found they had some free time on their hands, so they chose to have some fun. Crews turned fuel tanks into sailboats to race each other, and cruise around the coast of Palau. There are worse ways to spend a war.

Given a little downtime on Palau, a bomber crew of the 7th Air Force turned fuel tanks into racing sailboats. You will see this in Vietnam too. (NARA)
Given a little downtime on Palau, a bomber crew of the 7th Air Force turned fuel tanks into racing sailboats. You will see this in Vietnam too. (NARA)

3. Chicken Coop

Throughout the rural areas of North America, you may stumble upon the fuselages of old bombers used in World War II. These are usually hard to see, but if you ever find yourself on a road trip through these areas, keep and eye open and you may spot one. Many of these are used as cleverly disguised chicken coops. When hostilities ended, an abundance of bombers were left without use.

The government allowed farmers to purchase old surplus bombers for incredibly low prices of $500. For this, you receive a bomber containing gas, oil and anti-freeze, a very lucrative deal for the farmer.

This bomber crew in Italy built a house from wooden crates salvaged from deliveries of drop tanks and unassembled aircraft. (NARA)
This bomber crew in Italy built a house from wooden crates salvaged from deliveries of drop tanks and unassembled aircraft. (NARA)

Once the aircraft was stripped of any valuables, the fuselage became a perfect chicken coop. Some people had the idea of turning these old bombers into airliners, but this was an incredibly risky business which  soon led to governmental involvement.

The bombers may have suffered any number of damages over its service in the war, many of these un-obvious and hidden. These old aircraft were often deemed unfit to fly, especially in passenger service. Authorities began to check if this activity was taking place, and if so, the wings of the aircraft would be saw in half, making it impossible to fly again.

4. A P-51 fuel tank that could move at 131 mph

Like the P-38 fuel tank above, once airmen got home from the war, many began buying drop tanks to modify. These drop tanks could be purchased for only $35!

These vehicles nicknamed “lakesters” were transported to dried lakebeds in California and Utah. One 165 gallon belly tank from a World War II P-51 Mustang fighter was made in a vehicle with a V8 engine from Mercury. In 1946 this contraption reached 131 mph.

Now lets check out a couple of ways soldiers made their lives a little bit more comfortable during the uncomfortably long war.

All air forces dropped their fuel tanks when empty, not just the Allies. This German tank was turned into a set of shelves by members of the 90th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing in Italy. (NARA)
All air forces dropped their fuel tanks when empty, not just the Allies. This German tank was turned into a set of shelves by members of the 90th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing in Italy. (NARA)

 

Looking for a trim on a South Pacific island? Look for the Warhawk Barber Shop with its barber pole made of a bomb shell. (NARA)
Looking for a trim on a South Pacific island? Look for the Warhawk Barber Shop with its barber pole made of a bomb shell. (NARA)

 

While at war, there was understandably a shortage of chairs at camp. Luckily, some soldiers use the cockpit seats of inactive planes to keep themselves comfortable during their down time. It may not be a nice $400 leather office chair, but it certainly had the perks of a place to comfortably lounge.
While at war, there was understandably a shortage of chairs at camp. Luckily, some soldiers use the cockpit seats of inactive planes to keep themselves comfortable during their down time. It may not be a nice $400 leather office chair, but it certainly had the perks of a place to comfortably lounge.

 

On wash day at North Field on Guam, Marianas Islands. A homemade washing machine is driven by a rotating propeller. (NARA)
On wash day at North Field on Guam, Marianas Islands. A homemade washing machine is driven by a rotating propeller. (NARA)

Another Article From Us: 30 Images You May Not Have Seen Before of the Iconic P-47

 

Total field mod. When your job is servicing the P-51s stationed on Iwo Jima, a motor scooter built from fuselage panels and cowling comes in handy. Notice the logo of North American Aviation on the scooter’s side. (NARA)
Total field mod. When your job is servicing the P-51s stationed on Iwo Jima, a motor scooter built from fuselage panels and cowling comes in handy. Notice the logo of North American Aviation on the scooter’s side. (NARA)