A helicopter was meant to be airborne. That is where it is best known and loved for all the complicated maneuvers fixed winged aircraft cannot do. Road racing and amphibious activity just not one of the activities choppers are known for; unless you’re talking about hovering over land and water. But that’s not all Jeff Bloch, a D.C police officer, and a novelty car builder sees when he looks at a chopper.
Especially if it is an old 1969 OH-58 Kiowa helicopter that was used in the Vietnam War, flew the U.S. federal drugs task force and been taken apart and sold in parts. What remained of it, floated away in Nashville, Tennessee during the floods and should have been left to decompose in a junkyard somewhere.
But Bloch has a keen eye for finding innovation among written off, junk yard bound old machinery. And that is precisely what he did to the old bird that was on its way to a retirement home somewhere in the junkyard. Bloch got the chopper as a donation and called up 16 of his mates to put their heads together and come up with innovative ways they could use the old bird.
Maybe the idea of making her airborne again was too much a stretch, so they decided to mount her on top of a mid-80s Toyota van wagon chassis. Added some lightweight Mazda Miatra rear suspension and the old bird got a new lease of life as an earth-bound earth racer.
Still, the bird looked odd, just picture a helicopter sited on top a van chassis. Not a pretty sight to look at, is it? Bloch and his team didn’t think so too. And the idea of fitting pontoons to the sides came to their head. The pontoons were initially meant to hide the chassis, but then a new innovative idea emerged.
At that point, they also realized they stumbled onto the opportunity of making the chopper not just a road racer, but also an amphibious vehicle. “If I’m going to use pontoons to hide the chassis, it might as well float,” said Bloch.
The end result is a helicopter that can drive on road and on water; it can do all that except for flying.