The Spitfire that sold for £1.58 million
1940's Spitfire for sale
A fully restored Spitfire made in Swindon and stationed at Lyneham, has been sold for £1.58 million at auction.
Wiltshire has a long and proud association with the mighty Spitfire. Through-out the 1940s the Spitfire was built at the Vickers-Armstrong factory in South Marston where Honda's car plant now stands.
Many historians claim the Spitfire saved Britain from the Germans during World War Two. Many aviation enthusiasts see the Spitfire as one of the most beautiful planes ever built.
So when it was announced a mint condition fully-restored Spitfire was to be auctioned at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon on Monday April 20th 2009, it caused a bit of a stir.
Peter Caddick- Adams is a military historian from Shrivenham Defence Academy, he said: "There's something about the Spitfire, the curved wings the sound of the Merlin engine, it's just so evocative. And easily the most well memorable plane in history."
The fully restored Spitfire
The two-seater Spitfire was the first to be offered at public auction for more than 20 years. And was expected to reach £1.5 million plus.
The plane was originally delivered to the Royal Air Force's No 33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham in the 1940s, where it was to be prepared to operational standard for service delivery.
It was then sold to the South African Air Force where it remained until the 1970s when it was rediscovered in a Cape Town scrap yard. It was rescued by an aviation enthusiast, sold on and its final owner Peter Tuplin, then spent time and money restoring it, Peter said:
"The cock-pit has taken two years to build, not a lot of the finished plane is original. We started off with a hard core, then built up from there. We've had to manufacture a lot of it including all the panel work."
Now six years after the restoration began there's not much of the original aircraft left, it has two cockpits, despite the originally built as a single-seater.
The original Spitfire's cock-pit was notoriously cramped. Norman Parker from Amesbury worked on the Spitfire as an Engineer during WW2, he said: "The seat was designed around the parachute, that went into the well of the seat and the pilot sat on top of the parachute.
The Spitfire took six years to rebuild
"I modified the Spitfire as needed and saw a lot of changes. When I began work on the mark 1 they were 900cc, the last one produced was 2,500cc. The fuel tanks to feed the more powerful engines had to be increased. But in practice the airplane shape didn't change at all. It was very exciting but it was hard work too.
"We worked very long hours, we were away for long periods of time. It didn't feel like we were working on an iconic plane at the time but the fact that we are still building them now, says a lot about the Spitfire."
Freydis Sharland, was a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary and was a Spitfire pilot during WW2, one of a handful of female pilots, she said: "I loved flying the Spitfire. Of course I was sometimes scared during the war effort.
In bad weather the plane was hard to fly and we often missed our target and I wondered if I was going to make it back alive.
"Women started flying Spitfires when they realised there weren't enough male pilots. Some women had already been instructors and had done a lot of flying. I hadn't done a lot of flying, so I wasn't called up until 1943 to fly.
"I never really wanted to be a fighter pilot, I was quite happy flying planes to and from factories and transporting troops. But they were desperate and I then flew to 1949."
As the war ended and the jet age began, the RAF had little need for the fighter that had served it so well. Most of the surplus which were in storage were sold abroad.
The Spitfire sold for £1.58 million at auction.
last updated: 21/04/2009 at 11:15