Elvis Presley’s 1962 Lockheed 1329 JetStar private jet hit the headlines earlier this year when it was snapped up at auction for $234,000, after languishing in the New Mexico desert for close to 40 years.
The mystery buyer turned out to be 44-year-old YouTuber and aviation buff, Jimmy Webb who, after serious consideration, has come up with a plan on what to do with the plane.
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“Within five seconds of seeing it, I knew it was never going to fly again,” Webb tells Robb Report during an interview while sitting in the cabin, on the same red-velvet seats that the King and his entourage would’ve used on cross-country flights. “The best plan we’ve come up with, is to mount it on an RV chassis so it can be driven and seen by Elvis fans.”
Webb’s YouTube channel “Jimmy’s World” has already covered in detail Webb turning up at the Roswell International Air Center, in Roswell, New Mexico in January and seeing the rather-dilapidated jet for the first time. “It was a surreal moment for me. To step aboard and sit in the seat where Elvis sat. To turn on the black-and-white TV and see it light up. To switch on the microwave. I kept telling myself that I’m the only guy on the planet to own Elvis Presley’s private jet.”
The immediate challenge was to get it back to Florida’s Plant City close to Tampa, and Webb’s rural storage facility. After unceremoniously sawing off the wings and tail section, it took two semi-tractor trailers and $30,000 to truck it the 1,800 miles back to Florida.
“Of course, we had to make a stop in Memphis and swing by Graceland. It was for no other reason than to take Elvis’ jet back to his old home,” says Webb. It also made a good viewing since Webb and his team were eventually asked by Graceland security to remove the jet from the premises.
Now tucked away in the aviation enthusiast’s workshops, the 61-year-old jet sits in pieces on the concrete floors waiting for Webb to finalize his plans.
“People ask me why we couldn’t make the plane fly again,” says Webb, who has a degree in electro-mechanical engineering and has been “fixing broken stuff” all his life. “But it’s not going to happen, not with all the money in the world. It would never meet current FAA regulations and, more important, the parts are just not available. It doesn’t even have engines.”
Webb did toy with the idea of restoring the jet to create a static exhibit for Elvis fans to visit, but quickly determined that the cost—between $5 and $7 million—was not in his budget.
Then a light bulb went on. Why not mount the fuselage on an RV motorhome chassis, with a diesel “pusher” engine at the back, steer it from the cockpit, and make it road legal as a custom RV?
“How great would it be to drive it to Las Vegas and make a business out of taking Elvis fans for drives along the Strip?” he says. “We could have the driver dress up as ‘The King’ and have a flight attendant serve peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.”
While the jet’s four Garrett turbofan engines are long gone, Webb has tracked down the original housings, or nacelles, in an aviation museum in Tennessee. “One of the jet’s previous owners loaned them to the museum as pieces of Elvis memorabilia, and now they just want them gone,” he says. They will soon be remounted on the plane.
Webb estimates it will take a year to convert the famous red-and-silver jet into an RV, but isn’t quite sure of the final costs. He plans to do the work himself, aided friends who already help him in his sideline business of finding old, abandoned planes and bringing them back to life. His current pride and joy is a mirror-polished, twin-engined 1956 Cessna 310 Silver Bullet that he brought back to flying condition and regularly takes out for a spin.
As for the parts of the Lockheed he won’t be using—the wings and tail section—Webb plans to turn them into memorabilia and offer them to Elvis fans. He says a portion of the money will go to one of Elvis’ favorite causes, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“Yes, turning the jet into an RV isn’t the perfect solution,” he admits. “But neither was parking it in the desert for 40 years. This way, Elvis fans will get to see it, and even take a ride. We want to make it the true King of the Road.”
Somehow, we think Elvis would approve.
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