Aircraft

Restored Spitfire fetches record £3,106,500 at auction

Restored Spitfire fetches reco...
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 Mark 1 resulted in a functional aircraft, one of two in the world able to take to the air
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 Mark 1 resulted in a functional aircraft, one of two in the world able to take to the air
View 19 Images
German soldiers posed on the Spitfire 9734 when it was forced to land in Calais in 1940
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German soldiers posed on the Spitfire 9734 when it was forced to land in Calais in 1940
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 Mark 1 resulted in a functional aircraft, one of two in the world able to take to the air
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Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 Mark 1 resulted in a functional aircraft, one of two in the world able to take to the air
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 Mark 1 resulted in a functional aircraft, one of two in the world able to take to the air
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Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 Mark 1 resulted in a functional aircraft, one of two in the world able to take to the air
When the Spitfire was shot down and forced to land in Calais in 1940, it was swallowed by wet sand and lost until 1980
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When the Spitfire was shot down and forced to land in Calais in 1940, it was swallowed by wet sand and lost until 1980
When the Spitfire was shot down and forced to land in Calais in 1940, it was swallowed by wet sand and lost until 1980
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When the Spitfire was shot down and forced to land in Calais in 1940, it was swallowed by wet sand and lost until 1980
The Spitfire 9734 broke records yesterday on auction, selling for £3,106,500
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The Spitfire 9734 broke records yesterday on auction, selling for £3,106,500
The Spitfire 9734 broke records yesterday on auction, selling for £3,106,500
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The Spitfire 9734 broke records yesterday on auction, selling for £3,106,500
Engine cowling gets rebuilt on the Spitfire 9734 by the Aircraft Restoration Company
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Engine cowling gets rebuilt on the Spitfire 9734 by the Aircraft Restoration Company
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
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Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
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Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
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Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
Aircraft Restoration Company returned to diagrams for its rebuild of the Spitfire 9734, using only parts dated with the right year
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Aircraft Restoration Company returned to diagrams for its rebuild of the Spitfire 9734, using only parts dated with the right year
The Spitfire 9734 took again to the air in 2011 after a successful restoration
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The Spitfire 9734 took again to the air in 2011 after a successful restoration
Aircraft Restoration Company returned to diagrams for its rebuild of the Spitfire 9734, using only parts dated with the right year
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Aircraft Restoration Company returned to diagrams for its rebuild of the Spitfire 9734, using only parts dated with the right year
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 included a complete rebuild of major systems, given that when it was salvaged it was in pieces
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Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 included a complete rebuild of major systems, given that when it was salvaged it was in pieces
Twelve engineers with Aircraft Restoration Company returned the Spitfire 9734 to flying status
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Twelve engineers with Aircraft Restoration Company returned the Spitfire 9734 to flying status
The Spitfire 9734 was forced down in 1940, was found in 1980, flew again in 2011, and finally was sold for charity July 9, 2015
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The Spitfire 9734 was forced down in 1940, was found in 1980, flew again in 2011, and finally was sold for charity July 9, 2015
The restoration process of the Spitfire 9734 included a historically accurate approach and rebuilding of numerous parts
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The restoration process of the Spitfire 9734 included a historically accurate approach and rebuilding of numerous parts
The Spitfire 9734 was forced down in 1940, was found in 1980, flew again in 2011, and finally was auctioned by Christie's for charity on July 9, 2015
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The Spitfire 9734 was forced down in 1940, was found in 1980, flew again in 2011, and finally was auctioned by Christie's for charity on July 9, 2015

One of only two Mk.1 Spitfires still able to fly today has sold for a record amount at Christie's auctions. The gavel fell at £3,106,500 (US$4,784,010) on the painstakingly restored RAF Spitfire P9374, far exceeding pre-auction estimates of £2.5m.

The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire holds a special place in British WWII history as one of the finest aircraft to ever defend British shores and a favorite of many a pilot from the era. The P9374 was built in 1940 as a part of 92 Squadron, which was specifically assigned to Home Defence.

When the Spitfire was shot down and forced to land in Calais in 1940, it was swallowed by wet sand and lost until 1980
When the Spitfire was shot down and forced to land in Calais in 1940, it was swallowed by wet sand and lost until 1980

The plane was shot down and forced to land on May 24, 1940, during the Battle of Dunkirk. It wasn't recovered and sank into the wet sand of Calais. Its pilot, the Peter Cazenove famously depicted in the movie Great Escape, was eventually captured and released. He died before the plane was uncovered by swiftly changing tides in 1980.

When the Spitfire P9374 was recovered, parts had already been stolen as souvenirs and it fell apart while being dragged full of wet sand. Consequently, three years of fastidious restoration by the Aircraft Restoration Company were put into making the celebrated plane not only fly again, but do so with only the most accurate parts befitting its history as a very early Mark 1 model. The team returned to the original design plans, rebuilding the fuselage, wings, and re-engineering the propeller and engine, which still contains many original parts.

Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever
Restoration of the Spitfire 9734 took three years and 12 engineers to accomplish and resulted in one of the most accurate rebuilds ever

The Spitfire was restored and donated by Thomas Kaplan, an American entrepreneur and philantropist, with proceeds from the auction benefiting the RAF Benevolent Fund, his own organization Panthera, WildCRU and Stop Ivory. The P9374 is actually one of two Spitfires that Kaplan owned, with the second traveling to the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

He describes his intentions as "pay[ing] homage to those who Churchill called 'the Few', the pilots who were all that stood between Hitler's darkness and what was left of civilization..."

Christie's has documented the restoration process on a special website, also providing special video footage of the Spitfire P9374's return to the air in 2011.

Sources: Christie's, Mark One Partners

7 comments
thuds36th
Remembering a lot of good young men who went in harms way.
oldguy
A beautiful gesture Mr Kaplan. Looks like it was a lot of fun too!
Illini_Rob
Once again Gizmag, great pictures!
MD
wow great project. Just about a new build, Cost of re-manufacture, thousands of hours of volunteer effort no-doubt, priceless. Where would such a bird be without philanthropists (ie. not an economic decision but a charitable gesture).
chidrbmt
Such a shame we didn't have the foresight to save but a handfull of WW2 airbirds.
KennyRayOxenrider
"all that stood between Hitler's darkness and what was left of civilization..." I guess America was uncivilized in his eyes......
Captain Danger
@KennyRayOxenrider Enlighten us on how the USA was involved in the second world war during the time of Dunkirk.