4 Hunks of Junk That People Brought Back to Life

A little spit and polish, and that crashed rocket will be as good as new
4 Hunks of Junk That People Brought Back to Life

The day comes when every driver realizes it’s time to bid their vehicle goodbye. Maybe it’s when a mechanic gives you a rather large estimate, and you realize the bill is more than the car is worth. Or maybe it’s when a rocket-propelled grenade hits the car and explodes. Yeah, if a rocket-propelled grenade ever does hit your car, killing your mentor who borrowed it while escaping, you’re definitely never going to be behind that wheel again.

Or perhaps you will? Because history tells us that when a vehicle gets shot up, we might be able to slap it right back together. 

Germany Yanked Up a Sunken U-Boat After 11 Years

In 1943, Germany planned to build a thousand units of a new kind of sub, which they swore would be the best submarine in the world. Construction ran into all kinds of hiccups, and by 1945, they’d only managed to build 118 of them. Out of all those new U-boats, a grand total of two of them ever launched (these two didn’t accomplish much of anything). The Nazis held back on launching the other hundred-plus subs they’d forced concentration camp inmates to build because Germany couldn’t spare the fuel. The country was kind of falling apart in 1945. 

That May, they sank a whole lot of these unused subs into the ocean. They weren’t using them anyway, so it was best to scuttle them, or else the Soviets would come by and seize them for themselves. Then Germany officially lost the war, and for a decade after that, they didn’t have a navy at all. Germany did some sea stuff, but strictly under British supervision, limited to clearing up all the wartime mines they’d dropped.

In 1956, the German navy restarted. And they thought to themselves, hey, how about we try refurbishing one of those U-boats we sank? Sure, it just spent a full decade rotting underwater, but these are subs we’re talking about here — they’re in their element when they’re underwater. So, the following year, they lifted one fallen sub called U-2540, rechristened it the Wilhelm Bauer and started using it again. They used it in the military till 1980, and they kept it afterward and converted it to a museum. It still has some crabs, and sea ghosts, but that’s not a problem. Lots of museums have those.

U-Boot Type XXI U-2540 ("Wilhelm Bauer")

Clemens Vasters

If you want to rob the place, you can just sail the whole thing away.

Jimmy Carter Rode JFK’s Shot-Up Limousine

Several later presidents rode JFK’s shot up limousine, in fact. Many of them have reputations as jerks, however, so we really wanted you dwelling on the image of Carter riding in the resurrected murder site. 

Ford — the company, not the president — built the car in 1961, just a few years before JFK’s assassination. The limo, dubbed X-100, came with such special features as indicator lights, a deluxe pair of radio telephones and air conditioning (not something you could take for granted in the 1960s). When a bullet traveled from the grassy knoll into the president’s head in 1963, the car became a piece of evidence, and investigators impounded it. 

It wouldn’t remain just a piece of evidence, however; nor would it go straight to the museum where you can look at it today. Just weeks after the assassination, the Secret Service were already drafting a plan to repimp the car and put it back into operation. The four presidents who followed Kennedy all rode in the Death Car, which might sound a little macabre, but it was cheaper than building a new limo from scratch. They rode in other limos, too, so here’s a pic of Carter in one of those after X-100 went out of service:

President Jimmy Carter, flanked by nervous Secret Service agents

White House

“Mr. President, for safety, we should keep the top up.”
“Oh, okay. Top up, got it!” 

The First Ship That Fired During WWI Was Brought Back From the Deep — Twice

The first shot of World War I was fired by the SMS Bodrog, which then went on to do all kinds of exciting World War I stuff. When the war ended, this Austro-Hungarian ship now found itself owned by Yugoslavia, a country that formerly had not existed. 

The ship was renamed the Sava, and it was still around during World War II to fight off some German planes. It got through that okay, but with no easy way to navigate out of the tight physical spot they’d maneuvered into, the captain figured it was best to just sink the ship. But that didn’t keep it out of Axis hands. The Independent State of Croatia raised the ship, got it working again, and renamed it the Bosna. Before the war ended, the crew of the Bosna said to themselves, “Wait. What the hell is the Independent State of Croatia?” And so, they scuttled the Bosna and defected to the communists. 

After World War II, the ship got raised yet again, and it spent a decade back in the hands of the Yugoslav Navy. When Yugoslavia vanished into the nonexistence from which it originated, the Sava became a Serbian ship. Today, much like the Wilhelm Bauer, it’s a floating museum. Here’s a photo of it, where it looks like a video game asset that developers put zero effort into making look convincing:

Sava following her restoration, November 2021

Srđan Popović

That thing is definitely made of Styrofoam. 

Japan Shot Up an Airliner. People Refurbished It. Japan Shot It Up Again

Every time a country shoots a civilian airliner down, it’s a crazy story, whether it’s that Korean plane whose crash led GPS to go public or that Iranian plane that the U.S. still swears it was totally justified in mistaking for a fighter jet. The first-ever incident of this kind happened all the way back in 1938. Japan and China were at war, and Japan shot down a plane carrying 18 passengers and crew. 

The plane, called the Kweilin, had been flying from Hong Kong to Chengdu. When he noticed Japanese planes looking menacingly his way, pilot Hugh Woods (an American on loan to this Chinese airline from Pan Am) landed in a river and slipped out into the water. Woods survived, as did a couple others, but the Japanese planes fired on the landed, unarmed plane, killing everyone else aboard. It’s possible that they believed the son of the Chinese president was aboard. 

The Kweilin sank to the bottom of the river. The airline, China National Aviation, salvaged the plane and got it back into service, now under the name Chungking



People wouldn’t board it if they kept calling it the Kweilin. It might get shot again!

In October 1940, this plane was again in the air, again piloted by an American, this one named “Foxie” Kent. He landed the plane at an airstrip. Then Japanese planes showed up and shot it up — again. Kent died first, and the fighters shot passengers as they ran away from the wreckage. This time, the Chungking was not going to be refurbished. It burned up on the airstrip. 

The day comes when every driver realizes it’s time to bid their vehicle goodbye. Just hope than when yours comes, you’re not inside the vehicle when it incinerates. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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