Never to Fly Again, Elvis’ Jet Becomes an RV. And 1000 Souvenirs.

Steven Cole Smith

When we last left the saga of Elvis’ airplane, a 1962 Lockheed 1329 Jetstar that had been abandoned for decades at a New Mexico airport, it had been auctioned off for a gavel price of $260,000 at the 2023 Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida. The new owner disassembled it, loaded it on a huge flatbed trailer, and the plane, in pieces, headed for a warehouse in Plant City, Florida.

You may be interested in what has happened since.

To recap: YouTube personality James Webb, responsible for the Jimmy’s World video channel, was the unlikely buyer. Jimmy’s World typically shows Webb searching out long-abandoned airplanes, buying them, fixing them up and flying them. Usually. There have been a few failures. If this sounds like too much inside-aviation, it really isn’t; Webb’s eccentric sense of humor and a near-childlike fascination for his online mission propels Jimmy’s World into the mainstream—he has 463,000 subscribers.

Elvis Jet New Owner portrait
Steven Cole Smith

Webb typically rescues small single- or twin-engine Cessnas and Pipers, along with the occasional MiG 15. But when he learned that a 60-foot-long, 42,500-pound business jet once owned by Elvis Presley was up for auction about two hours from his home in Tampa at Mecum Kissimmee, he was interested. He noted that a startling number of people watched a short pre-auction video that Mecum posted about the jet. “I thought if that video can find a big audience, it might be something I should look at.”

So he registered as a bidder, and drove to Kissimmee. That was January 8, 2023. He had $100,000 to spend. Mecum wisely hadn’t provided an estimate of the value of the dilapidated plane, but in 2018, for one of two previous unsuccessful attempts to sell the Jetstar, GSW Auctions estimated the value at between $2 million and $3.5 million. The other auction was in 2008, when Kruse International said it was worth between $700,000 and $2 million. “I knew it wasn’t going to go for that kind of money,” Webb said. “There was no way.”

The atmosphere inside the auditorium at Osceola Heritage Park that day was a little surreal. It was Elvis’ birthday, and Mecum had arranged for Elvis’ widow, Priscilla, to appear. She gave bidders a pep talk, urging high bids to honor Elvis on what would have been his 88th birthday. Minutes later she was hawking Cilla, her brand of skin serum, selling on the premises for $75 a bottle. Elvis’ jet, of course, was not on the premises, and the buyer would be responsible for moving it.

Elvis Plane exterior

Webb started the bidding at $50,000, “and it immediately went to $150,000. It sort of stumbled around until it went over $200,000.” Webb kept bidding, up to $230,000, unsure where he’d get that extra $130,000, but he’d worry about that later. But when bidding reached $260,000, Webb bowed out. A telephone bidder had won the plane. “So I walked away. My emotions were all over the place.”

An hour into his drive home, his cell phone rang. It was a Mecum executive. “He said, ‘Hey, the phone bidder backed out, do you want it?’ And I told him sure, for the right price.” Negotiations ensued, until the Mecum employee mentioned that they’d have to cut the seller a check for $234,000. The call ended.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Dana Mecum, the auction house’s founder and president, trying to save the deal. “I told him that I was willing to spend $100,000 on the plane. I said, ‘If you’re willing to carry the rest of it, I’ll give you the hundred thousand and I’ll buy it for $234,000, but you’re going to have to finance it, and give me some time to pay it back.’ And he said, ‘Yep, done.’ That way they saved face—they sold the Elvis jet!—and I was able to get my terms on the financing for my business.”

Wait, what is his business, exactly?


It’s all YouTube, producing at least one airplane video a week, usually more. Webb only got his pilot’s license in 2020, during the pandemic, primarily so he could fly up to Jacksonville once a month, where he had to report as a member of the Florida Air National Guard. The drive is almost five hours one way, but it’s a one-hour flight. Webb bought a Piper Cherokee 180, sight unseen: “I had never even sat in a little airplane before.” He took his training in the Piper. Aviation gas was “crazy cheap” during the pandemic, he said. “I was flying three, four, five times a week.”

He was far more taken with flying and airplanes than he expected to be. He bought his first zombie airplane, planning to fix it up and flip it, something he’d done with classic cars. “I took a video of me, not thinking anything of it—‘Hey, if you want to see me go bankrupt fixing up old airplanes, stay tuned!’—and people seemed to like it. That video led to another one, then another, but I still never thought anything about it. That was in January of 2021.”

Shortly after, Webb was trying to decide what to do to earn some money. He had a roofing and construction company when he lived in Colorado. The company had grown dramatically after a promotion in which he offered customers an AR-15 rifle with each new roof. He changed the name of his company from Weather Proof Roofing to Business boomed. He sold his company and moved his family of five to Florida to be near beaches and close relatives.

Then, in May of 2021, “I was having dinner with a guy who was running a big podcasting convention. I was looking for another business to buy, trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I told him I had poked around and put a few videos on YouTube. He looked at them and said, ‘Forget trying to find another business, you need to focus on YouTube.’ Never in a million years did I think somebody could make an actual living doing that stuff. I thought YouTube was just cat videos and pranks.”

Initially, Webb gave it six months to make a profit. “In the first month I took it seriously, worked at it, and it brought in decent money. The next month it doubled, and it doubled again the third month, and it doubled again the fourth month. I thought, ‘Holy cow! Maybe there is something to this.’”

There was indeed, but not enough to live on and still pay the note on the $130,000 he had borrowed on the derelict Jetstar. But he wasn’t worried. “I don’t have a quarter of a million bucks to dump on something without a plan to make money on it. This was a business investment.”

The plan was never to get Elvis’ plane back in the air—it was simply too far gone. Among the missing parts were its four engines, probably Pratt & Whitney JT12s or Garrett 731s turbofans, and either would be expensive to replace. And even if he could find them, they are too loud to pass the FAA’s current sound requirements.

One of Webb’s multiple videos that was shot at the Roswell, New Mexico airport, where the Jetstar was parked, featured two aviation experts from Aero Design, an engineering company, who, for fun, added up what it would take to get the 62-year-old jet flying again. Their total was $5.7 million.

Elvis Jet Camper Conversion front three quarter
YouTube/Jimmys World

So Webb announced he would mount the plane’s fuselage on a truck chassis, and turn it into an RV. Like his AR-15 promotion, that received its share of publicity, too, including a story in the New York Post titled, “YouTuber ‘destroys’ Elvis’ private jet to turn it into a motorhome.” Judging from the reaction, the idea was not unanimously well-received. “To cut up a piece of history to make money is insane and selfish!” wrote one Post commenter.

“I’ve learned that you either love the idea, because it’s so crazy, or you hate it because I’m destroying a piece of Elvis history,” Webb said. “I haven’t found too many people in between. But plenty like the fact that I’m at least doing something with it, otherwise it would have continued to sit outside and rot away, and eventually be chopped up and sent to the grinder. Doing it this way, I get to tour the country, and hopefully bring it to tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people. I think that would be fantastic.”

Elvis Jet Camper Conversion frame
YouTube/Jimmys World

And to pay off the loan, Webb is carving up parts of the plane’s exterior—such as the wings and outboard fuel tanks, for which he has no need—“into collectible medallions, each one serial-numbered.” The oval medallions come with a certificate of authenticity, a photo of the plane (when it was in one piece), and a copy of the airplane’s bill of sale. “We’ve sold just under 500 of them, which is really great, especially at the price point, because they’re not cheap, 300-something and 500-something dollars,” Webb said. “But this is all that will ever be made, based on how much material we have.

“We have to sell a thousand of them to break even on the entire project. Less than a year in and we’ve already sold half, so that’s a pretty good return. I think more of them will sell when we get the RV done and it goes on the road.” The less expensive version of the medallion, at $329, is offered on Webb’s website.

It should be noted that Elvis never actually flew on this Jetstar, unlike another Jetstar (the “Hound Dog II”) and a big 1958 Convair 880 (the “Lisa Marie”) that are on permanent display at Graceland, Elvis’ tourist-attraction mansion in Memphis. The bill of sale, to Elvis from Omni Aircraft Sales for $840,000, was signed on December 22, 1976. Elvis died on August 16, 1977. The Jetstar in question was sold that year, and had several more owners before it was dumped in Roswell.

Proving how far Webb will go out of his way for a video: As the Jetstar was being ferried from New Mexico to Florida, Webb talked Tim, the hired truck driver, into detouring to Memphis. The enormous rig steered into a parking lot at Graceland where Elvis’ other two planes are parked. “It was the first time all three of his airplanes have been in the same place, at the same time,” Webb said. “Of course we didn’t have permission, and Graceland security went nuts. I thought it would be a neat thing to have them all together, but they didn’t see it that way.” (“You want to pay to park?” asked a security guard on the video. “It’s gonna be $15.”)

Meanwhile, the plan to put the Jetstar RV on the road is progressing. The project is located in a warehouse at the end of a dirt road outside Plant City, 23 miles east of Tampa. Webb and his small crew, which is mostly a helper named Grizzly, acquired a moldy 38-foot motorhome, a Coachmen Class A diesel “pusher,” meaning the Cummins engine is in the rear. The body was removed by an enormous diesel fork lift.

The remaining chassis needed some repair. “We changed out some suspension parts, fixed the brakes—the motor and transmission were about all that worked on it. It was not usable as a motorhome, but ironically, it is the perfect size for this. You talk about serendipity.”

As for the Jetstar, it may look like junk—or souvenirs—on the outside, but it’s remarkably well-preserved inside, especially the red velvet upholstery on the couch and six seats. That amazed Webb. “You’d think that after all that time sitting in the desert sun, this would have turned to dust,” he said. “It’s the best part of the airplane.” Even the entertainment system is in place, including the VCR.

As daunting as all this sounds, Webb didn’t go into the airplane-RV combination effort completely blind. Gino Lucci, an airplane parts broker in Nashville, Michigan, mounted the fuselage of a vintage DC-3 on an International truck chassis and turned it into a handsome RV. “Before I even went to bid on this plane, I called Gino. I said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about doing this—how hard was it to do what you did?’” Lucci said Webb’s plan was definitely in the realm of possibility, and told Webb that he even considered using a Jetstar for his own RV before he found the abandoned DC-3 sitting on its belly in a field in Missouri. With that, Webb proceeded on the path that led him here, working in an un-air-conditioned warehouse in Florida’s unseasonably hot May.

Webb isn’t entirely sure what it will take to get the vehicle registered and insured. “My understanding is that since this is already tagged and titled as a 1999 Freightliner motorhome, that should carry over. I just have to make sure it has all the safety equipment—lights, horn, brake lights, that kind of thing. And it’s privately owned, it’s not a commercial vehicle, it’s not for hire. And it still has a working bathroom. Ironically, that was one of the weird things—in order for it to be considered a recreational vehicle, it has to have a working bathroom.”

Elvis Jet Camper Conversion electrical
YouTube/Jimmys World

Webb set a tight deadline to finish his RV: He announced on another aviation YouTube channel named Taking Off that he plans to debut the Elvis motorhome at the huge Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which is July 22–28. The vehicle presently moves under its own power—“The most sketchiest thing I’ve ever driven in my life,” Webb says on the inevitable video—but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

And once he’s finished, “I really have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with it. Some Elvis impersonators have contacted me about taking it on the road for their tours,” Webb said. “That sounds about as good as anything.”


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    For something like Elvis’ jet that has a historical impact and something that is iconic in pop culture, this is an absolute steal especially for something that can be deemed as a collectors item

    Then again I can see why it’s so cheap especially the sorry state it is in however I liked the way how the owner repurposed it as his own RV quite creative I would say looking forward to seeing how this comes out!

    Sorry, but it clearly states that Elvis (who was a pop star and had some good movies) never even flew on this plane. IMHO, saying that it has “historical impact and something that is iconic in pop culture” is a bit of a stretch. JFK’s assassination Continental it ain’t.

    Pretty much my thought.who knows, E may have had nothing to do with this plane other than tell someone to get him another plane. Never flew in it, small step from he never set foot in this plane. All of the people upset, take up a collection of about a half million and make this guy an offer he can’t refuse

    The JetStar was featured on an episode of “What on Earth”, a show that explains oddities found in satellite pics and videos. It looked very sad and lonely shoved off to the side of a desert airport. I’m glad it finally found a home. Old machines are always worth saving.

    At least if there are any questions during the restoration process he can refer to the Jungle Room at Graceland to see what The King might have done.

    I would have probably opened up the belly on the airplane and set it lower onto the truck chassis. That thing is way too high in the air to safely go down the road

    Agreed. The driver (pilot?) will have no idea of what is immediately in front of him. And with such a high center of gravity, it will sway from side-to-side.

    I think it is amazing what you are doing with the Elvis plane. I will be excited to see the finished project. Keep up the amazing wonderful work.
    Kindest regards.,

    Is this a new trend?
    A similar travel vehicle was visiting at the Gilmore Car Museum on April 29.
    I was not fast enough with my camera.

    Hats off, but it’s too much money for the curiosity he’ll have when (if) it’s ever all finished. DC-e or Jetstar, an a/c cum motorhome is not very practical in the real world. Also, this gig had been done many times sincw WWII with aircraft fuselages. All a stretch of the imagination! I M Humble O.

    Reminds me of the time Rick Dobbertin, he of Pro Street fame, built that Surface Orbiter out of a stainless steel milk truck tanker.

    Lots of business have done promos like this over the years….you still need to pass the background check–no different than if you walk into a gun shop.

    There is a DC3 RV out there, I saw it in Cleveland area a few years ago. STUNNING!. The polished and painted fuselage on an International chassis was breathtaking. Applause to people with the skills.

    Webb seems like a decent guy… perhaps he got caught up in his youtube fame…..

    The ”surreal atmosphere” is what was required to sell it and Mecum certainly put that together…. even 10% of what he paid is too much…. that thing is gonna start spending your money from the minute you own it…. the souveniers are helping to offset the cost… You can buy a very nice RV for 125k….. ready to use…

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