The Jet-Powered VW Bus Pickup That Lit Up the Track at F1’s Austrian GP

The Jet-Powered VW Bus Pickup That Lit Up the Track at F1’s Austrian GP

As much as I love the intense competitive nature of motorsport, a large draw for racing is the pure spectacle of sight, sound and speed. However, race promoters on occasion will arrange for special acts to entertain fans in the grandstands during the lulls between organised track sessions. From stunt exhibitions to vintage demonstration runs, I felt like I’ve seen everything. Though, last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix featured a jet-powered Volkswagen bus that left me awestruck.

Oklahoma Willy is a 1958 Volkswagen Type II, extensively modified by Perrywinkle Customs in the United Kingdom. This particular Type II was the flatbed pickup variant of the iconic Bus. The Type II pickup was built for the American market and the Type II that eventually became Oklahoma Willy being exported to Oklahoma. The German-built pickup didn’t have a very long import run into the United States as it was one of the victims of the Chicken Tax. This Type II was imported to Britain from the U.S. in 2013.

Oklahoma Willy is powered by a flat-four engine, in addition to a 1986 Rolls-Royce Viper 535 turbojet engine. The turbojet engine weighs about 349 kg and produces 1,565 kg of thrust. The Viper engine was originally fitted to an Omani Air Force BAC 167 Strikemaster, a light attack jet. The turbojet was decommissioned in 2009 and eventually made its way into private ownership in Britain.

Oklahoma Willy usually makes appearances at Santa Pod Raceway, a permanent drag strip built at the site of a disused Royal Air Force base in England. But as stated earlier, the jet-powered Volkswagen ran laps of the Red Bull Ring during the Formula 1 weekend. Spectators eagerly recorded and posted footage of the unique pickup to social media. That’s how it came to my attention in New York, over 6,437 km away from the circuit in Spielberg.