The world of restoration and rebuilds is HUGE and there are many examples of aircraft and vehicles that have been beautifully restored to their former glory. I’ve included just a few to whet your appetite:
There are broadly three approaches to restoring an aircraft, the first is a restoration to full air worthiness standard utilising all or a large proportion of the original airframe and parts in the rebuild.
The second is to build (rather than rebuild) an airframe that utilises a manufacturer’s original production plate and a few other recovered components into virtually a totally ‘new’ airframe, where much of the airframe is made from scratch, using modern materials.
The third approach is to restore an aircraft for static display in a museum. This approach is more along the lines of conservation and preservation, where an original airframe can be partially or fully restored utilising all its original parts.
I’m going to select three aircraft examples, one in each of the above categories and the locations where you can find them. Firstly, a pair of WW1, DH9 wooden biplane airframes, recently recovered from the Bikaner Palace Fort in North West India, one has been restored to static display, the other has been rebuilt to airworthy status. Both are kept at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.
The DH9 was designed as a medium range bomber in WW1. After the war, many wartime airframes were scrapped or were gifted to Great Britain’s colonies, including India in 1919. Airframes DS549 and E8894 were subsequently discovered in 2001 in pieces, with many of the timber frames and wings infested with termites. Guy Black, owner of Retrotec Ltd undertook the painstaking restoration of both airframes over the next 18 years, culminating in E8894’s test flight in 2019, some 100 years after she was shipped out to India! Click here to find out more about the DH-9 at the Imperial War Museum Duxford.
Hawker Typhoon 1b
Our second aircraft is the Hawker Typhoon 1b, a WW2 fighter bomber, which is being restored to flying condition from most of its original parts, including a rare Napier Sabre engine. Unlike the story of the DH9, this privately-owned airframe is being restored by the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group (HTPG) through a crowd funding campaign. RB396 originally flew with 174 Squadron in 1945 and made a forced landing in Holland, where the wreckage ended up in two Dutch museums. It was returned to the UK in 2013.
The remains of RB396 have been transferred to Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight for the rebuild, which started in 2016. The target remains for the completed aircraft to be flying for the 80th Anniversary of D-Day in 2024. Click here to find out more about the rebuild by the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group.
DH Mosquito TT35
And our third airframe is a twin engined DH Mosquito TT35, RL249, which is being built entirely from scratch, utilising BAe’s original Mosquito technical drawings. New fuselage moulds have been designed and with a few original parts, it will be the one flying example in the UK. The ‘Peoples’ Mosquito’ charity is using donations to build the aircraft from Canadian spruce in Retrotec’s workshop in Sussex. Named ‘Operation Jericho’ (after the famous Amiens Prison raid), the Mossie is due to take to UK skies in a few years’ time. Click here to find out more about ‘Operation Jericho’.
There are also similar approaches to restoring a car, motor bike or a bus/coach. There are examples of many a vintage car found in a scrapyard or derelict garage and then restored to its original condition. In many cases, these relics have been purchased for a modest sum, either through an auction house or advertised in the motoring press. For a large number of vehicles out there, many have adequate sources of spare parts, either obtained direct from the original manufacturer or from the many support clubs around the UK. As long as individuals have access to an adequately maintained workshop and the necessary level of mechanical skills, it is possible to restore a vehicle to good running order. Unlike the world of aircraft restoration, where specific levels of build need to be achieved in order to acquire an airworthiness certificate, the vintage vehicle restorer has to simply ensure their vehicle is safe and roadworthy!
So, we’ll start with a vintage MG Midget from the 1960s’. The Midget is a very popular vintage sports car. Of the 26,600 Midgets built in the 1960s’, about 5,650 are registered as roadworthy today.
A certain James Paul, who had always wanted to restore an MG Sports car, purchased a very rusty 1965 Mark 2 frame in 2012 for £750. He reckoned it would take 3 years to build and utilised a specialist car restoring company in Bristol (Moss Bristol) to help him with the restoration.
James is still working on his restoration and it can be seen on his blog: www.mgmidgetrestoration.com
Vincent ‘Black Shadow’
Our next project is the famous Vincent ‘Black Shadow’ Motor Bike from the 1930s’. It has been hard to find an example rebuild as most of these precious motor bikes are maintained in concours condition. So, I did a little research and found a frame in the USA, namely a Glenn Bewley, a motor bike restorer, found the bike (that had been kept for decades, unused in Philadelphia barn for many years) advertised on a local website and contacted the owner, who eventually sold it to Glenn. What he found wasn’t just any Vincent, it was a hot rod, a special, a bike probably built for the speed trials that used to run regularly at small airports across the USA. Based on an early Series C Black Shadow, its creation was likely aided by Gene Aucott, the first US Vincent dealer in the U.S., who opened his shop in 1946. The bike was a 1949 “transition” Series C Black Shadow, exported by Vincent HRD Motor Bike manufacturer, based in Stevenage in the UK, under licence to the USA post war. Glenn has now restored the Black Shadow to its former glory.
Jaguar E types
Our final project is an example of a Jaguar E types undertaken by Jaguar Land Rover Classic. In this, the 60th Anniversary of the Jaguar E type handbuilt prototype driven from its manufacturing plant in Coventry to Geneva to be launched alongside the 9600HP at the Motor Show In 1961. In 2021, a limited edition of six pairs of new cars will be scratch built from the original works drawings. They will be constructed at their brand-new facility at Oxford Road, Coventry. To see these iconic cars being built, the company is providing a 3-hour Tour, which includes seeing a huge collection of 500 classic cars. Tours of Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works can be booked here through their website.
The alternative is to buy a restored E type though one of the many car auctions in the UK. Perhaps one of the most famous ones is Mathewsons, Motoring Auctioneers, based in North Yorkshire, whose recent sales have rare cars, as shown on the TV Programme ‘Bangers and Cash’.
Places to visit:
Imperial War Museum Duxford
Jaguar Land Rover Classic – Oxford Road
Imperial War Museum Duxford