After a five-year period of painstaking restoration, the two-seater Vickers Supermarine was the first ready-to-fly Spitfire to go under the hammer in over 20 years. Famed for its’ pivotal role in the victory at the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire became a British icon, much beloved by the public.
This particular plane was originally built by the British Vickers-Armstrong Company in 1944, and was then delivered to the RAF’s no.33 Maintenance Unit in Lyneham, Wiltshire. It was then sold to the South African Air force, with whom its’ movements remain unknown up until it was rediscovered in Cape Town, in the 1970’s.
Aviation enthusiast and building developer Charles Church liberated the craft from the scrap yard, and began the laborious process of restoration. Having changed hands numerous times the plane was finally brought back to its’ original glorious state. It was sold by Bonham’s Auction House, at the RAF Museum in Hendon, north London for £1,739,500.
Coincidentally, this is the second Spitfire sold at auction by Bonham’s in just seven months; the other went for £1.1m to a buyer from New Zealand. James Knight, MD of Bonham’s Collector’s Motoring Department, said: ‘As Bonham’s is the last of the great international fine art auction houses to remain under British management, the sale of an aircraft so linked to the history and very survival of our nation has enormous significance for us here.’
The Spitfire was almost christened the ‘shrew’ but Sir Robert MacLean, director of Vickers-Armstrong, eventually plumped for his daughter’s nickname instead. Its main adversary was the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, There are thought to be only 44 airworthy Spitfires left today.
For more information on Spitfires, go to www.spitfiresociety.com.