British Belly Tank Racer

british-streamliner

One of my earliest memories of cars growing up was seeing Craig Breedlove’s Spirit of America, Sonic I – the Land Speed Record holder at the time, while it was on tour. I ducked under the rope to touch the sleek side and immediately fell in love with the idea of one person and one car against the clock. Tthe first people to try to set records immediately after WWII were using leftovers from that war, including belly tanks from airplanes, to build some truly unique streamliners. While I’ve seen a few of these special cars in the US, I’ve never seen one anywhere else. This one is currently being auctioned of here on eBay in the UK.

hot-rod-magazine

Here’s one on the cover of Hot Rod, courtesy of Bellytanks.com. You can see that the paint scheme on the featured car is very similar to the cover car. If you look closely at the nose, “Acme hot rod club” can just be made out.  A quick look on the internet shows that the club is based in the southern part of England and has been around for over thirty years.

moon-discs

The Moon discs covering the wheels and the skinny tires were all for aerodynamic purposes, although they certainly add to the appearance as well. Interestingly enough, the ad claims fiberglass bodywork, so although it looks like a belly tank, this may be a purpose-built streamliner.

aquaplane-head

The powerplant is said to run, and is a Ford 100E four-cylinder with an Aquaplane aluminum cylinder head and intake manifold for increased performance. The twin SU carbs are actually quite easy to take care of, and the soda can overflow tank is a nice touch. Another interesting feature is the remote shift linkage, which while certainly homemade, looks adequate for the job.

rear-suspension

A very small fuel tank and the axle being attached directly to the chassis (who needs suspension?) complete the rear of the vehicle.  The seller states it hasn’t been used in a while, but that the engine runs well. I love the period appearance; I don’t think this kind of patina could be faked, but I wonder exactly what the origin of this car is… Did it race at the famed Santa Pod Dragway, the first permanent drag strip in Europe that opened in 1966, or did it run before that?  And if so, where?  Can any of our UK readers shed some light on this British belly tank?

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Comments

  1. bruce R. Colbert

    Yeah !
    Love the Moon eyes.

  2. z1rider

    I would love to know what top speed this was able to attain, and where. The speed trials at Bonneville have a multitude of classes, some of which have never had an entry and where one would need only show up, make a run, back it up to be the winner and own the class record. There may be a class available at Bonneville where this might still be competitive.

  3. jim s

    so what is under the blue/green cover in the background? it is the sellers job to provide the cars history which they may be trying to learn about by posting the add on Ebay. without any history this may be just parts. i do not see any safety systems so i do not know where it could be raced now. a very interesting find

  4. Rustowner

    Neat piece, especially since it’s in GB. My, that is a tiny engine! Reminds me of a scaled down Willys/Whippet motor. Anyone know what that distributor mounted horizontally on the rear, drivers side of the frame is for? It’s visible in one of the pics on the eBay ad. Looks like the shaft is is hooked to a small motor (blower motor?)? and the plug wire heads to a spark plug in the muffler. Flamethrower??? On a race car? Curious to say the least!

    • Joe Howell

      Maybe it was an afterburner :) There appears to be no coil wire attached to that distributor plus no fuel supply of some sort for a flame thrower. Must be some parts missing. You could however crank it over and fill the exhaust system with air/fuel mixture and then touch off your sparker and make a bang with flame. In high school I used to kick my 305 Honda Scrambler over with the switch off and then hold a match in front of one of those high straight pipes and it would WHOOOOSH. A couple of years later while riding I would hit the kill switch on my Honda 750 and open the throttle letting the 4 into 1 header fill with fuel/air mix and flip the kill switch back on and it would bang like a shotgun and shoot impressive flame after dark. The 750’s wasted spark system and no baffles in the collector made it possible :) Disappointingly my Harley will only make a very weak bang from its Screaming Eagle pipes :(

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        I was wondering about that component as well…hadn’t thought of the exhaust flame idea :-)

  5. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    This is a puzzle since there’s no more information from the seller than what’s already in the photos…..no history of build, ownership, or use. Much of the value and desirability is in the history, because you’re not going to use it to run down to the ‘local’ every Friday night.

    It has a SoCal style paint job but it’s a lot smaller than the SoCal belly tank cars you see in hot rod magazines or books. That and the fact that it was built around a tiny Ford 100e engine probably means it wasn’t built to run on the California dry lakes or at Bonneville with a flathead V8. And the ‘tank’ is ‘glas, not the aluminium that was used for real belly fuel tanks like the California rodders used after WW2 when they were cheap surplus from the war.

    I haven’t gone through everything that comes up when you Google some combination of the words ‘belly tank’ ‘racer’ ‘rod’ ‘England’ and ‘UK’ but if anyone comes up with any info on this I hope they post it so we know where/when it might have run, and the speed it got to. I’m guessing it wasn’t on the beach at Brighton.

    But it sure does have an interesting water overflow catch tank.

  6. cliffyc

    I would say it’s a Ford Popular 100E based belly tank racer,body almost certainly fibreglass (fiberglass,to US readers!),that is a Popular chassis,those slot wheels are classic Ford. Restored,it would not take much to turn it into a great track-day car as we call them here in the UK. Add a big tank and safety belts and off you go. Cheap thrills,Retro!

  7. z1rider

    I completely missed the “flamethrower” ignition system at first glance. That makes me take this a lot less seriously as having ever been used in any kind of competition. Without any provenance I’m not sure is I would keep it as is.

    And yes, that’s based on a Pop for sure. Note the transverse front spring and the spring hangars on the rear axle.

  8. Steve Green

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWTq6HDuu00
    Here you go guys bellytank at Pendine sands , hope you enjoy!

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  9. Gilles pujol

    Hello, I am the french leader of LES TRIPLETTES DE BONNEVILLE team.
    I am the owner of this car !
    We run at BONNEVILLE since 2007 and have got 41 world records in 2016
    We race also at PENDINE, and I think I will come with it later.

    I think it is a car to play in england as in BONNEVILLE, but this car is not good for BONNEVILLE regulations, and was not possibly modify for.

    It is a good piece of history and buiding in the spirit of

    Gilles

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