Roadside freak show

Step right up and feast your eyes on these vehicular oddities

Blog Entry January 05, 2015

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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The fire-breathing school bus
Kids in Indianapolis no longer have an excuse to be late for school now that adrenaline junkie Paul Stender has created a jet-powered school bus. 
Equipped with a 42,000-hp fighter jet engine and an exhaust that shoots out 80-ft flames, the “School Time” can reach speeds of up to 367 mph.
While the hot rod looks like a real school bus, Stender actually custom built it using a GE J-79 jet engine from a McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom fighter jet. 
Parents needn’t worry, though. School Time’s engine is so big, its cabin only has space for three passengers, so instead of transporting kids it typically performs at monster truck shows.
Stender knew that kids would be interested in his creation, however, so there’s actually a message behind the madness.
“I built the bus for two reasons,” Stender told Barcroft Media. “The first is to entertain people because, come on, it’s a jet bus. 
“The second is to inspire kids to keep away from drugs,” Stender added. “It’s important for them to have active hobbies and creative interests to keep busy and keep away from bad influences. That’s why we wrote our motto on the side of the bus: Jets are hot—drugs are not.”
 
The amazing topsy-turvy truck
As a mechanic at a collision center in Clinton, Ill., Rick Sullivan has seen a lot of banged up cars, but an overturned Ford Ranger gave him an idea.
Six months and $6,000 later, Sullivan has created a street-legal “upside-down truck.”
The vehicle looks like a red-and-white Ford pickup truck flipped onto its roof, complete with spinning tires and a license plate that reads “FLIPOVR.”
In reality it’s a 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck that Sullivan encased in the upside-down body of a 1995 F-150 pickup.
“There’s no blueprint,” Sullivan told Barcroft. “I just started buying parts and then putting it together.”
Sullivan gets quite a bit of attention when he drives his upside-down vehicle around town, and estimates that 1,000 photos are taken of it every day it’s on the road.
 
The house of horrors
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s now official: the Thompson family RV is ugly.
Jim Thompson and his father James own a bright-green 1983 Fleetwood Southwind motor home, known in the family as the Pickle.
The Pickle was just a local novelty around Richmond, Ind., until Jim’s fiancée, Vickie, heard about an Ugly RV Contest advertised on the radio. The contest was run by a dealership 75 miles away in Indianapolis, but first prize was $1,000, so Jim packed up the Pickle and headed for the big city.
The Pickle wasn’t always ugly. In fact, three years ago Jim’s father, James, accepted the vehicle in a trade with an RV dealer in Kentucky where his own RV broke down. 
The future Pickle needed some TLC, and the Thompson family did the best they could, improvising on many of the repairs. 
For example, when the air conditioning went out, James cut a hole in the wall and installed a residential AC unit. When the dashboard split, he made a new one out of plywood. When the windshield shattered, he replaced it with plexiglass. 
By this point, the Pickle was well on its way to championship-caliber ugly, but it was James’ move to Florida that inspired the Pickle’s most distinctive feature: it’s color. Bright green is the signature color of the church that James attends, plus green is also his wife’s favorite color.
Soon, however, the practicality of a 31-year-old vehicle that runs on diesel fuel and only gets 8-10 miles per gallon began to catch up with James, so he and Jim made a deal to be co-owners.
The Pickle now lives in Richmond with Jim and Vickie, who say the neighbors aren’t exactly fans. “They think it’s so ugly,” Jim told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. “So I started parking it in back of the house.” 
Turns out the neighbors were right. Out of 150 entrants in the Tom Raper RVs Ugly RV Contest, the Pickle was given top honors. 
While the $1,000 prize money is welcome, Vickie also appreciated the title. “My sister’s won all kinds of beauty contests,” she said, referring to the former Snow Ball Queen of Richmond High School. “I can’t wait to tell her I won an ugly contest.” R&B

 

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