Any campervan that is described as being “a bit like riding on top of a firework” and “one of the most incredible things you can ever experience” is one that we simply have to find out more about. Step forward, Oklahoma Willy, a VW campervan that is jet-powered…

We’ve taken a look at some impressive vehicles recently – the motorhome once owned by Will Smith, the stunning boaterhome and the VW Beetle that’s also an RV. It now feels apt to be looking at this eye-catching vehicle at a time when the Volkswagen campervan is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Oklahoma Willy was built by Perry Watkins from Buckinghamshire. Explaining how the ‘van was thought up, Perry said “we sit in the pub, we all get drunk, we come up with a stupid idea and I’ll go and lock myself in the garage for five years and build it”. Thus, Oklahoma Willy was born.

The jet engine of Oklahoma Willy

Perry started the project by buying a jet engine in the shape of a Rolls Royce Viper 535 that had been made in Bedford in 1978. It had originally been placed in a BAC Strike Master, a single-engine fighter jet. It needed stripping down and rebuilding, before everything was chromed in polished aluminium – this alone took two years to carry out. Over the next six months, afterburner was added.

After this, it was time to buy a campervan, with Perry choosing a 1958 split screen VW, one of only 60 in the UK.

Attaching the jet engine to the VW took another three years, so in total, the entire project took around six years to complete. Weighing 6,600 pounds, it has a jet engine with 5,000 horsepower, meaning it could potentially travel at 300mph. However, it may be worth not hitting such a speed, with Perry warning “it would probably fall over”. As a result, the fastest Perry has gone is 157 miles an hour.

The cab itself is what you’d expect from a 1958 VW – there’s all of the normal features you’d expect to see, including a gear lever, clutch, speedometer and, of course, a steering wheel.

The cab of Oklahoma Willy is what you'd expect from a 1958 VW

The addition of the jet does mean there are some extra controls though. This includes monitoring gauges, starting buttons, the main controls and a dead man’s pedal – releasing that while driving will close everything down, should anything go wrong.

Surprisingly, there are no vibrations and it’s not that noisy to drive either, as the noise is behind you. While Perry finds it exhilarating, he does confess that “before a race, you can get a little bit nervous, as it’s an awful lot of power that you’re unleashing in one go”. When driving like this, Perry just focuses on the horizon point and makes sure he stays straight.

If Oklahoma Willy has inspired to buy a van conversion – but you don’t want one with a jet engine – our guides to the best van conversions under £50,000 and the best van conversions over £50,000 are definitely worth looking at.

Text and images courtesy of Barcroft

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