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Thursday, February 29, 2024

How £10k ex-WWII B-17 bomber was transformed into ‘world’s weirdest petrol station’ after it broke down mid-flight

A BROKEN-DOWN ex-World War Two B-17 bomber has been miraculously transformed into one of the world’s weirdest petrol stations.

For the past 70 years, a decommissioned WWII plane has sat on top of a huge 48-pump gas station in Milwaukie, Oregon and has stunned passersby with the unique look.

One of the world's weirdest petrol stations has an ex-WWII B-17 bomber on top of the pumps

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One of the world’s weirdest petrol stations has an ex-WWII B-17 bomber on top of the pumpsCredit: Alamy
The man behind the iconic petrol station Art Lacey with his wife Birdine

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The man behind the iconic petrol station Art Lacey with his wife Birdine
The petrol station was a huge success with locals and tourists that Art even added a restaurant and motel with the bomber theme

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The petrol station was a huge success with locals and tourists that Art even added a restaurant and motel with the bomber themeCredit: Wikipedia

Gas station owner Art Lacey made the bold choice to stick the bomber up in the air in 1947 after he managed to bag himself one for just £10,000.

Lacey found an old and retired Boeing-17 for cheap and went to pick up the former US Army bomber.

In an interview in 1967, which has been posted on YouTube, he said: “When I bought this first B-17 I tried to fly it myself and I got it flying but in one bold attempt I decided to make a round-the-field trip with it.

“I took off and got my landing gear up but when I got back around to come back into gear again I couldn’t get my landing gear down so I came in on the belly with the tail down and the nose up.

“We skidded I’d say half a mile and then rather than the plane going right down the runway and it crabbed and off to the side it went and there sat another B-17 and well, instead of one crashed B-17 I got two.”

He then picked up the second one for just under £1,000 after the seller admitted “wind failure” caused the crash.

Art said he had a “couple of boys from Portland” help him get the plane back home.

But he ran into even more issues getting it home after he couldn’t get a permit to move the large plane across country and into Milwaukie.

To get past this problem, he had the plane split up into four pieces and put onto four different trucks.

He then sent the truck drivers on the road surrounded by men on motorbikes acting as a personal escort.

Art told the drivers to instantly flee the scene and dump the plane parts if police stopped them but luckily all four trucks arrived in one night.

After fixing up the battered bomber, Art stuck it above his gas pumps along Highway 99E and the B-17 became an instant hit with the locals.

Hundreds flocked to the now famous gas station to say they filled up their cars, trucks and bikes underneath a piece of WWII history.

My dad was the sort of fellow that if you said ‘no you can’t do something’ he was going to prove you wrong

Punky ScottArt Lacey’s daughter

Lacey’s Daughter Punky Scott remembered speaking to her father about the idea and said it all came from a bet with a pal.

She said: “His friend said ‘what a stupid idea, you’ll never do that’.

“Well my dad was the sort of fellow that if you said ‘no you can’t do something’ he was going to prove you wrong.”

She explained they went back and forth saying I bet you can, I bet you can’t, before shaking hands on a small bet.

THE DOWNFALL

Despite the clear positive buzz the petrol station gave the area, it also put a huge target on Art’s business.

Dubbed the “Lacey Lady” after their clever founder, many people decided they wanted a share of the success and came along to try and steal parts of the plane.

The constant attempted theft was only the start of the problems though as the torrid conditions in Oregon caused the plane to badly age.

This caused it to rust and swiftly deteriorate as the cost of keeping the Lacey Lady in a good condition became just too much.

On top of the rising upkeep, a young boy also fell out of it in the late 1950s and caused it to be shut down to the public.

Lacey decided to start up a separate Bomber Restaurant and motel next door to the gas stop and the new business quickly became more profitable than the station.

This then saw it close down in 1991 and by 1996, the bomber’s nose cone and four of the Wright Cyclone radial piston engines were taken off to be restored.

But during this process, the Lacey family ran out of money and it was never reinstalled.

Leading to the early 2000s, when Art Lacey died and the B-17 decayed further and became home to the local birds and wildlife.

It sat untouched and underappreciated for the next 14 years until the entire plane was disassembled, removed, and brought to a museum to be fixed.

Read more on the Irish Sun

It’s currently still undergoing a long and in-depth restoration process.

More than 12,000 B-17s were built but over 4,700 were lost during the war leaving them a valuable piece of history for years to come.

The famous Boeing-17 bombers were used during WWII

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The famous Boeing-17 bombers were used during WWII
Lacey's Daughter Punky Scott revealed that the idea came from a bet between her father and his pals

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Lacey’s Daughter Punky Scott revealed that the idea came from a bet between her father and his pals



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