Cessna 310 Being Converted To Race Car

Spirit of LeMons airplane/car combo will race in the spring.

Cessna 310

Cessna 310

Photo: Doug Kirchberg

The variety of final destinations for retired airplanes can be quite fascinating, ranging from scrap metal to incredible pieces of art. Now a police officer and race car driver, Jeff Bloch (aka Speedycop), who has become known for creating unique racing machines, has come up with a new idea for the use of a parked airplane that he believes is a first — turning it into a race car.

He is merging a 1956 Cessna 310 with a 1987 Toyota Van Wagon, a project he's named Spirit of LeMons — a combination of Charles Lindberg's legendary Spirit of St. Louis and the name of the race the vehicle will participate in, the 24 Hours of LeMons (not to be confused with the more famous 24 Hours of Le Mans).

Each race (several are planned around the country in 2013) consists of unique vehicles that compete not to be the fastest (the time winner gets second place), but to be “the coolest car that has no business being on a racetrack,” according to Bloch. The total cost of the vehicle must remain below $500, so when Bloch, who has won the race several years before, came up with the airplane idea he knew cost would be a challenge. Fortunately he found the 310, which he picked up for $2,000 because it had been parked at Hyde Field outside Washington, D.C., since 1973 and many parts, including the engines, had been stripped from the airplane. Bloch could have parted out some of the remaining items to bring the cost below the $500 target, but the race organizers gave Bloch a cost waiver because of the highly unique nature of the design.

Instead of mounting rear view mirrors, which Bloch thinks would distract from the look, the Spirit of LeMons will be equipped with side view cameras linked to screens in the cockpit to allow Bloch and the other race drivers (the length of the race warrants several drivers) to see what they have left in the dust. To maximize the safety of the vehicle, it will have a full roll cage and a five-point harness. "It's got to be safe, it's primary," said Bloch.

The first 20 inches of each wing will remain on the final design. They will act as the fenders for the front wheels. Bloch is still working out what the rear fenders will look like. The tail section of the airplane was missing when Bloch purchased the 310, so the team will also have to construct some type of tail. “We do want it to look like a taxiing aircraft and not a race car,” said Bloch.

Bloch is hoping to finish the project in time for the 24 Hours of LeMons at the Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, which takes place in mid-March. Whether Bloch and his team will be able to complete the ambitious project in time remains to be seen. But as evidenced by the progress to date, they may be successful.