Famous for introducing the bellytank to dry lakes racing, Bill Burke has always pushed the boundaries of ingenuity, design and engine building.
While on active duty in the South Pacific during WWII, Bill Burke would study the shape and dimensions of an underwing Army Air Corps reserve fuel drop tank and develop the idea that a flathead Ford V8 just might fit into this aerodynamically friendly structure. So it was that after the war Bill Burke put a model-T frame inside a surplus belly tank ( along with a 1934 Ford V8 ) and made some respectable runs out at the dry lakes with his new creation. The first tank was small, with his head poking out, and was found to not be the safest of designs. But soon Burke was building enclosed bellytanks, with his partner Don Franciso, and they would have better luck using the larger 375 gallon models which the driver could now be fully enclosed within. During the 40’s and early 50’s Burke built over 13 bellytanks, raced with great success at the lakes and Bonneville, was the president of the SCTA in 1950, and was instrumental in helping Hot Rod Magazine get off the ground. Always looking for an edge, Burke would go on to build such lakesters as the “Pumpkin Seed”, a few fiberglass streamliners with Mickey Thompson, and a 1966 aluminum-skinned streamliner that featured a supercharged Chrysler mill. A consistent fixture at the dry lakes and Bonneville throughout his entire life, Bill Burke would remain active in the hot rod and racing world right up to his passing on November 26, 2015 at the age of 97.