Bontrager’s Surplus via Facebook
- An Air Force veteran, turned airplane enthusiast, transformed a DC-3 Transport into a recreational vehicle.
- The RV, “The Fabulous Flamingo,” served in World War II in its past life.
- Now, it’s a fully street-legal motor vehicle.
The owner of a vintage World War II-era transport plane decided to do something radical—but still practical—to the big prop plane: he turned it into an RV. The result is the “Fabulous Flamingo,” a traveling camper that boards like a real airplane, but drives like a recreational vehicle.
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Aviation fan and Air Force veteran Gino Lucci purchased the old Douglas R4D airplane in 2019. Damaged in a tornado, the plane no longer flew. So by the time Lucci purchased it, he bought it “for the cost of a used car,” according to an Insider report.
To make the conversion from plane to RV, Lucci purchased parts from Bontrager’s Surplus in Michigan, which specializes in RVs and RV parts. Then, he began the year-long renovation process at his home in Nashville, Michigan.
Lucci’s RV incorporates as many parts of the original plane as possible. He bolted the front fuselage of the plane to a delivery truck frame. The air stairs, which unfold from the right side of the fuselage, are the only way in and out of the vehicle. The original plane intercom still works. And he turned the engine cowlings into wheel guards (as he explains in the video below).
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The airplane, which Lucci renamed “The Fabulous Flamingo,” offers 300 square feet of internal living space, and even features a play area for his youngest son. As Bontrager’s describes it on their Facebook page:
The seats from the old airplane were used for the driver & front passenger seats in the RV. They added a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom – complete with a stove, sink, fridge, microwave, cabinets, sofa, dinette booth, toilet and even a tub!
The southern California-based Douglas Aircraft Company (now a part of Boeing) built and delivered the first DC-3 plane—called the Douglas Sleeper Transport—to American Airlines in June 1936. It was the “height of luxury” at the time, according to Boeing, and could accommodate 14 overnight passengers or up to 28 on shorter daylight flights.
Eventually, the DC-3 went on to become the first airplane that made air transport profitable without government subsidies. By 1939, over 90 percent of U.S. air passengers were flying on DC-2s and DC-3s.
During World War II, the Air Force acquired 10,174 DC-3s, produced as C-47 military transport planes—the same type of troop carriers that parachuted men into Normandy. The planes became renowned for their easy operation and maintenance, as well as for their strength and flexibility. In fact, hundreds of DC-3s are still in the skies today.
And of course, one is on the roads. The Fabulous Flamingo is now an official Class A motorhome and is fully street-legal. So far, the furthest trip that Lucci has made in the hybrid plane/RV took him from Michigan, to Texas, and then onto Maine.
Next, he hopes to take his family on a cross-country trip in it. “When you get out West and there is nobody around, it’s just like you’re flying,” Lucci told Insider.
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