Local Man Puts Jet Engine In Classic Car

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

Navasota resident Joe Wilkins is a retired chemist but as a full time car enthusiast he gets a lot of looks in his 39 Ford.

"I love to tinker and I love cars," said Wilkins.

Joe brought the Ford to Doug Leopold with Classic Collision and Restoration in Bryan to rebuild the classic car from the ground up.

"Big project, no big deal but this was a little bit of a bigger project," said Leopold.

Bigger and better. You see there's something very special about this classic roadster.

"Everything is a little extra done," joked Leopold.

The 39 Ford is already a cool car. You throw in a Hemi engine and you're really cooking. But Joe did something extra, he added a jet engine. Well, you know how high gas prices are these days.

"Nobody has come to me and asked to put a jet engine in a car," said Leopold.

"Building this kept me young and it was a real break from reality in the laboratory," said Wilkins.

That's right, with a Hemi engine under the hood and a jet engine pushing the rest, this car is an incredibly hot, hot rod.

"The tailpipe we've got on there has an afterburner and that develops a thrust that adds to what the car can produce through the wheels." said John Rankin.

Rankin works on jet engines and we asked the man that works with the really big engine how fast the Hemi Jet can go.

"That might be confidential information at this point. That's a fancy way of saying we're not sure," said Rankin.

Well what about the cost?

"It was in the six figures, we'll just leave it at that. I'm afraid my wife might see this," joked Wilkins.

Simply put, it's cool, it's loud, and yes, it's even a daily driver.

"I've even got air conditioning in it, a stereo, I've taken it to the store to get milk and bread," said Wilkins.

Now that's what I call a fast trip to the store.

Joe plans on taking the Hemi Jet 39 Ford to Utah next year to see if it can be first street legal car to hit 300 mph.

He's also using the jet engine to test a cowl that helps with noise reduction and temperature reduction of the engine's heat signature for the defense department.

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