Bill Burke's P-51 Belly Tank
The Bill Burke P-51 Belly Tank is known as the first Belly Tank Streamliner racer. Bill was racing on the dry lakes long before the war started. While stationed in the South Pacific during WWII he saw potential in using a Belly Tank as the body for a dry lakes car. Shortly after returning home from the war he built his first Belly Tank Streamliner. In 1946 he raced his brand new car. Burke was the first to run a belly tank in the "Streamliner" class, and ran at both El Mirage and Harper Dry Lake. The first Bill Burke streamliner used a small 165 gallon steel wing tank from a P-51 Mustang. The car was a front engine design, and a bicycle seat was welded to the torque tube for driving. Bill ran the P-51 Belly Tank three times in 1946, before he sold it in order to build larger and faster bellytanks. Bill reached speeds of 131.96 mph with his first bellytank attempt. The record he was running against that day was 140.00 set by Bob Rufi before WWII. After the 1946 racing season changes were made to the car based on what Bill had learned. A larger tank replaced the first tank so that the front engine could be fully shielded and greater aerodynamic benefits achieved. The engine was also moved to the rear of the tank, and subsequent tanks built used canopies for the drivers to further smooth the surface.
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